Now that Raheem Sterling has joined the Chelsea ranks and his transformation from opponent to team-mate is complete, we can hear from two Blues who have played with and against our latest signing…
Reece James and Mason Mount are colleagues of the 27-year-old with the England national team and have also come up against him on numerous occasions in club colours, most notably in our 2021 Champions League triumph in Porto.
There are therefore few better placed to offer an insight into the man off the field and the gifted winger on it than our homegrown duo, who we spoke to exclusively in the Los Angeles pre-season training camp once Sterling had touched down in California…
Top guy, top player
Reece: ‘He can be quiet and he can be loud as well but he’s great to be around and a top guy off the pitch. He will bring good energy.
‘On the pitch I don’t really need to talk too much about what he does. He’s been at the top of the Premier League for the past 10 years and he’s won a number of titles so hopefully he can help bring some special moments to us as well.’
Mason: ‘He's someone that I've got to know more and more over the last few years. The way he is as a person and the way he is on the pitch, he’s someone who demands the highest level from himself and the players around him.
‘He's been a leader and captain a few times when I've played so he's someone that I've definitely learned a lot from, being that close to him.’
Teamwork makes Raheem work
Reece: ‘It’s a very exciting signing. He’s not a player that has no experience or hasn’t won any trophies. He’s scored a number of goals and a number of assists so at the end of the day he’s won trophies in one of the biggest leagues in football.
Mason: ‘I know Raz pretty well and I’ve been lucky enough to play with him for the last couple of years with England. He’s scored a lot and he creates a lot because he’s dangerous anytime he has the ball.
‘When he doesn't have the ball, he’s a massive threat so for him to now be with us, we're delighted. We’re buzzing to play with him. He's going to bring a lot to the group so it's exciting times.
‘We always have our competitions after training with England and he's a top, top finisher. He’s a top-class player, one of the best in the world, so we just need to bring the best out of him.
‘It’s a massive plus for us that he has chosen Chelsea. Being back in London where he's from and close to his family, bringing his best football, that's exactly what we want.’
A nightmare to play against
Mason: ‘It's very tough when you play against him. You can see by the numbers and what he's done in his career, especially from a young age, that he demands a lot from himself.
‘That's someone that we want around this group and someone we want to come in. He's definitely going to add to us.
Reece: ‘Playing against him is a nightmare so I’m pretty happy that he’s here now and I don’t need to play against him anymore!
'The way he plays, he’s so small and sharp. He looks small but you don’t realise how strong he is. He never stops and is always trying to run in behind and stuff.
‘I remember he had a good game in the Champions League final. It was an even battle - he beat me a few times and I won duels a few times as well so it was a tough game between us.’
Leading from the front
Mason: ‘He has plenty of years left in him to win stuff and to keep pushing his level. For me to be around him a bit with England and to see how many caps he’s got, also as captain of the side a few times.
‘He’s someone I've learned off and will continue to learn from the leadership side.’