Manchester City have already had a busy transfer window but rumours continue to swirl around the future of Raheem Sterling, who is entering the last year of his contract at the Etihad.
England star Sterling has won four Premier League titles since making a controversial move from Liverpool in 2015, a decision he has justified with a haul of personal and club honours.
But there is a sense Sterling’s time at City could be coming to an end. What are his options?
Stay at Manchester City
Many elite stars are opting to run down their contracts these days and Sterling can give himself the best chance of collecting a bumper payday by seeing out the last 12 months of his deal.
As a free agent who would be 28 next summer, Sterling would likely have his pick of top clubs from across Europe if he decides to stay put for now. But while that might be the best financial decision for Sterling’s future, it could leave him pushed to the sidelines at City in the meantime.
Sterling started 30 Premier League matches as City won the title last term, but by the end of the season he appeared to have slipped out of favour and he was spending less time on the pitch.
The forward was left on the bench for both legs of the Champions League semi-final against Real Madrid, a Guardiola decision that would have rankled Sterling, who wants to play every game. Jack Grealish is expected to be more influential for City during his second season at the club in 2022-23, 20-year-old talent Cole Palmer is being tipped for stardom and Phil Foden will continue to play a key role too, so there is a lot of competition for places despite the impending sale of Gabriel Jesus to Arsenal in a deal reported to be worth around £45 million for City.
With Erling Haaland and Julian Alvaraz arriving to bolster the attacking options available to Pep Guardiola, Sterling could find himself sat on the bench more often if he opts to stay at City. But Sterling has had periods where he seemed out of favour at the Etihad only to bounce back.
Haaland’s signing is a statement of intent that City are ready to do whatever it takes to win the Champions League crown they crave and Sterling will be loath to miss out on that medal.
Sterling is already in the top 10 of City’s record goalscorers, while last season saw him reach a pair of major milestones – 150 career goals with 100 of them coming in the Premier League.
Talk of Sterling leaving City has bubbled away for some time, but reports indicate there is also an offer on the table for him to extend his contract at the club.
Staying at the Etihad for next season – and potentially beyond – could allow Sterling to continue to write his name into City’s history books.
Join the new era at Chelsea
The recent takeover at Stamford Bridge means Chelsea are expected to spend heavily this summer and Sterling is reportedly one of the top targets on Thomas Tuchel’s shopping list.
Sterling’s appeal to Chelsea is clear. The return of Romelu Lukaku backfired in spectacular fashion and the Blues struggled to find a regular goalscorer as the big Belgian toiled. Sterling’s finishing can be inconsistent but he has scored at least 10 Premier League goals in five straight seasons for City, amassing 165 goal contributions from 320 league appearances in his career.
An offer in the region of £50 million might well be enough to tempt City into a sale due to the chance Sterling could walk away for nothing next year. Guardiola’s stance on keeping players has held consistently: the Catalan only wants people in his squad who want to be at the club.
A change of scenery might be just what Sterling needs. Chelsea’s defeat of City a year ago in the Champions League final shows that Tuchel’s tactical knowledge will have them competing for silverware now that the question over the club’s ownership has finally been resolved.
Wait for a bid from Real Madrid
While Chelsea seem to be the most likely suitors for Sterling at this time, if the 27-year-old is patient he might just get the chance to join Champions League winners Real Madrid.
Despite Carlo Ancelotti’s steady leadership seeing Madrid recapture their European crown, president Florentino Perez was left bitterly disappointed by France forward Kylian Mbappe rejecting the chance to move from Paris Saint-Germain to the Spanish capital.
Madrid subsequently made a big money move for the Monaco midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni, but after a few relatively quiet transfer windows there is still apparently cash for them to splash.
Reports indicate Sterling is on Madrid’s radar despite the La Liga giants boasting a pair of game-changing Brazilians in the form Rodrygo and Vinicius Jr on their flanks already.
Sterling is also an option through the middle, though, and Madrid need to plan ahead for a post-Karim Benzema future: the striker will be 35 in December.
Realistically, the pool of clubs that can afford Sterling and would be tempting for the England star is small, but a move to Real Madrid is something he can afford to be patient and wait for.
Sterling has made plain his desire to play for Madrid in prior media interviews but, for now, the future of one of the Premier League’s stellar talents remains unresolved.