Raheem Sterling is in a very specific group of players to have played Champions League matches for three different English teams. His goal for Chelsea against RB Salzburg was his 25th in the competition and he has now also scored for two sides in the tournament.
Although turmoil on and off the pitch have dampened his start to life back in London, four goals and an assist in his last seven matches have not only been vital to Chelsea but they have also shown that they have a player that looks set to do what he does best regardless of the circumstances.
Thomas Tuchel may have been a key advocate for Sterling, but just like the other new signings, Todd Boehly gave the green light and backed the 27-year-old to thrive over a five-year deal. It could be seen as a risk but given the levels of output he has shown, and the form he is in, it looks a solid move.
Now working under Graham Potter, and first looks indicate he will be used differently under the new man, Sterling is going about his work in the only way that he knows. On the ball he hasn’t been flashy or dazzling, but by getting into the right positions and showing the clinical instincts that Chelsea have – and still do – lack, he is getting the rewards.
As a player with, so far, immense longevity – 326 Premier League appearances in 11 years – Sterling has gone on to put up numbers that are in the conversation alongside true greats of the game. His 112 league goals are alongside 77 England appearances and a Champions League final. He’s won four league titles and a host of extra team and individual awards.
The level that Sterling has now reached is shown by a remarkable stat following his strike at Stamford Bridge against Salzburg. As he took a dead touch and curled into the net he put himself alongside Wayne Rooney as the only English players to reach that 25 goal milestone in Europe’s elite club competition.
With Paul Scholes, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Harry Kane the only other players to pass 20, Sterling’s ability to produce on the big stage is recognised alongside some of the best players the country has seen.
The goals have come in 75 matches with 21 assists, a very good record. Rooney’s 30, the most, was in 85 matches. Should Chelsea get out of the group stage this season then there is a chance that the record might be broken.
It is also not unrealistic for him to go on to break Chelsea’s own record in the competition, albeit with a massive effort. The current most is Didier Drogba with 36 whilst Lampard’s 23 is in second place. If Sterling sees out his Chelsea contract and gets them through the group stages and beyond every season, that it is feasible for him to challenge Lampard’s goalscoring record in the competition too.
With just one point from two matches and back-to-back games against AC Milan to come, Chelsea are in a tight spot. Sterling, now arguably the star of the team, will try to take it upon himself to climb to the top of the list and propel his side through the group.