By Srinivasan Mohan
‘Captain, Leader, Legend!!’. This banner is a permanent fixture at Stamford Bridge to refer to Chelsea captain John Terry. The 32-year old is one among two players in the Blues’ squad who have come up from the club’s youth system, the other being Ryan Bertrand. Once deemed irreplaceable in the Chelsea lineup, Terry has now been seeing days where he longer commanded that presence on the pitch like the good old days.
If you asked Chelsea fans exactly a year before on who should partner the buccaneering David Luiz in defence, everyone would have chanted Terry’s name unanimously. However, when such a situation did occur against Rubin Kazan in the second leg of the Europa League quarter-finals in Russia, Terry was culpable for many defensive lapses that almost saw the Russian side achieve an improbable progression to the semi-finals.
With Chelsea’s interim manager, Rafael Benitez openly stating that Captain Fantastic needs to accept a more restricted role at the club, one just wonders if this is the beginning of the end for Terry.
But a question begs to be asked. Why has Terry’s stock dropped so alarmingly?
Side in transition
Chelsea’s success over the years has been based on the fact that there were so many leaders to look up to for squad members whenever the team was in trouble. The likes of Terry, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech have come to the club’s rescue on more than one occasion. Success did come at the cost of eye-catching football which later became a priority for Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich.
He wanted his team to emulate Barcelona’s model for success coupled with edge of the seat football. But to achieve that, the team needed to say goodbye to some of their senior stalwarts, those who have seen the club at its highs and lows. The likes of Michael Ballack, Jose Bosingwa, Deco, Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba, Alex and Ricardo Carvalho made way for younger, faster and more creative players.
|The Old Guard was slowly being dismantled|
The defence, which was Terry’s territory for all these years, was now being contested for by younger players like David Luiz and Gary Cahill. Yes, they may not provide the same level of assurance as Terry used to provide at the age of 25-26, but only with experience will they become reliable. The duo gave a good account of themselves in the Champions League final at Munich last May and fans got a glimpse into a future where they may not see their Number 26 lead the team out to the centre.
Last season’s Champions League victory was a consequence of the famous Old Guard putting in one final effort to win the trophy as their futures at the club were in doubt. Once ‘Big Ears’ was safely tucked into the trophy cabinet at London, Chelsea’s veterans were now in danger of being asked to leave to facilitate a much-needed transition.
It must be remembered that Inter Milan faced a similar scenario during their treble winning season of 2009-10. Jose Mourinho managed to squeeze one great campaign out of a clearly ageing Inter squad after which the Italians began a decline that continues till today with many top performers being below par during matches.
With Frank Lampard scoring goals after his future was thrown into question and Ashley Cole being offered a bumper contract extension, Terry just hasn’t given enough reason to convince Roman Abramovich to consider extending his contract. With the Blues offering only one-year extensions to players above the age of 30, it may just be the end for Terry’s Chelsea career.
No stranger to controversy
If Terry was known for his tenacity, never-say-die attitude and leadership skills on the pitch, he was equally known for his ability to pull controversy towards him. The Chelsea captain has been cannon fodder for the British media for the last decade. From making lewd remarks over the 9/11 victims to being in the news for an alleged racial abuse, Terry’s CV is the perfect personification of the good, the bad and the ugly.
|Terry had racially abused Anton Ferdinand
With his retirement from the England national team, Terry could concentrate on his club career. The 32-year old had developed a thick skin for the stick he received from fans wherever he went. In fact he was praised by many pundits for his ability to perform despite such hostility. But there comes a time when every player just says ‘Enough is Enough!’ and it can affect his performance on the pitch drastically.
John Terry has always been one to put his body on the line for the team’s cause. Fans will remember their skipper’s horrific head injury sustained during the League Cup final against Arsenal in 2007. Chelsea’s defensive woes were well documented that season under Jose Mourinho who struggled to find a replacement for his influential centre-half who was out for a vast portion of the season owing to a recurring back problem.
Terry's numbers ever since Roman Abramovich took over
Terry suffered more injuries after 2007 and always battled against the odds to take his place in the starting lineup. But the skipper was yet to hit 30 then and had the strength to consistently perform after coming back from an injury as his recovery periods were shorter.
After Terry returned from an injury he picked up after a clash with Luis Suarez in a Premier League fixture against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, he has looked a lot more jaded and off colour, something which is expected for a player who will soon turn 33.
|Terry has had his fair share of injuries
Chelsea, normally so threatening from set-pieces with Terry in their ranks, are now missing the drive and aerial presence their skipper offered them. The Pensioners had started this season being in contention for seven trophies. But their Champions League disaster coupled with a change in manager has seen them targeting the Europa League as their only chance for silverware this year. With Rafael Benitez leaving at the end of the ongoing campaign, one wonders whether it is time for Terry to do so as well.
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