Mauricio Pochettino names shock star as 'club leader' despite tough start to Chelsea career after big money transfer
RAHEEM STERLING has been at Chelsea for just 13 months — but he is now tasked with helping Mauricio Pochettino mould a new era at the club.
The winger holds regular talks with boss Poch to discuss how to knock the squad’s less-experienced players into shape as quickly as possible.
Sterling was the first signing of the Todd Boehly era when he switched from Manchester City for a new challenge in a £47.5million deal last summer.
The England star, 28, is now considered one of the senior members of a dressing room that boasts bags of talent — assembled for nearly £1billion by owner Boehly — but needs refining.
The summer departures of captain Cesar Azpilicueta plus Kalidou Koulibaly and Mateo Kovacic, alongside the January sale of Jorginho, has left a shortage of voices and characters in the camp.
Throw in a rapid turnover of four different managers in just over a year and the players have been crying out for stability during a massive period of transition.
Pochettino’s arrival as head coach last month has been welcomed by the first team and the Argentine is seen as the man to finally bring some consistency.
Despite Sunday’s 3-1 defeat at West Ham, Pochettino insists there were lots of positives from the performance.
One of those was Sterling’s most effective game for months having fully committed to Poch’s plan.
The pair have held meetings in the manager’s office at Chelsea’s Surrey training ground on a wide number of issues — his role in the team, how to adapt tactically for different opposition and how he can help the new, young players settle in.
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In particular, players like Noni Madueke, Malo Gusto and Lesley Ugochukwu — all 21 or under — view Sterling as a role model due to his vast experience and accomplishments at previous club Manchester City where he won four Premier League titles.
City winger Cole Palmer, 21, has spoken of the valuable guidance Sterling gave him when he was coming through the ranks there.
Crystal Palace defender Tyrick Mitchell, 23, did likewise after his first England call-up.
A Blues insider said: “Everyone is painfully aware that there is a lack of experience.
"Players like Raheem are old enough and wise enough to take that on board and shoulder some of the responsibility as a more senior man.
“Jorginho leaving for Arsenal in January was a bit of a blow in terms of maturity in the dressing room. Raheem really felt that.
“Losing Cesar in the summer too robbed Chelsea of their ultimate leader by example. It’s an issue Mauricio needs to address sharpish.”
Forward Sterling won Chelsea’s first-half penalty — which Enzo Fernandez would go on to see saved by Alphonse Areola.
Sterling’s 16 touches in the opposition box is his highest number in any one game since he joined the club.
Six runs with the ball at his feet towards the West Ham goal is also his best Blues return.
Chelsea dominated possession but crumbled against resilient West Ham.
Poch wants to swiftly iron that out.
The former Tottenham boss is also working hard to build unity and togetherness in his squad.
He has one-to-ones with all the players to learn more about their characters.
Poch also hosted a barbecue at Chelsea’s Cobham base to try to get the players and staff aligned.
Chelsea host Luton on Friday looking for their first Prem win under Pochettino having lost to West Ham and drawn 1-1 at home to Liverpool.
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