Normally, I would not recommend to anyone reading this blog that they go and watch an Arsenal video podcast on Youtube. I’m making an exception here today. CBS soccer journalist Ben Jacobs dropped a bomb on The Gooner Talk YouTube channel a couple of hours ago, saying that not only is forward Raheem Sterling tipped to want to leave Manchester City this summer for a new challenge, but that Tottenham Hotspur is currently in the lead for his signature.
The video clip should automatically start when you click it, but if not, scroll ahead to about 36:45”.
“Sterling is an interesting one, because I do think the door is open for [him] to leave Manchester City, and I think there will almost be a North London Derby-style pursuit for Sterling. From what I gather, should he leave Manchester City, Tottenham are ahead of Arsenal in that particular pursuit. So if Sterling is to join Arsenal then Edu and Arteta are going to have to move quite quickly.
“I think Sterling is very intent, even though he knows Arteta very well, to play under [Antonio] Conte as his next manager if he is to make a move. The reason for that is that Tottenham have given him guarantees about style and about position. Sterling feels that under Guardiola as he’s aged he’s kind of done a full loop of what’s required of him. He’s gone from kind of wide, to forward, to almost a false 9, to focal point, to box-to-box, to wide again, to forward again. He’s been relied upon for goals and then moved back to something that’s a bit more selfless. Then he’s aged a little bit, maybe lost a bit of pace and confidence.
“If you look at his full cycle as a footballer, he had everything except the finishing. And then there was a point at Manchester City where he suddenly couldn’t stop scoring goals. Now he’s a bit more hit and miss, and he’s playing a bit less often as there’s lots of different players in that position.
“Tottenham’s pitch [to him] is ‘let’s get you back to doing what you do best,’ which is scoring goals. Arsenal’s pitch is going to be “let’s get you back to what you did at the beginning of your career” which is being a very fluid, very versatile wide player who cuts inside. So actually I think this is about development and what direction he’s going to head. I don’t think Arteta and Arsenal are prepared to tell Sterling he would join the football club and be relied upon as the main source of goals.”
As a Tottenham fan since before the Redknapp era, I have been conditioned for more than a decade to expect that Spurs would turn down options for expensive, peak age players for a younger, cheaper style of player that could develop into a superstar. That has felt like Spurs’ modus operandi since time immemorial. Raheem Sterling is definitely not that. He’s 27, an established England international, and is used to playing and succeeding at the highest levels of the sport. He’s also really, really good.
And holy smokes, can you IMAGINE a front three of Son Heung-Min, Harry Kane, and Raheem Sterling next season? Or a 5-3-2 with Sterling playing beside Kane? There’d be Sterling cut-backs and passes to a Kane arriving late in the box all day. It’d be fun as hell and quite possibly would be the best front three of any team in club football, anywhere. Not to mention the #banter of signing a player like Sterling right from under Arsenal’s nose.
I don’t know what Jacobs’ sources are, but the idea of Tottenham providing “guarantees on [playing] style and position” makes sense and could be very attractive to a player like Sterling who has been in and out of the City team for quite some time. And even this season he has 12 goals and three assists in all competitions in just over 2000 minutes of playing time.
Sterling would not come cheap. I have no idea what it would cost to get him out of Manchester City, and reports are he’s on £300k/wk at City on his current contract. But he only has one year left on his contract at City and this is also a club that just signed Erling Haaland. It’s not at all surprising to me that Sterling would want out, and perhaps when you’re a football club where money is no object, you’ll be willing to let a want-away player hit the road for a bit of a bargain price.
You could argue that Tottenham have more pressing needs than Raheem Sterling’s position, and that the money is better spent something like a LCB, a quality creative central midfielder, and a couple of wingbacks. But if the murmurs coming out of Tottenham are any indication, Spurs are going to be spending a ton of money to keep Conte happy and retool for a big improvement next season. Sterling would be the kind of statement signing that could really push a team to the next level. (And anyway, we can always put Deki back at RWB, right?)
I don’t know about you, but for me this rumor is exciting as hell.