Raheem Sterling fits the jigsaw at Manchester City


When Jesus Navas signed for Manchester City, back in the Summer of 2013, the Spaniard was expected to provide an extra dimension to his new side.  During his time at Sevilla, Navas had earned a reputation for pacy, direct wing-play and his dynamism on the right-side of Roberto Mancini’s attacking-midfield was expected to heighten the attacking potency at the Etihad Stadium.

It didn’t really work out.  Maybe the player’s historical emotional issues have been relevant, maybe he was too one dimensional or, most likely, he’s just not quite as good as most of us assumed.  Either way, he was never able to solve City’s issues in that position.

Raheem Sterling completed his move to the club yesterday and, because of the poisonous back-drop to that saga, his footballing merits have been generally overlooked.  Sterling’s transfer has been more melodrama than sporting transaction, so his literal qualities have been a virtual irrelevance over the past couple of months.

It’s done now, though, so it’s time to appreciate that - even for £49m - City have done a very smart bit of business.

Sterling has become the most expensive British player in history and that, naturally, will attract some derision.  Remarking upon the inflation which seems to swell the prices of English players is a salient point but not a new one - we are all aware of it, we all know it’s a slightly false economy.  But that’s not Raheem Sterling’s fault and the way to judge his transfer-fee is in relative terms - how does it compare to others within the same context?

On the basis that, within the last twelve months, Manchester United have spent £30m on Luke Shaw and Liverpool parted with £25m for Adam Lallana, £49m (£44m + £5m in additionals) seems about right.  Sterling is already a game-changing player and City are paying as much for what he is now as what he will likely become in the future.  While the habitual response may be to claim that all English talent is over-estimated, that isn’t applicable here: Sterling is a rare player and he will do very well at his new club.

There are two benefits to this move.  Primarily, Sterling’s individual attributes are very valuable.  He’s a brave player who isn’t shy of showing ambition on the ball and who is more than willing to take opponents on in isolation.  His finishing is a work-in-progress and Manchester City will hope that his composure in scoring positions develops as he matures as a player and a person, but there is already enough to his game to make that a latent concern.

The real value, though, is in what he’ll bring to his position and what he’ll enable his new teammates to do.  The right of midfield, as mentioned, has been a problem area for City for some time and at no point during their current era have they ever had a player in that role who adequately reflects their standing in the game.

Sterling is that player.

His pace has an obvious pitch-stretching benefit and that should translate to an increase in space at the top of the pitch - a valuable commodity given the breadth of playmaking ability in that squad - but, more importantly, his willingness to drift inside and attack defenders will present rival managers with a problem that they’ll struggle to solve.

Currently, David Silva, Samir Nasri and Sergio Aguero all, understandably and quite rightly, attract a lot of defensive attention.  By adding Sterling - another player who demands strict marking attention - Manuel Pellegrini will now be able to create weaknesses in other parts of the final third and that should have a collective benefit.

He’ll provide a balance that City have never had and, while his success will be determined by his individual contribution, his value will likely be reflected as much in the threat he poses as it is the goals and assists he provides.

Barring something untoward - a serious injury or an anomalous slump in confidence - this has all the makings of a highly-successful transfer.

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