Welcome to Talk Chelsea

Register now to gain access to all of our features. Once registered and logged in, you will be able to contribute to this site by submitting your own content or replying to existing content. You'll be able to customize your profile, receive reputation points as a reward for submitting content, while also communicating with other members via your own private inbox, plus much more! This message will be removed once you have signed in.


  • Content count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

  • Country


Everything posted by Madmax

  1. Florent Malouda

    Chelsea career Signed on a three-year contract in the summer of 2007, an undisclosed fee was paid to Lyon for the then 27-year-old French international winger who was one of Jose Mourinho's final purchases for the club. The first year started brightly with an excellently-taken Community Shield goal at Wembley and another strike in the first league game. He won a controversially-awarded penalty for an important point at Anfield and opened his Champions League account at home to Schalke. However a two-month absence in midwinter due to a persistent knee injury took its toll on Florent's form, although he did hit one of the passes of the season for Joe Cole's winner at Goodison Park in the Carling Cup semi-final. Following a grim FA Cup exit at Barnsley there was a month in the wilderness but Avram Grant issued a recall for the Champions League quarter-finals, the then manager frequently choosing the more cautious Malouda rather than Salomon Kalou in European away games. The policy was retained in the Final in Moscow where Florent played the first 92 minutes. He completed his first Chelsea campaign with four goals from 29 starts and nine sub appearances, before Luiz Felipe Scolari arrived in the summer of 2008 announcing he wanted to see the same Malouda at Chelsea he had seen at Lyon, with direct running and a stronger eye for goal. The winger responded with a run of four goals in 10 games before an injury setback at the end of November kept him out until Boxing Day. With his natural left-footedness, Malouda provided balance and width to an emerging three-pronged attack with his friend from earlier playing days in France, Didier Drogba, and Nicolas Anelka. Under Guus Hiddink, Malouda started to show a consistency to his game that had been missing. Assists, running and goals began to become regular facets as he played a key role in FA Cup semi-final success over Arsenal, while in the Champions League semi-final he denied Lionel Messi the space he needed in the Camp Nou to hurt the Blues in Ashley Cole's absence. Unfortunately Chelsea lost out in the second leg in controversial fashion. Back at Wembley it was Florent's cross that set up Drogba's equaliser in the 2009 FA Cup Final against Everton and he and Ashley Cole spent the first half tormenting Tony Hibbert to the degree that the right-back was taken off at the interval. Florent was denied his own Wembley goal on a victorious day when a tremendous drive cannoned back off the crossbar. He continued to go from strength to strength in 2009/10, building on his solid finish to the previous campaign. The Frenchman made Carlo Ancelotti's early selections and by the end of the season he had cemented his place in the starting line-up. He was instrumental in a number of historic wins and netted 15 goals throughout an industrious campaign. That was an important measurement of his abilities but just as vital were the assists. Malouda helped set up 12 of Chelsea's League goals, including his cross which Joe Cole back-heeled over the line against Manchester United as we beat out title rivals 2-1 at Old Trafford. He was a versatile member of the team, playing as a midfielder rather than a wide man in a 4-3-3 towards the season's end and he even moved back into the left-back position away against Inter Milan when both Ashley Cole and Yury Zhirkov were unavailable. He ended the 2009/10 season with another FA Cup Final appearance and a winners' medal to add the Premier League one handed out a week earlier. He was Chelsea Players' Player of the Year. Both his and the team's form were carried over to the commencement of 2010/11 and a couple of months in, Florent was the Premier League's top scorer. However as important players were lost to injury and illness, and results declined as winter set in, his form suffered too and he scored just one league goal in three months. Although the season ultimately ended trophyless, Florent rediscovered his influence towards to the end and finished the team's league top scorer with a career-best 13 goals and a good total of assists too. The 2011-12 season has seen the Frenchman still very much involved in first-team affairs, with over 30 appearances, although perhaps more frustrating is his limited league starts this campaign. He started the season very much involved in Andre Villas-Boas's side, scoring a late winner in our first home match against West Brom, although that remains the sole Chelsea strike in 2011-12 for last season's top league goalscorer. Pre-Chelsea Lyon was Florent's third club. He began his career in Paris with lower league Châteauroux where he played two seasons before moving up the ladder to Guingamp. In Brittany he teamed up with Didier Drogba and his impressive form over three seasons attracted the attention of Lyon. Arriving at his new club the same season as Michael Essien, the two shared in championship success, Florent staying at the Stade Gerland long enough to win a hat-trick of league titles while starring in Champions League displays. International Florent quickly became a regular for France after making his debut against Poland in November 2004. He was a prominent member of the French team that reached the final of the 2006 World Cup, winning the penalty that Zinedine Zidane converted to open the scoring in a match that they would eventually lose on penalties. He remained a fixture in and around the French XI, and was a key part of the Euro 2008 qualification campaign although, similar to many of his compatriots, he endured a disappointing tournament, losing his place for the final group game as the team ended bottom. He netted the only goal in France's dismal 2010 World Cup campaign, pulling a goal back against South Africa to make it 1-2. In September 2010 he stood in as captain against Belarus due to Patrice Evra's five-game suspension that came out of summer tournament.
  2. Ashley Cole

    Cole was given the number three shirt at Chelsea, and made his first appearance for the club as a substitute for Wayne Bridge in their 2-1 win over Charlton Athletic on 9 September. On 31 January 2007, Cole suffered a serious knee injury in the 3-0 victory over Blackburn Rovers in a Premier League game at Stamford Bridge, although after a scan it was revealed to be not as bad as first thought, with Chelsea optimistic that he would return before the end of the 2006-07 season. Cole did indeed make a return at the end of the season, playing in the last twelve minutes of the 2007 FA Cup Final at the new Wembley Stadium against Manchester United. Chelsea emerged victorious 1-0 after extra-time with a goal scored by Didier Drogba, to win the FA Cup. During the 2007-08 season he was dropped in favour of Wayne Bridge for the 2008 League Cup Final, which Chelsea lost 2-1 to Tottenham Hotspur. However, Cole scored his first Chelsea goal in Chelsea's very next game, on 1 March 2008, the fourth goal in a 4-0 away victory against West Ham United. In Chelsea's final league match of the 2008-09 season against Sunderland at the Stadium of Light, Cole scored his second Chelsea goal in the Blues' 3-2 win, before picking up his fifth FA Cup winners' medal in the final against Everton. Cole was voted Player's Player of the Year at the end of the season, and on 2 September 2009 Cole signed a new four-year contract, tying him to Chelsea until 2013. The following season, after starting Chelsea's first six games in the league, Cole scored his third, fourth and fifth Chelsea goals at home to Burnley, Tottenham and Sunderland respectively. On 10 February 2010, he suffered a fractured left ankle in the 2-1 defeat against Everton that kept him out of action for three months. He eventually made his return against Stoke City, a game which Chelsea won 7-0. Cole also scored a goal against Wigan Athletic on the final day of the Premier League season in an 8-0 win that clinched the Premier League title, Cole's first at the club. Cole went on to appear in the 2010 FA Cup Final, the victory against Portsmouth earning Cole a record sixth winners' medal - his third at Chelsea. The victory also completed the League & FA Cup Double for Chelsea, for the first time in the club's history. Cole had also been part of a double-winning side at Arsenal in 2002, and he became the first player, along with teammate Nicolas Anelka, to win the double with two different clubs. Cole was again one Chelsea's most consistent performers during the 2010-11 season, starting every Premier League game as Chelsea finished second in the league in what was a relatively disappointing season following the success of 2009-10. His continued importance to the side was demonstrated at the end of the season when he was voted Player's Player of the Season by his peers, the second time he had received the honour. Near ever-present once more during the 2011-12 season, Cole largely performed to his usual high standards, particularly in the latter part of the campaign, as Chelsea won the FA Cup (Cole winning the competition of a record seventh time) and the UEFA Champions League. In the latter competition the England international put in several excellent performances, including goal-line clearances against Napoli and Barcelona, to help Chelsea reach the final of the competition for the second time. In the final itself he was one of Chelsea's outstanding performers. With the match finishing 1-1 after extra time, he scored a penalty in the shoot-out as he had done in Moscow four years earlier but this time he was on the winning side as Chelsea won the competition for the first time. Click here to view the record
  3. The Conte Thread

    Mourinho said "Just kill me fam"
  4. The English Football Thread

    Glad Mourinho's taken his embarrassingly shit football elsewhere. What a player we had in our hands with KdB. Another 0-5 incoming vs Pep?
  5. The Conte Thread

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j8v11UfRHI Enjoy.
  6. Non-Chelsea Transfer Pub

    Except Juve.
  7. Non-Chelsea Transfer Pub

    So another 32 year old that keeps Azpi at LB.
  8. The Conte Thread

  9. Now Zizou can put on his CV that he's Real's Robbie Di Matteo
  10. You cannot beat both Bayern and Barca and then lose in the final to an offside goal while missing a penalty. Come on Leti!
  11. The Mourinho Thread

    It's always the Spanish goalie.
  12. The Conte Thread

    For me it is absurd to talk of us as contenders or dark horses or whatever. Without significant improvements to the glaring holes that this team has, I doubt we're getting top 4. As good a manager as Conte is, this is his first outing outside Italy as player or manager and there will be adaptability issues in play. The guy doesn't have a magic wand. And to be honest, the names we seem closer to right now (Lukaku, Rudiger, Cuadrado etc) are not giving me confidence.
  13. The Mourinho Thread

    So how much £ did we make out of that naming rights stuff?
  14. Kenedy

    I miss Ashley Cole.
  15. Romelu Lukaku

    Did he actually name drop Chelsea? Surely it's happening then. Sigh.
  16. Romelu Lukaku

    ^ Of course there's no guaranteed success. What is? The Lukaku story makes no sense on a sporting level, which is why the fee being spoken about just stands out so much more. Unless Costa is definitely, 100% off (for which there's little credible reporting that I've read), why should we settle for a similar but inferior player? And that too at a record price? In terms of names, we should be all over Lacazette. They turned down 31m for him from West Ham. Up that to 40, hell 45 if that's what it takes, and bring him here. Because in this case the skillset justifies the money.
  17. Romelu Lukaku

    I really, really, really find it absurd to believe that there is somebody on that Chelsea board right now nodding his/her head thinking '65 million quid for Lukaku? Mhm, let's do this.' Seriously hope this is BS.
  18. It's more than his opinions sparking debates. IMO it's nice to have an old timer around, especially one who has a somewhat unique flavour. A character, I guess. Lends some variety to the place and keeps it from being an echo chamber of cookie cutter posts. I say that as someone who had a lot of run-ins with him in my earlier days. Anyway, I'm sure the mods did what they felt was best for the forum. Just my 0.02$.
  19. The Mourinho Thread

    Can't be arsed. He's toxic as fuck and football has passed him by. More comedy times at Old Trafford.
  20. Romelu Lukaku

    No great technique, no great precision. We already have Costa for that. Save that 65m (!!) and go for someone like Lacazette. Why the fuck are clubs like West Ham after him and not us?
  21. The Mourinho Thread

    Matt Hughes covered Chelsea's title defence for The Times. This is his inside story of how it all went wrong. It all began with Mickey Mouse. The fracturing of the relationship between Jose Mourinho and his players, which ultimately led to Chelsea sacking the most successful coach in their history less than halfway through their Premier League title defence, started with the manager fuming at his club for losing to an undermanned MLS side, a "Mickey Mouse team." The club's technical director, Michael Emenalo, said a "palpable discord with the players" led to Mourinho's sacking following a training ground Christmas lunch on December 17 last year, per the Guardian's David Hytner. For all the club's unhappiness at such unexpected plain speaking, he was not exaggerating. By the end of his second spell in charge, the man who had led Chelsea to a runaway Premier League victory just seven months earlier was publicly complaining about being "betrayed" and privately searching for the "rats" responsible, while the players were simply sick and tired of Mourinho's unrelenting manner. The most remarkable season in Chelsea's 111-year history started on a warm summer's evening in Harrison, New Jersey, about as far away from the globalised glitz of the Premier League as possible. Chelsea lost, 4-2, to a New York Red Bulls side largely composed of under-18 players, and Mourinho was not happy, although the ramifications of this did not become apparent until much later. Mourinho said nothing to his players after they collapsed by conceding three late goals and was in a jovial mood upon returning the following day to the more glamorous surroundings of the Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal, the hotel which the team was using as a base for their pre-season campaign in North America. But he continued to stew about the defeat in silence. When Chelsea's performances did not improve significantly during the remainder of a tour in which they failed to win any of their five matches, Mourinho eventually returned in anger to that night in New Jersey, accusing his side of losing to a team he likened to Walt Disney's famous rodent. The players were shocked and irritated that a match they had considered primarily to be a fitness-gaining exercise was being thrown back in their faces several weeks later. The seeds of the subsequent breakdown had been sown. Chelsea's players have since been unusually frank about the role that a mismanaged pre-season played in their disastrous campaign and Mourinho's departure. In October, Mourinho was still at the club but under pressure after winning just two of the opening eight Premier League fixtures. Diego Costa admitted in an interview with several English newspapers that he had returned for pre-season training overweight, a theme Cesc Fabregas also hit on when discussing Chelsea's season on Sky Sportsat the end of April. Fabregas claimed that Mourinho's biggest mistake was giving his players too much time off during the summer—they returned to their training base in the Surrey countryside a week later than normal. "I think his biggest problem was that he trusted us too much," Fabregas said. "He gave us more holiday because we were champions, he believed in us more, trusted us more, and we let him down. The whole team, all the players. "That was the main reason why at the end he had to go. And for that, myself and all the team, we feel bad for him." It is now obvious that Chelsea were insufficiently prepared when they kicked off their Premier League campaign at home to Swansea City on August 8, although that alone cannot fully explain the events of an extraordinary afternoon that set the tone for a season of recrimination and in-fighting. Mourinho had been his usual confident self in the buildup, with his natural ebullience boosted by signing a new four-year contract the day before the game, but with hindsight, his behaviour on the touchline provided a clear indication that all was not well. Chelsea took the lead twice against Swansea only to be pegged back on both occasions by the tenacious visitors, with their fortunes further hit when goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was sent off in the 52nd minute. When Eden Hazard went down injured in the closing stages, Chelsea, having already made their three allotted substitutions, were temporarily reduced to nine men, and Mourinho went crazy on the touchline when club doctor Eva Carneiro and physiotherapist Jon Fearn ran onto the pitch to treat the Belgian international as play continued. Video footage since analysed by a Daily Mail lip-reader shows Mourinho shouting, "Hey! Hey! Get off the pitch now. F--king hell" and screaming "filho da puta" (which translates as "son of a b---h"). In a scathing post-match outburst, he described the duo as "impulsive and naive." "I wasn't happy with my medical staff, because even if you are a medical doctor or secretary on the bench, you have to understand the game," Mourinho said. A few days after the Swansea draw, Mourinho informed Carneiro and Fearn that they would not be on the bench for Chelsea's next match—away at Manchester City—as well as making it clear they would not be welcome in the team hotel or at first-team training sessions, a fateful decision that led to a damaging and potentially costly legal case against the club. While Fearn accepted his reduced status, Carneiro never returned to work and left Chelsea the following month. She sued the club and Mourinho for constructive dismissal and sexual discrimination. Shortly after Carneiro's departure, the Football Association cleared Mourinho of using discriminatory language, as an independent linguistic expert concluded that it could not be proved that he aimed the "filho da puta" outburst at the doctor specifically. But the legal case goes on. While Chelsea went on to crash out of all the cup competitions at a relatively early stage, their season will still go into extra time. Their final fixture is scheduled to take place at the London South Employment Tribunal in Croydon on June 6, when senior club officials and Mourinho could be called to defend their actions. Chelsea staunchly defended Mourinho throughout the process and have continued to do so following his sacking, but even in the immediate aftermath of the Swansea game, the club were aware that his outspoken comments and treatment of Carneiro had given them a huge problem. A senior executive has privately revealed, for example, that after a prolonged abstinence from alcohol, he opened a bottle of wine for the first time in years on the evening of the Swansea draw, such was his anticipation of the stresses and strains to come. Opinion is divided as to the effect the medical controversy had on Chelsea's players, but in the subsequent days and weeks, many of them continued to underperform, most notably the player at the centre of the incident. In Chelsea's triumphant 2014-15 season, Hazard was loudly acclaimed as the Professional Football Association's Player of the Year and the Football Writers' Association Footballer of the Year after scoring 19 goals and producing consistently excellent performances. This season, however, he did not score his first Premier League goal until the end of April. Sources close to Carneiro cited Hazard's guilt about her departure as one of the reasons for his dip in form. Several players are understood to have sent her their best wishes after she left the club, but others at the training ground are adamant that her situation was rarely discussed in the dressing room. No one at Chelsea has made any public comment about Carneiro because of the legal situation. Whatever its impact, changing the doctor did not change Chelsea's results. Mourinho caused yet more controversy in Chelsea's next game—which they lost, 3-0, to Manchester City—by substituting long-serving captain and club icon John Terry at half-time, a move widely interpreted as a public attempt to assert his authority. Behind the scenes, however, that authority was wavering. Mourinho found himself with a consistently underperforming team for the first time in his glittering career, and he struggled to cope. The manager's response—almost certainly a reaction to the sluggish pre-season—was to push his players harder. He subjected them to a series of stinging criticisms, both privately and in public. Mourinhorepeatedly blasted Hazard following his slow start to the season. It didn't bring about any significant improvement. By the time summer turned to autumn, the club was in the midst of a crisis. Chelsea's senior players were shocked by and objected to Mourinho's treatment of the few youngsters in the squad, particularly Ruben Loftus-Cheek. The 19-year-old suffered the indignity of being substituted after just 45 minutes of his first Premier League start of the season against Aston Villa in October, after which Mourinhocondemned the lack of intensity in his performance and his poor tactical discipline. With his relationship with the players deteriorating, Mourinho became increasingly obsessed with the notion that some of them were leaking details of his team selection to the media, which led tohis notorious complaint about "rats" the day before a home match against Southampton on October 3. That became a recurring theme in the run-up to his departure two months later. Chelsea's team for the first game of their Champions League campaign against Maccabi Tel Aviv had been published a fortnight earlier, but in reality, that was the result of a visitor to the training ground getting a glimpse of a session and passing on some gossip rather than a deliberate leak from the dressing room. Chelsea lost to Southampton, 3-1, which led to an extraordinary post-match interview from Mourinho in which he appeared to be daring the club to sack him. In a seven-minute monologue broadcast live on Sky Sports, Mourinho brought up the issue of being sacked unprompted and went on to say that if they dismissed him, Chelsea would be getting rid of the best manager they had ever had. He also said the players should take responsibility for the team's poor performances. Even by Mourinho's combustible standards, it was a remarkable rant. It was at this point that Chelsea's board began to fully appreciate the extent of the problem, and that evening, they gave serious consideration to sacking Mourinho there and then. Roman Abramovich and his key advisers—Emenalo, executive Marina Granovskaia and chairman Bruce Buck—stayed at Stamford Bridge until midnight, debating Mourinho's position before reaching the unanimous decision that he should be given more time to turn things round. Chelsea did opt to make one dramatic move, however. On the following Monday afternoon, an Abramovich-sanctioned statement appeared on the club website proclaiming that Mourinho retained their support, the first time they had publicly backed a manager since the Russian bought the club in 2003. A senior source at the club has since revealed that when board members saw Mourinho's post-Southampton interview, they were genuinely concerned for his mental health and wanted to provide reassurance for personal as well as professional reasons. The vote of confidence had little effect. Chelsea did pick up occasional Premier League wins and stayed on course to qualify from their Champions League group, but they remained hugely inconsistent, with Mourinho's behaviour becoming ever more erratic. After the FA found him guilty of misconduct following the Southampton defeat for criticising referee Robert Madley, Mourinho once again found himself in hot water with regard to officiating not even a month later. At half-time of a Premier League match against West Ham United at Upton Park on October 24, he stormed into the referee's changing room and accused referee Jonathan Moss of being "f--king weak." His tirade resulted in Moss ordering Mourinho to stay out of the technical area in the second half. Chelsea went on to lose 2-1 with Mourinho seething in the stands. After the game, he is believed to have confronted two board members and told them, "Pay me off and I will go now!" with reference to the severance clause in his contract. The end was coming. The FA gave Mourinho a one-game stadium ban as punishment for his behaviour at Upton Park, which saw him watch the 1-0 defeat at Stoke City at the start of November from the team's hotel. That inconvenience was the least of his problems, however. Following a home defeat to Liverpool the previous week, the club's stance had changed from full support to reviewing Mourinho's position on a weekly basis. Though wins over Norwich City and Maccabi Tel Aviv bought him some time, another home defeat to Bournemouth on December 5 sealed his fate. The day after that loss to a side newly promoted to the Premier League, Chelsea's board met for nine hours to discuss Mourinho's departure and the succession plans, leading to the creation of a shortlist of candidates to replace him in the short term for the first time. Former manager Avram Grant and Juande Ramos were both discussed—partially because of their good relationship with Emenalo—but Guus Hiddink was the unanimous choice. The Dutchman had previously done an outstanding job as caretaker manager upon replacing Luiz Felipe Scolari in February 2009, as Chelsea went on to win the FA Cup and reach the Champions League semi-finals. He was available after being sacked by Holland. The die was cast. Mourinho was not told of his fate at this stage, but with hindsight, his outlandish behaviour suggests he cannot have been completely in the dark. The then-52-year-old was at least permitted to have one last successful night at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea beating FC Porto on December 9 to qualify for the last 16 of the Champions League. But even that important victory was tarnished by off-field distractions that were indicative of his downfall. In keeping with his growing paranoia, Mourinho became convinced that one of his players had leaked his team to Porto, specifically his surprising decision to omit Fabregas from the starting lineup and leave the Spaniard on the bench throughout. This belief led him to launch a vigorous mole-hunt even after winning the game. During some heated training sessions before Chelsea's match against Leicester City the following Monday, Mourinho accused his players of "betraying" his tactical work, an inflammatory accusation that reflected his obsession with finding the rat. With Mourinho increasingly focused on his players' perceived disloyalty rather than improving their performances, the net was closing in. Even allowing for his penchant for melodrama and habit of making outrageous comments, Mourinho's response to the Leicester loss was extraordinary: He claimed in several interviews that his work had been betrayed, and he criticised Hazard for going off with a hip injury. It marked the beginning of the end for him. Abramovich made the final decision to sack him that night, although it took another two-and-a-half days of finalising Hiddink's return before the board told him. Mourinho knew it was coming—with his Leicester outburst being widely seen at the time as an attempt to get his retaliation in first—and a text message he received from Buck at noon following training on December 17 was all the confirmation he needed. Buck simply asked if he and fellow director Eugene Tenenbaum could come and see him at the training ground in an hour, with Mourinho correctly identifying them in advance as the firing squad. The subsequent meeting lasted just 10 minutes, with both sides expressing regret before quickly agreeing to the terms of a severance package. After paying out huge sums to sacked managers in the past, Chelsea have introduced a standard managerial contract whereby a dismissed party will continue to be paid for a maximum of one year's salary until they get another job, so there was little to negotiate. The response of the players was also markedly different from that which followed Mourinho's first exit from Chelsea in 2007, when there had been genuine distress. Didier Drogba, in particular, seemed on the point of rebellion. Mourinho had appeared distracted during the Christmas lunch on December 17, but nothing was said, and even after he met with Buck and Tenenbaum, there was no formal announcement. Most of the players had left the training ground by then, and although many were speculating among themselves, they were not told the news until French television station Canal Plus broke it just before 3 p.m. The overriding feeling in the dressing room was a combination of relief and regret, with one of the players claiming privately that "half of us are crying, half are celebrating." Emenalo's "palpable discord" appeared to exist between the players as well. There was no ambivalence about the fans' feelings when Chelsea played Sunderland at Stamford Bridge two days later. Six months of frustration at poor performances and anger at Mourinho's departure poured out from the 42,000 people in the stands. The atmosphere was the most toxic the ground had witnessed since the unpopular appointment of Rafael Benitez as interim manager three years earlier. The fans turned on the players, all the more awkward given that incoming manager Hiddink was in attendance, along with Drogba. In addition to repeated chants on behalf of Mourinho—"Stand Up for the Special One!" was a near-constant refrain—Fabregas and Costa were booed by their own fans, while Hazard and the Spanish pair were accused of being Mourinho's "rats" in a banner paraded in the East Stand. Mourinho would have appreciated such artistic endeavour as he spent the afternoon on the south coast at the Amex Stadium watching Brighton play Middlesbrough, part of a deliberate attempt to keep himself in the public eye as he launched a less than subtle campaign to get the Manchester United job. Chelsea beat Sunderland. Oscar put in the sort of sparkling performance he had failed to produce in a long time for Mourinho. But a straightforward victory against a poor side in the midst of a relegation battle was not enough to win the fans over immediately. A fear of Chelsea being dragged into the relegation scrap was cited as one of the main reasons for removing Mourinho—they were in 16th place, one point above the bottom three, when he was sacked. Hiddink's appointment until the end of the season was confirmed on the day of the Sunderland game. The Dutchman was unable to bring Drogba back with him as assistant coach because of the Ivory Coast striker's contract with Montreal Impact, but he made a big impact himself in other ways as performance and results improved. Chelsea were unbeaten in their first 11 matches under Hiddink, and they climbed the Premier League table, although he was unable to replicate the cup success of his first spell in charge. His side were eliminated from the Champions League and FA Cup by Paris Saint-Germain and Everton, respectively. Much of Hiddink's strength stemmed from simply not being Mourinho, which he was shrewd enough to capitalise upon. Training sessions became more relaxed, and he gained major brownie points with the players by cancelling a few planned overnight hotel stays over Christmas, allowing them to spend more time with their families. There were a few personnel changes, too, with John Obi Mikel coming back into the side, most often at the expense of Nemanja Matic, while Loftus-Cheek and fellow youngster Bertrand Traore were given more game time. Unlike his first spell at the club, there was never any suggestion of Hiddink staying on permanently. At 69, he lacked the hunger for a day-to-day management job and was looking forward to returning to his houses in Amsterdam and the south of France. So Chelsea quickly began the process of looking for a new permanent manager. Abramovich's longtime ideal candidate, Pep Guardiola, was discounted almost immediately because of the Bayern Munich manager's impending move to Manchester City. After being quietly sounded out by the club, Diego Simeone made it clear that his intention was to remain at Atletico Madrid. Other potential candidates, such as outgoing City manager Manuel Pellegrini and Bournemouth's impressive young English manager, Eddie Howe, were mentioned during internal discussions, but Abramovich made it clear he wanted a big hitter. By the New Year, Chelsea had put together a three-man shortlist: Massimiliano Allegri, Jorge Sampaoli and Antonio Conte. Allegri asked to be given until the end of the season to decide whether he wanted to leave Juventus, where he is now in the process of negotiating a new contract, but with Chelsea wanting to begin planning for the next campaign as soon as possible, that request was rejected. That left a straight choice between Sampaoli, the former Chile coach, and Conte, who was eager to return to club football after managing Italy at this summer's European Championship. Sampaoli was also keen, having resigned his position with Chile in January. He claimed in an interview with Argentine radio station Radio Vorterix in March that he was Abramovich's No. 1 choice but was overlooked because of his limited English (h/t Daily Mail). His language skills were an issue for Chelsea, but there were also concerns about his lack of experience of European football, particularly given the failure of Scolari at Chelsea. The Brazilian had arrived at Stamford Bridge as a feted World Cup winner but was sacked after seven months, having failed to adjust to the intense demands of the Premier League. Conte, on the other hand, had won three successive titles at Juventus before taking the Italy job, having previously proved his credentials by leading Bari and Siena to promotion from Serie B. After a couple of meetings with Abramovich in London, Conte's appointment was confirmed on April 4. The Italian's impending arrival had been an open secret for some time, with formal confirmation delayed due to a disagreement over the size of his backroom staff, which has still not been completely resolved. Conte's desire to bring a half-dozen of his Italy staff with him to Stamford Bridge was not the only political row festering away in the background despite Hiddink's success in stabilising matters on the pitch, as even after Mourinho's departure, Chelsea remained an intensely political club. Terry caused consternation after what should have been a rare serene afternoon in January, which had begun with a 5-1 FA Cup win over Milton Keynes Dons, by announcing that he would be leaving at the end of the season. That led to the club eventually texting out a somewhat confused statement to the media, close to midnight, saying that the case remained open. Ten days earlier, Granovskaia and Emenalo told the captain in a meeting that unlike in previous years, there was no new contract offer on the table for him at that point of the season. After some reflection, Terry decided to share that information with the world without informing anyone at Chelsea. This nakedly political attempt to exert pressure on the club via fans initially backfired, but last week, Chelsea finally offered him a new one-year contract on significantly reduced wages. Beyond Terry's disenchantment, there were several other tensions bubbling away behind the scenes throughout the remainder of the season, which may create continued problems for Conte when he arrives at the club in July. Courtois has already spoken to Conte about his unhappiness at working with goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon, whose unorthodox training methods and in particular, his use of weighted vests Courtois blames for the knee injury he suffered earlier in the season. But as the Frenchman is a favourite of Abramovich, his position is secure. Hazard and Costa are both unsettled and like Courtois, are hankering for a move to Spain. Thus, the manager's first job this summer is likely to be attempting to retain and mollify key members of his squad. As a plain-speaking disciplinarian who works his players tremendously hard, Conte has much in common with Mourinho, but there will be one clear difference when he starts his Chelsea reign in July with a friendly against Liverpool in Pasadena, California. That's right up the freeway from where Mickey Mouse lives, but you can bet the Italian won't be saying his name.
  22. John Terry

    http://www.eurosport.co.uk/football/premier-league/2015-2016/inside-john-terry-s-contract-dilemma-huge-pay-cut-and-reduced-role-at-heart-of-impasse_sto5574068/story.shtml#uk-tw-po Dan Levene says it's 60k p/w and very little playing time vs 300k p/w in China.
  23. Ruben Loftus-Cheek

    What a missed opportunity this last month has been. Really should have used him and others more.
  24. Eden Hazard

    It says a lot about Pedro if Cuadrado benches him. Bad times ahead for the club if either is a starter next season.