Manchester City expect Raheem Sterling to leave this summer, with Chelsea poised to step up their interest in the England winger once Romelu Lukaku’s loan to Internazionale has been completed.
Thomas Tuchel is keen to strengthen his misfiring attack and Chelsea, who are close to giving Lukaku permission to seal a return to Inter, plan to accelerate their transfer activity soon. Sterling is high on their list of targets and City are unlikely to stand in the 27-year-old’s way.
City have increased their attacking options by signing Erling Haaland from Borussia Dortmund and Julián Álvarez from River Plate and, with Sterling’s contract due to expire next summer, the Premier League champions are prepared to cash in on him. It has been suggested they want £50m-£60m.
There is unlikely to be a shortage of interest in Sterling, even though he has not started many of City’s biggest games in the past two years, and his appeal is obvious to Chelsea. They lacked a ruthless edge last season, when Sterling scored 17 goals, and he would represent an upgrade on many of Tuchel’s options in the final third.
Sterling’s ability to play across the frontline makes him an attractive option to Tuchel. Chelsea are aware it will not be easy to replace Lukaku, who disappointed after his £97.5m move from Inter last year, with another target man. Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski wants to join Barcelona, City have landed Haaland and Liverpool have bought Darwin Núñez.
That means Chelsea could look for alternative ways to set up their attack. They are also looking at Ousmane Dembélé, with the French winger expected to leave Barcelona on a free. Tuchel managed Dembélé at Dortmund and rates him highly, though there are doubts over the 25-year-old’s injury record. Another option, RB Leipzig’s Christopher Nkunku, could be out of reach. Chelsea are also interested in City’s Gabriel Jesus but Arsenal are leading the way to sign the Brazilian.
Sources say it is a matter of time before Lukaku joins Inter. Todd Boehly, Chelsea’s new owner, has backed Tuchel’s decision to part with the striker. Lukaku does not fit Tuchel’s system and has not enjoyed an easy relationship with the German.
The 29-year-old is desperate to return to Inter, who have been negotiating with Chelsea over the terms of a deal. A loan fee of £10m could be enough, and Inter will also need to cover part of Lukaku’s £325,000-a-week wages. A straight loan is more straightforward than a swap, though Chelsea have shown interest in the Inter defenders Denzel Dumfries, Alessandro Bastoni and Martin Skriniar.
Chelsea need defensive reinforcements after the departures of Andreas Christensen and Antonio Rüdiger, with César Azpilicueta and Marcos Alonso also possibly on their way out. They hope to tie up a deal for Sevilla’s Jules Koundé soon and have targeted Leipzig’s Josko Gvardiol, Atlético Madrid’s José María Giménez, Juventus’s Matthijs de Ligt and Villarreal’s Pau Torres. New links have also surfaced with City’s Nathan Aké, who was previously at Chelsea.
It remains to be seen whether City want to sell Aké. They are weighing up whether to sell Oleksandr Zinchenko, who is wanted by Everton and West Ham. Zinchenko has filled in at left-back for City but wants to play in central midfield.
Guardiola is after a conventional left-back and is determined to sign Brighton’s Marc Cucurella. Brighton want £50m but City believe £40m could be enough. Chelsea and Newcastle are also interested in Cucurella but City are his first choice.