How Raheem Sterling will fit in Thomas Tuchels squad

How Raheem Sterling will fit in Thomas Tuchels squad

Raheem Sterling can help shape Chelsea as they attempt to close the gap on Manchester City and Liverpool, head coach Thomas Tuchel says.

The England forward, 27, has joined Chelsea from City for £50m on a five-year deal, the first signing by the club’s new American owners – with Tuchel hoping there are more to come.

“Hopefully he shapes our team by just being who he is,” Tuchel told BBC Sport.

“He will be a huge asset for us.”

Tuchel added: “For me, he is a huge player, with a huge influence in the last years in English football and he’s in a perfect age to now take responsibility around young players that we have and be an example.

“Getting what he delivered for years given his age, his hunger for responsibility, and his style of play and his amount of intensity is outstanding.

“It is the benchmark in the Premier League and is exactly what we need.”

Tuchel says that Sterling’s signing “is not the end”, with Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly set to sign a four-year deal and Manchester City centre-back Nathan Ake also close to joining.

The manager now says his “focus is on defence” after losing Antonio Rudiger to Real Madrid and Andreas Christensen to Barcelona.

But he said the club have had to “work smart and fast” to keep up with their Premier League rivals, with ownership issues holding up their ability to make transfer plans following the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich in March.

The new ownership, led by United States co-owner Todd Boehly, took over from Abramovich in May, with restrictions placed on the club lifted.

Tuchel says he has a “very intense, very close” relationship with Boehly, who has also taken on the role of interim sporting director after recruitment and transfer specialists Petr Cech and Marina Granovskaia departed last month.

“The relationship [with the owners] is very intense, very close, which it has to be – because without Petr and without Marina, it’s a big change in the daily structure and communication,” Tuchel said from Los Angeles as the team prepared for their pre-season tour of the US.

“I’m a lot more involved. I have to step up in terms of responsibility. I think in the long term or even when the close of the pre-season comes, I will want to be more on the coaching role again.

“But right now it’s important to improve our team, to bring players in to stay competitive because we want to compete for a minimum of top four. Given the fact that Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United act on the transfer market for weeks and months, we need to be smart, we need to be fast and we need to find solutions. It’s my job to help.”

Champions City finished 19 points clear of Chelsea last season, while second-placed Liverpool were 18 points ahead. Asked how long it would take to close the gap, Tuchel added: “I’m a very impatient person. I don’t want to talk about the long term. This is not me.

“We will try to close the gap in the first game but the first game is Everton and we need to be ready. For that, we have some homework to do because we need a strong squad otherwise we cannot compete for what we are used to competing in as Chelsea. I don’t want to give in and I don’t want to lose this kind of spirit and attitude. We need to do our homework and build a strong team.”

Chelsea’s first transfer business under the new ownership was to loan club record signing Romelu Lukaku back to Inter Milan, a year after paying the Italian club £98m.

But Tuchel said that Chelsea made that decision after talks with the Belgian striker and his agent, with the player keen to return to Italy. He also said that it showed the new ownership “were not shy in making decisions” but admitted he was responsible for signing the forward along with Cech and Granovskaia.

“When we had the agent and Romelu’s point of view, we thought it was best to take the decision that we took and Todd had my full support,” added Tuchel, who would not comment on links with Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

On his own future, Tuchel said he would like to replicate Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp in building a legacy at Chelsea.

The new ownership is understood to want managerial stability, a change from the outlook under Abramovich, who hired 10 permanent managers in 19 years as owner.

Asked if he would like to be a legacy manager, Tuchel said: “Yeah, I would like to, but I have to earn it.

“Pep and Jurgen, they didn’t get it offered to them, just like this. You have to earn it and I have to earn my years here at Chelsea so I’m doing the best I can to be the best version of myself that I can be.

“I think [the owners] feel it and from here we go. We had some talks about my future in the club, but it’s not the priority at the moment. The priority is the team and to have the most competitive team. No coach in the world can win without the team.

“You have to deliver and then you can create the legacy. But I don’t expect it to be handed to me for nothing.”

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