MANCHESTER, United Kingdom (AFP) - Raheem Sterling became the most expensive English footballer in history when he signed for Manchester City from Liverpool on a five-year contract, the England forward’s new club announced on Tuesday.
The 20-year-old completed his move to the 2014 Premier League champions after passing a medical in a deal worth an initial £44million (S$88 million) but which could rise to £49 million.
The forecast move away from Anfield appeared imminent at the weekend as Sterling stayed behind when Liverpool flew out for for their tour of Thailand, Australia and Malaysia.
City manager Manuel Pellegrini rated his marquee signing as “one of the best attacking players in world football”.
The Chilean said: “He is a young player with outstanding ability, and I am sure the Manchester City fans will be very excited about seeing him in action for the team.”
A statement released on City’s official website, www.mcfc.co.uk, confirmed: “Manchester City are delighted to announce Raheem Sterling has joined the club on a five-year deal.
“The 20-year-old England international’s transfer is a club record fee for an English player and he also becomes City’s record signing.”
The Jamaican-born Londoner assumes the most expensive English footballer mantle from Andy Carroll, who moved from Newcastle to Liverpool for £35 million but never lived up to the tag.
Sterling, who will wear the number seven shirt, is now second only to Welshman Gareth Bale on the all-time most expensive British player chart.
The headline capture brings the curtain down on a long-running transfer saga involving the England international who was under contract at Liverpool until 2017.
But he had rejected a £100,000-a-week deal to extend his stay at Liverpool, with the Reds finally accepting City’s third bid of the close season.
Sterling joined Liverpool from Queens Park Rangers in February 2010 for an initial fee of £600,000, and the Loftus Road club will receive 20 per cent of his fee.
Sterling’s arrival follows the lifting of financial fair-play sanctions by UEFA against City, freeing the club’s Abu Dhabi stakeholders of their financial shackles.
Aside from Sterling City’s other main targets this summer are Belgian star Kevin de Bruyne, at German Bundesliga runners-up VfL Wolfsburg and Juventus’ French midfielder Paul Pogba.
Sterling will now fly out to meet up with his new team-mates on tour in Australia within the next 24 hours.
News of his departure from Anfield was also confirmed by Liverpool in an announcement on their official website, www.liverpoolfc.com.
It said: “Liverpool Football Club can confirm Raheem Sterling has completed a transfer to Manchester City. The 20-year-old departs Anfield after 129 appearances and 23 goals for the Reds.
“Liverpool FC wishes Raheem well.”
On Monday, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers had played down reports of a rift over the restless forward.
“Contrary to probably the last week or so in terms of what was written, Raheem and I have always remained very strong in our relationship and have been right up until we left. So there’s no issue there,” he said from Bangkok.
Sterling’s refusal to commit to Liverpool had angered the club’s supporters, who jeered him at an end-of-season awards dinner.
In March, Sterling’s relationship with the Liverpool hierarchy became even more strained when, in an interview with the BBC given without the club’s approval, he confirmed he had rejected the Reds’ latest contract offer.
Sterling’s agent, Aidy Ward, then added to the growing rift by saying his client would not sign a new deal with Liverpool even for “£900,000 a week”.
British police, meanwhile, have confirmed they are investigating Twitter threats made towards Sterling and his three-year-old daughter.
“The language used in these tweets is abhorrent,” a Merseyside Police spokesman said in the Liverpool Echo newspaper.
“We are taking the incident extremely seriously and an investigation by detectives in Liverpool CID is ongoing.