Raheem Sterling reveals shock at his Man City plight but ready to kick Chelsea on into a new era under Todd Boehly
RAHEEM STERLING revealed his falling out of favour under Pep Guardiola came as much a shock to him as it did to the rest of us.
But as soon as his game-time dwindled at the Etihad, the England favourite knew he had to leave because he could not “afford to waste more time”.
Sterling, 27, won TEN major honours at Manchester City, including four Premier League titles, and remains Guardiola’s most-used player of the Catalan’s reign.
The forward’s 292 appearances under Pep is 25 more than next-best Kevin De Bruyne.
While his 120 goals scored playing for the Spaniard is only bettered by Sergio Aguero by four.
Yet Sterling often found himself left out of the biggest matches in recent seasons.
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So much so that it came as a big surprise when he started the Champions League final last year, which City lost to his new side Chelsea.
The Three Lions hero was named as a sub in both semi-finals against Real Madrid last season, as well as the pivotal final-day win over Aston Villa.
By that time, he knew it was time to move on – but was still left stunned as to how he had gone from star man to squad player so quickly.
Sterling, who completed a £47.5million move to Stamford Bridge last month, said: “It was a big surprise. A massive surprise… a change of events all of a sudden.
“It’s something I had to handle and that’s why I’m here.”
Things seemed to start going sour for Sterling under Guardiola after the 2-0 home derby defeat in March 2021, which ended City’s 21-game winning streak in all competitions.
He was left as an unused sub in the following game against Southampton and then out of the squad altogether the match after at Fulham.
And though Sterling did play plenty of games after that, he was never as important a squad member as he had been before.
His contract at City was up at the end of this season too, so there is a school of thought that the reigning Prem champions decided to cash in now, particularly having signed Erling Haaland and Julian Alvarez.
The former Liverpool man said he was well aware of why he was no longer relied upon for the biggest games but did not elaborate on what they were.
Sterling said: “Me and the manager and the people at the club know exactly what the reasons were.
“I tried to play my football and overcome the situation but it couldn’t be done so I had to move on.
“I felt my game-time at City was getting limited for different reasons and I couldn’t afford to waste more time.
“When I look back in the future, I never want to look back and see a rise then a decline. So my feeling was I needed to keep at the same level and a fresh challenge was needed.
“Since I was 17, I’ve been a regular starter and to get to the peak time in my career, not to be playing regularly was something I wouldn’t accept.
“My personality is to try to fight and change the scenario but it didn’t come and that was it.”
Sterling feels he is coming back to his roots by joining Chelsea, having grown up in Wembley, West London.
His signing kicked off the Todd Boehly era, which has also seen Kalidou Koulibaly, Carney Chukwuemeka and Marc Cucurella arrive.
Frenkie De Jong and Pierre Emerick-Aubameyang could follow from Barcelona.
I’m excited by the opportunity. I’ve been given this chance to come and showcase my talents.
Sterling is looking forward to being the main man again and wants to be an influential voice in Thomas Tuchel’s dressing room.
The former QPR academy starlet said: “It does feel like coming home. It’s been a long time, since I was 14-15, that I’ve been away from London.
“I’m excited by the opportunity. I’ve been given this chance to come and showcase my talents and it’s one, having grown up a bit in terms of off the field and inside the changing room and around the club, it’s a developing side of me I want to see more.
“I want to be more involved in dressing room decisions, being more vocal and trying to drive the team on.
“With the few other options I had, this one was more tailor-made for my personal goals.
“For my family, it makes a lot of sense and with the direction the club is going in.
“If you look at Chelsea in the last couple of years, I think it’s four of five finals they’ve been in, it’s a team that is competing and is only going to get better.
“So for me, with the new ownership and takeover, it made a lot of sense.”