Raheem Sterling joined Chelsea because he ‘couldn’t afford to waste time’ at Man City

Raheem Sterling joined Chelsea because he 'couldn't afford to waste time' at Man City - GETTY IMAGES

Raheem Sterling joined Chelsea because he ‘couldn’t afford to waste time’ at Man City – GETTY IMAGES

Raheem Sterling has admitted he could not win the game to change Pep Guardiola’s mind about his diminishing role at Manchester City and had to leave because he felt it was a possibility he was “wasting time” in his career.

The England international was formally introduced to the media as a Chelsea player at the club’s training ground on Thursday and was asked why he had come to play less in the big games for City over the past two seasons. Although Sterling still played regularly for City, he was also left out of games he would once have started, including just a substitute role in both legs of the Champions League semi-final tie against Real Madrid last season.

He said he and Guardiola knew the reasons why the player had been marginalized to some extent at City, but refused to outline what they were in detail. Sterling, 27, said the Chelsea move was the ideal alternative to City. There had been interest in him from Chelsea over the past 12 months from the previous Roman Abramovich ownership.

He said: “I felt my playing time at City was being limited for various reasons and I couldn’t afford to waste any more time. Looking back into the future, I never wanted to look back and see an increase and then a decrease. So my feeling was that I needed to stay at the same level and a new challenge was needed.”

“Since I was 17 I have been a regular starter and to get to the peak time of my career, not playing regularly was something I would not accept. My personality is to try to fight and change the scenario but it didn’t come and it was the.”

Asked later if he feared his career would decline, he said: “I wouldn’t say a decline. With limited playing time, like everything else, I’m 27 years old and know my standards and know what I bring to a team. I would not accept anything less.”

Raheem Sterling Chelsea - AP

Raheem Sterling Chelsea – AP

He would not elaborate on the reasons why he felt Guardiola’s attitude towards him changed: “Me and the manager and the people at the club know exactly what the reasons were,” he said. “I tried to play my football and overcome the situation, but it couldn’t be done, so I had to move on.”

“It [the diminished role] was a big surprise. It was a huge surprise…a change of events, suddenly. It’s something I had to deal with, and that’s why I’m here.”

Despite objecting to being sidelined, Sterling was still selected by Guardiola for the Champions League final against Chelsea in Porto last year, playing 77 minutes before being substituted. Nonetheless, the data backs up his claim that he played a minor role in City’s biggest European games.

In the 2018–2019 season, he played every minute of the four matches over two rounds that City played in the competition. The following season, the average dropped to 65 minutes; then 35 minutes in 2020-2021 and 50 minutes last season.

Overall, Sterling’s remarkable consistency meant he never played in fewer than 46 games over a season for seven consecutive years at City. That said, his game time minutes were down this season – 3,088 over 47 games. Prior to that under Guardiola, his lowest total had been 3,567 minutes in the 2017-2018 season, and his highest, the following year, was just over 4,000.

Sterling also addressed the infamous incident at Stamford Bridge in 2018 when television cameras caught him being racially abused by Chelsea fans in the Matthew Harding Stand. The fan in question, who was banned by the club for life, always claimed he called Sterling a “Manc c—” rather than referring to his race. The incident was followed by Sterling addressing contrasting media portrayals of black and white footballers and opening a new debate about racial prejudice.

Sterling said the incident itself had not entered his thinking when considering joining Chelsea, although he acknowledged the Instagram post he posted afterwards had given him a position in the race debate which he welcomed.

Raheem Sterling in a 2018 Nike poster - Nike

Raheem Sterling in a 2018 Nike poster – Nike

“Yes, I think that conversation opened the door for me personally, in the sense that it made me understand what my true purpose is other than football. Of course, football is my main goal and my talent, but the second thing that gives me the most joy … it’s helping people. So from that incident, I’ve moved away from the racial side of it and focused more on helping and nurturing young black people.”

Asked about the suggestion by Stan Collymore that Sterling could even meet and educate the banned Chelsea fan, the player said he was not opposed to the idea. “I have no hatred or malice towards the individual. It’s something I can do right here, right now or tomorrow. It’s not a problem.

“I think my main focus is to move away from the race type and focus more on nurturing and feeding the youth, like myself growing up, and giving them a map of the world that lies before them. [To] show them that they can manifest many things if they just take the time and take care of themselves.”

Sterling said Thomas Tuchel had praised his “directness” and his willingness to run in behind defences. “The main thing is how I attack the box and with the backs we have here he said that’s the one thing he wants to see a lot more of.” He said that while both Tuchel and Guardiola emphasized possession, the styles of play they tried to impose were “completely different”.

“There are two different systems, two different styles of play. We have a lot of possession here, City have a lot of possession … they both want different things. I am adapting very well here. It’s the honeymoon now, but it’s like when you’re really optimistic about something and dreaming about something – that’s where I’m at.”

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