Raheem Sterling can shape Chelsea by simply being who he is, says boss Thomas Tuchel
Raheem Sterling can help shape Chelsea as they try to close the gap to Manchester City and Liverpool, head coach Thomas Tuchel says.
“I hope he shapes our team by just being who he is,” Tuchel told BBC Sport.
“He will be a huge asset to us.”
Tuchel added: “For me he’s a huge player, with a huge influence in recent years in English football and he’s at the perfect age now to take responsibility around the young players we have and be an example.
“To get what he has delivered for years given his age, his thirst for responsibility, his style of play and his intensity is exceptional.
“It’s the benchmark in the Premier League and it’s exactly what we need.”
Tuchel says signing Sterling ‘isn’t the end’, with Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly set to sign four-year contract and Manchester City centre-back Nathan Ake is also set to join.
The manager is keen to strengthen defensively after losing Antonio Rudiger at Real Madrid and Andreas Christensen in Barcelona.
But he said the club had to “work smart and fast” to keep pace with their Premier League rivals, with ownership issues hampering their ability to plan transfers after Roman Abramovich was sanctioned in March.
The new owner, led by American co-owner Todd Boehly, took over from Abramovich in May as restrictions on the club were lifted.
Tuchel says he has a “very intense, very close” relationship with Boehly, who also took on the role of interim sporting director following the departure of recruitment and transfer specialists Petr Cech and Marina Granovskaia last month.
“The relationship [with the owners] is very intense, very close, which 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 United States.
“I am much more involved. I have to step up my responsibilities. I think in the long term or even at the end of pre-season I will want to play more of a coaching role again.
“But at the moment it’s important to improve our squad, to bring players to stay competitive because we want to compete for a minimum of a top four. Given that Tottenham, Liverpool, Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United are acting on the transfer market for weeks and months, we have to be smart, we have to be quick and we have 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 clear. 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. It’s not me.
“We will try to close the gap in the first game, but the first game is Everton and we have to be ready. For that, we have homework to do because we need a strong team, otherwise we can’t competing for what we are used to. competing with Chelsea. I don’t want to back down and I don’t want to lose that kind of spirit and attitude. We have to do our homework and build a strong team.”
Chelsea’s first transfer venture under the new owner was to Club record loan signing Romelu Lukaku back at Inter Milana year after paying the Italian club £98million.
But Tuchel said Chelsea made the decision after talks with the Belgian striker and his agent, with the player keen to return to Italy. He also said it showed the new owner ‘not shy about making decisions’ but admitted he was responsible for signing the forward along with Cech and Granovskaia.
“When we had the agent’s and Romelu’s point of view, we thought it was better to take the decision we made and Todd had my full support,” added Tuchel, who declined to comment on Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo links.
On his own future, Tuchel said he would like to replicate Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola and Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp to build 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.
When asked if he would like to be a legacy coach, Tuchel replied: “Yes, I would like to, but I have to deserve it.
“Pep and Jurgen, they didn’t give it to each other, just like that. You have to earn it and I have to earn my years here at Chelsea, so I’m trying my best to be the best version of myself that I can be.
“I think [the owners] feel it and from there we go. We’ve had some discussions about my future at the club, but that’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 given to me for nothing.”