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Unionjack

General Chelsea Stuff

Started by Unionjack,

262 posts in this topic

Loved that win...them thinking they scored...ermmm nope!! 

At Bridge for that one as well lol. Happy days!! And especially what followed after 

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14 minutes ago, Laylabelle said:

Loved that win...them thinking they scored...ermmm nope!! 

At Bridge for that one as well lol. Happy days!! And especially what followed after 

4th FA Cup win in 6 seasons and Drogba the only player to score in 4 finals. Happy Days

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2 minutes ago, Fulham Broadway said:

4th FA Cup win in 6 seasons and Drogba the only player to score in 4 finals. Happy Days

Miss his presence. Turned into such a player after his slightly iffy start and tumbles around on the floor.

Love a FA cup win!

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18 hours ago, Vesper said:

Chelsea's Nicolas AnelkaChelsea's Frank Lampard (L) talks to teammate Didier DrogbaChelsea's Salomon Kalou celebratesDidier Drogba celebrates his Chelsea first with Lampard and friendsChelsea owner Roman Abramovich leads the applauseJust champion: Carlo Ancelotti celebrates with the trophy

This is the only Chelsea jersey I have. Bought it in Vienna in the summer 2009.

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I don't know where best to put this so i do here. In the Bundesliga apart from Hertha all the results and performances pretty much followed the same form trend that was building before the break (Bayern, Dortmund and Gladbach on form, Frankfurt collapsing like a pack of cards, Leipzig drawing too much main examples) so maybe we could still pick up from the momentum built vs the Scouse duo after all.

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4 hours ago, Tomo said:

I don't know where best to put this so i do here. In the Bundesliga apart from Hertha all the results and performances pretty much followed the same form trend that was building before the break (Bayern, Dortmund and Gladbach on form, Frankfurt collapsing like a pack of cards, Leipzig drawing too much main examples) so maybe we could still pick up from the momentum built vs the Scouse duo after all.

Think that's true form will continue - though lack of atmosphere will obviously give Arsenal a 'Home' advantage :P and now I read theyre terrified of TV mics picking up swearing from players and the dugout. If that's all theyre worried about....

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I actually think it's dumb to restart the season after months off. The integrity of the season is lost. I was/am fully on the side of ending it and coming back in the fall.

Players are going to be rusty for weeks and the quality of football will be shit during that time for the most part.

Something people don't often talk about is how some teams being healthy while others aren't is an advantage. Take Spuds for example. They were going to be in serious trouble before this extended break. Harry Kane was set to miss the  rest of the season, Son was likely going to miss weeks and weeks, other important players were injured as well. Now when we resume they just get all those players back. That's fucking dumb in my opinion. If there was never any break they'd have been screwed. Now they'll have a great chance to challenge us for 4th.

Same with United. Pogba and Rashford, their two best players, were out with long term injuries. Now they get them back.

Teams above them having relatively healthier squads was an advantage that's no longer there.

I don't know a great solution in regards to CL places and relegation but this season is fucked imo.

 

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18 hours ago, Pizy said:

I actually think it's dumb to restart the season after months off. The integrity of the season is lost. I was/am fully on the side of ending it and coming back in the fall.

Players are going to be rusty for weeks and the quality of football will be shit during that time for the most part.

Something people don't often talk about is how some teams being healthy while others aren't is an advantage. Take Spuds for example. They were going to be in serious trouble before this extended break. Harry Kane was set to miss the  rest of the season, Son was likely going to miss weeks and weeks, other important players were injured as well. Now when we resume they just get all those players back. That's fucking dumb in my opinion. If there was never any break they'd have been screwed. Now they'll have a great chance to challenge us for 4th.

Same with United. Pogba and Rashford, their two best players, were out with long term injuries. Now they get them back.

Teams above them having relatively healthier squads was an advantage that's no longer there.

I don't know a great solution in regards to CL places and relegation but this season is fucked imo.

 

I see why are you thinking like this but the thing is you are looking at this from sporting POV.  Clubs want to finish the season because of money and it is essential for them.

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18 hours ago, MoroccanBlue said:

We are getting Ruben, Pulisic, and CHO back though 

And the rest of our youngsters will be fresh again. Abraham was literally on crouches before the pandemic.

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10 hours ago, Mana said:

And the rest of our youngsters will be fresh again. Abraham was literally on crouches before the pandemic.

True but on the other hand, some clubs could be at a disadvantage if players don't agree on a contract extension, even on a short term, and just leave on a free and/or if players refuse to risk their lives by returning to train/play (e.g. Kante). 

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When Adrian Mutu tested positive for cocaine and was sacked by Chelsea

https://theathletic.com/1813712/2020/05/18/chelsea-adrian-mutu-cocaine/

1-1-1-1024x683.png

“I’m not, like, a criminal or something.”

Adrian Mutu is defending himself during an interview in 2018, but the defiant message could have come at any point in the last 16 years. For the former Romania international is once again being asked about when he got sacked by Chelsea.

Mutu has some notable achievements from his playing career. He is a four-time winner of the Romanian Footballer of the Year award, is joint top-scorer for his country’s national team with the much-revered Gheorghe Hagi on 35 goals (having made 49 fewer caps) and played for Inter Milan, Juventus and Fiorentina.

But wherever he goes, there is one story above all others that people want to talk to him about: when he was dismissed by Chelsea after testing positive for cocaine and then banned from football for seven months.

To make matters worse, Chelsea successfully sued him for compensation and he has been fighting a legal battle in the courts ever since against the £13.5 million he was ordered to pay.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this.

In the summer of 2003, striker Mutu was one of 11 players Chelsea signed following Roman Abramovich’s takeover. At £15.8 million from Parma, he was the fourth-most expensive of them behind Damien Duff (£17 million), Hernan Crespo (£16.8 million) and Claude Makelele (£16 million). The fee was a measure of the high esteem in which the 24-year-old was held.

Crespo Duff Mutu

At home in Romania, football fans couldn’t contain their excitement and the media couldn’t get enough of the rising star who was doing their country proud on the European stage.

Costin Stucan, a reporter for sports newspaper Gazeta Sporturilor, explains: “For Romanians, it was a good time for football. Mutu signed for Chelsea and Cristian Chivu signed for Roma two weeks later. Romanian football at that time seemed to have a bright future. The people were expecting a new golden generation, the next one after the side which reached the quarter-finals at World Cup 1994.

“The Premier League was popular. Some Romanians had played in it in the 1990s such as Ilie Dumitrescu, Gheorghe Popescu, Dan Petrescu and Florin Raducioiu. But when Mutu signed for Chelsea, it was, ‘Wow — finally we have a big player signing for a rich club again’. Mutu was seen as the new Hagi.”


To find reasons for how it all went wrong for Mutu in English football, you have to go back to the start.

There was a buzz around him in Romania from a very early age, when he was playing at a rather modest club called Arges Pitesti.

When the opportunity came to sign him in 1998, Romania’s biggest sides Dinamo Bucharest, Steaua Bucharest and Rapid Bucharest were all fighting for his signature.

Dinamo were so desperate to win the race, they asked one of his agents, Giovani Becali (the other was Becali’s brother, Victor), to keep him hidden away. “I took Mutu to my house and kept him there for 10 days until he signed a contract with Dinamo,” Giovani recalls. “One of the Dinamo shareholders came to my house with $700,000. He showed the notes to me, they had dust on them and had a very strange smell. He paid the money and the boy signed his contract with Dinamo.”

As Romanian journalist Emanuel Rosu explains to The Athletic: “This kind of craziness has been following him around since he was a teenager. It is an important background for what follows.”

By the time Mutu was preparing to move to west London, he was used to making headlines on the front, as well as the back, of Romanian newspapers. An impressive 22 goals in 36 appearances for Parma caught Chelsea’s eye for all the right reasons, but back home there was also a lot of talk about his failing marriage to Alexandra Dinu, a famous actress and television presenter in their homeland.

Mutu arrived in England with talk of divorce already underway. It meant he set up home in a west London flat, which he rented from countryman and former Chelsea defender Petrescu, with only a close friend connected to the Becali brothers for company.

Chelsea agreed a salary of around £45,000 a week, plus a £330,000 signing-on fee and goal bonuses. This was a significant sum, especially for a 24-year-old who was now effectively single and living in a big new city.

One of the first things Mutu did was buy an Aston Martin Vanquish for around £200,000. Giovani Becali claims Mutu could have soon bought another using the amount he’d paid in parking fines because the car was left wherever he liked around London.

There was another sign of his extravagant nature when he wore diamond-stud earrings at his introductory Chelsea press conference. At first, his newfound wealth was backed up with what he could do on the pitch.

“His finishing was unbelievable,” former Chelsea reserve goalkeeper Neil Sullivan explains to The Athletic. “When you were doing small-sided games or finishing drills, he was exceptional. What he could do with both feet and his head, he stood out.

“You could tell he was a class act. He was a big name with a big reputation and you could see why from first impressions. You thought Chelsea had made a great signing. He always liked to stay on after the end of sessions to practise penalties, which I was happy to help him with. But we moved in different circles. I was a bit older than him so I didn’t get to know him that well.

“But he hit the ground running, scored a few goals early on and did really well. He had a good run in the team. I wasn’t aware he was having any personal issues at all.”

It seemed the only ones with issues back then were opposing defenders. Mutu scored the winner on his debut against Leicester City and added another the following week in a draw with Blackburn Rovers before a fine pair to help seal victory over Tottenham Hotspur gave him four goals in three Chelsea appearances. A loud shout of “Mutuuuu” became a popular chant from the crowd.

Mutu Tottenham

Mutu learnt English quickly, too, and won favour in the dressing room by flying six of his new team-mates to Italy with him when he went back there to pick up an award.

Goals in victories over Lazio and Everton that autumn maintained his positive progress on the football field, but his affection for London’s nightlife was already becoming a concern.

After Chelsea lost a Champions League group game at home to Besiktas in October, he managed to get fellow Romanian Daniel Pancu, who played for the Turkish visitors, into trouble.

“He went out drinking with Pancu after the game,” agent Becali told Romanian TV’s Digi Sport Matinal show last year. “After the game, the Besiktas coach, Mircea Lucescu, called me and said, ‘Giovani, I can’t find Pancu. He is not here at the airport, we have to leave without him’.

“We looked for Pancu in London, we didn’t think about calling Mutu at first. In the end, the option was obvious. We called Mutu. I told him directly, ‘Go, put Pancu on the plane! Make sure he’s on the plane. That he goes to Istanbul’.”

Drugs weren’t the issue at this stage, but something clearly wasn’t right. There were niggling injuries that didn’t help and a run of 13 games without finding the net either side of the New Year.

Despite suggestions he had formed close relationships with Marcel Desailly, John Terry, Mario Melchiot and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink at Stamford Bridge, sources suggest he became increasingly quiet and sullen around the place.

It didn’t help that Chelsea were still using their old Harlington training base. The changing “room” there was actually split into four rooms so all the players didn’t mix regularly. Sullivan says: “I was in a different room to Adrian in the changing room and barely saw him. That was just the way it was. I didn’t see him that much outside of training because that was how the dressing room was. We moved in different circles.

“There were a lot of players coming in that summer, a lot of people trying to settle in, make friends and make an impact, not just Adrian. Everyone was trying to find a peer group. It was a lot more British/Irish-based back then — we had Duff, Scott Parker, Joe Cole, Glen Johnson, Wayne Bridge, myself… Frank Lampard and Terry were already there, so a lot of people knew each other from the England set up. It was easier for us to settle in.”

Little did his new colleagues know but Mutu’s brashness at the outset was a bit of a front. Stucan was sent to London to cover the striker’s first few days as a Chelsea player and met up with him on a few occasions. The journalist remembers Mutu’s nervousness being obvious.

It was something the two reflected on during a live interview on Gazeta Sporturilor’s Facebook channel only last month. Clearly, with the benefit of hindsight, Mutu has been able to recognise what was going on. This wasn’t just about him trying to make it at Chelsea, but also having to live up to the expectations of everyone in Romania who saw him as the heir to Hagi’s throne — the successor to a man who had played for Real Madrid and Barcelona.

After all, he had been handed the iconic No 10 shirt of his idol when playing for the national team. “I was not prepared for that kind of pressure,” Mutu said. “People were judging me on that (emulating Hagi). When I joined Chelsea I was young, I was very confident. I’d just had a fantastic season in Parma. But England was another world. When I arrived in London I realised what a superclub, what a superteam, a superplayer means.

“Now I realise that when I signed for Chelsea, that is when my real mission started, my real work started as a professional. A player that reached that level needed to be highly trained in his mental skills. At Chelsea, the patience with the players just ended. Nobody was waiting for you. We had 25 super footballers in our squad, you didn’t have time to hesitate for a second. You didn’t have more than two games at your disposal to make errors.

“You couldn’t be angry or upset. Your rival, the player in the same position as you, is probably as good as you are. You had to be 100 per cent in the sessions. If I wasn’t, Crespo was 100 per cent, Hasselbaink was 100 per cent, Didier Drogba, who arrived a year later, was 100 per cent. You had to manage that pressure and, at my age, I wasn’t prepared. I didn’t know how to manage that pressure.

“At Dinamo, I trained just a bit with that pressure, but that was not the same thing. If you’re not training a player under that pressure, he does not know how to manage it when he faces it. After the pressure, the anxiety arrived for me. It was a state of anxiety. In those moments the enthusiasm becomes mental fatigue. You are empty mentally. Physically you are doing it, but mentally you can’t gather yourself, can’t motivate yourself. In these times the player is looking for ‘things’.”

By ‘things’, the now 41-year-old was referring to the vice that would bring his time to England to a premature end. Drugs.


Mutu got on pretty well with his first Chelsea manager, Claudio Ranieri. The fact they could converse in Italian meant communication was easy. But no matter how hard Ranieri tried, he couldn’t make the player understand the importance of getting his personal life under control.

The Romania international confessed in November 2004 that he had first turned to cocaine in February of that year. He had a low tolerance to alcohol, was finding getting drunk too easy, so wanted something else to “feel good”.

Mutu Chelsea

Before Ranieri left — he was sacked at the end of that 2003-04 season — he compiled a dossier on the squad for his successor to read. When it got to Mutu’s name, the review carried a warning that while he could decide a match on his own, his private life needed a lot of attention.

The man who read all this, and inherited the problem, was Jose Mourinho. The Portuguese had a good relationship with the Becali brothers, having first met them while on a scouting trip for then-employers Barcelona when Bucharest hosted the 1998 European Under-21 Championship.

He did not waste any time in arranging a get-together. Becali told Romanian newspaper Libertatea in 2009: “Mourinho knew about Mutu’s problems with the drugs. He called me and asked me to go urgently to London for a meeting. Mutu was also there. We spoke for three hours. He told me that he knew about Mutu’s trouble and he asked him to stop. Mutu didn’t say a word, his eyes were fixed on the floor for the whole discussion. But he just couldn’t stop doing it.”

Mourinho admitted there had been such a discussion five years earlier, shortly after news of the scandal first broke. He said: “When I met Adrian on his first day in pre-season, it was with his two agents. I told all three I had information that the player was on cocaine. All three were laughing and saying it was a big lie. They said it was completely untrue.”

Things got messy pretty quickly. Chelsea arranged their own private test in July — a practice that would incur a £40,000 fine from the Football Association in 2006 as it was against protocol. While it came back negative, the club still passed on the details to the anti-doping authorities to carry out their procedure, which they did a few months later.

Before the results of the second sample were known, Mutu had already been relegated to a minor role under Mourinho. The press was told his lack of game time was because of a knee problem, but something didn’t ring true. As it turned out, he was starting to miss training sessions without permission.

He played just 49 minutes, coming off the bench against Crystal Palace and Aston Villa, in the first few months of that 2004-05 season. When Mourinho tried to stop him from playing for Romania in October due to lack of fitness, Mutu ignored him and played the full 90 minutes of a World Cup qualifier against the Czech Republic.

mutu-romania.jpg

    Playing for Romania in October 2004  — against Mourinho’s wishes (Photo: Michael Ruzicka/AFP via Getty Images)

The situation went public with Mutu insisting he was in “open conflict” with Mourinho and didn’t care if he was fined — which he was — on his return. FIFA president Sepp Blatter also got involved, speaking out in support of the player. However, it was shortly after this that Chelsea announced Mutu had tested positive for a prohibited substance.

“It was absolute madness in Romania when that happened,” Romanian journalist Emanuel Rosu admits. “When he failed the drugs test, it was three weeks of coverage here. The subject was explosive. All the news programmes started with him. Every station, small or big, went to London to cover the case.”

Chelsea didn’t deliberate for long. Before the month was out, they released a statement saying Mutu had been dismissed. “We want to make clear that Chelsea has a zero-tolerance policy towards drugs,” it read. “In coming to a decision on this case, Chelsea believed the club’s social responsibility to its fans, players, employees and other stakeholders in football regarding drugs was more important than the major financial considerations to the company.”

Mutu complained the decision was made before an official FA hearing took place. He was also unhappy about his lack of support compared to that shown by Arsenal when Tony Adams and Paul Merson had problems in their personal lives in the 1990s. The Professional Footballers’ Association felt the same but Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon responded to the criticism emphatically: “Mutu was offered the chance by Jose Mourinho and others to admit he had a problem. He did not take that chance and lied about it.”

By the time he faced the FA at the start of November, Mutu was prepared to reveal all. His honesty, expression of regret and willingness to attend the rehab centre Sporting Chance was a major factor in him being handed a seven-month ban, which was considered lenient at the time.

There were conspiracy theories back in Romania, as well as in Mutu’s own mind, that the saga was all some form of revenge on Mourinho’s part for refusing instruction not to play for his country in October.

It is not something he gives credence to anymore, as he told Gazeta Sporturilor: “I don’t think Mourinho wanted to get me. Right then, and for a long time afterwards, I suspected him and I believed certain voices from various entourages that he had done this to me on purpose. Now I think you have to be crazy as a coach to do this sort of thing. I remember Mourinho came to me at the beginning of the relationship and he told me he wanted to build the Chelsea team around me.

“He would be crazy to kick me out so soon after he told me something like that. It was a lesson for me. I have no problem with Mourinho. I’ve met and spoken to him since. It was all my fault and that’s it.”

That would be an extraordinary enough story to tell, but it didn’t end there.

Mutu, whose subsequent appeal against his dismissal was rejected by the Premier League and then the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS), joined Italian club Livorno in January 2005 while still serving his suspension. He was then sold on to Juventus less than a fortnight later without playing a game for Livorno.

Mutu

Having made what they saw as a strong stand morally and ethically, Chelsea didn’t think they should lose out financially. In May 2006, just before Juventus sold Mutu to Fiorentina for around £5.5 million, they went to FIFA to claim for compensation from the player.

It was the first of many hearings held in various places, unabridged details of which would leave even The Athletic’s most patient reader with a pounding headache.

Here’s a general summary instead.

Chelsea initially asked to be granted £22,661,641. They argued it was to cover Mutu’s replacement, who they decreed to be Shaun Wright-Phillips (signed from Manchester City for £21 million in July 2005), plus the damage to their reputation and legal costs. In May 2008, FIFA ruled in Chelsea’s favour, though the total sum Mutu was instructed to pay was lower — £13.5 million. Twelve years later, however, there is no indication a single penny has ever been paid. Neither Chelsea or Mutu would provide an update when contacted by The Athletic.

Mutu has had appeals to CAS, the Federal Supreme Court of Switzerland and, most recently, the European Court of Human Rights (in 2018) all thrown out. There was a point in 2013 when FIFA decreed Livorno and Juventus could be deemed liable for the £13.5 million, but CAS overruled them 18 months later.

One source suggested Chelsea are still actively pursuing Mutu, but given the amount of time that has passed and the size of the sums involved, it is hard to envisage any money changing hands.

Mutu

You would think all the drama would make Mutu learn his lesson.

An impressive 69 goals in 143 appearances for Fiorentina did show what Chelsea were missing out on. However, in 2010 he tested positive for another banned substance, the appetite suppressant sibutramine, and was given a nine-month suspension (later reduced on appeal to six months).

Unlike Chelsea, Fiorentina stood by him — but they weren’t rewarded. His final season with them, 2010-11, was a big disappointment — Mutu scored just four times and caused more controversy by going AWOL for a period.

Fiorentina’s patience ran out and he became a journeyman with stops at Cesena, Ajaccio in France, Petrolul Ploiesti back in Romania, India’s Pune City and back to his homeland for a spell with Targu Mures before retiring for good in 2016.


So, what of Mutu now? One might assume his life is continuing on a downward spiral. Far from it.

This January he was named head coach of the Romania Under-21 team. Yes, you did read that correctly. He is being entrusted with the country’s next crop of talented youngsters.

Before you think those in charge of football in Romania have lost their minds, the fact is that Mutu’s tale looks like becoming a positive one. From the darkest depths, he has turned things around. As he said himself recently: “I’m less than 10 per cent of the man I used to be.”

Now happily married to his third wife and with five kids to look after, the party boy has become a role model and a taskmaster. For example, when he sees one of his players starting to indulge himself with an attention-seeking haircut or tattoo, he is quickly on their case.

“I put my life on track, I decided to become another person,” he told Poland’s English Breakfast Extra YouTube channel. “Now I am a father and a coach, I have to be an example for everybody else. I hope the players learn from my mistakes so that they don’t do it.

“I had bad experiences in my life, I paid for it, but I came back from it. I tell my players they have to be football players for 24 hours, when they eat, when they go to sleep, when they go out. They have to always think, ‘Is it good for me?’ and whether it’s going to affect their performance.

“Football has changed a lot, it’s a lot more physical, the rhythm is higher. Footballers have to be prepared 24 hours a day. It’s not enough to just do two hours in the training camp.”

Mutu is certainly ambitious, setting his sights on becoming a coach on a par with former Chelsea managers Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri. In January 2018, he spent a week with the latter at Napoli to learn a thing or two.

By accepting this new post, following brief stints at Romanian club Voluntari and Al Wahda Under-21s in the United Arab Emirates, he will be back in the limelight in his homeland. Romania got to the semi-finals of the most recent Under-21 Euros in June last year, a run which included a 4-2 thumping of England, and when football resumes after the COVID-19 pandemic, Mutu will be under pressure to maintain the momentum.

How is he perceived in Romania now? “Some think he’s a great player who made a mistake, others say he was a good player but a junkie,” local sports journalist Costin Stucan concludes. “He didn’t redeem himself fully after what happened at Chelsea.

“He wasted a golden opportunity: to play for Chelsea and become a real star in the Premier League and one of the biggest in the game.”

No matter what he goes on to achieve as a coach, it is unlikely Mutu will ever be allowed to forget.

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My club – Neil Robertson: ‘John Terry took a frame off me playing pool’

https://theathletic.com/1818019/2020/05/17/my-club-neil-robertson-chelsea-john-terry/

NEIL-ROBERTSON-scaled-e1589642729700-1024x682.jpg

Former world snooker champion Neil Robertson has been a passionate Chelsea fan for nearly 20 years.

Here, “The Thunder from Down Under” tells The Athletic some about his best and worst memories of following the club, and his friendship with John Terry…

Why do you support Chelsea?

I never really used to like football — I wouldn’t say I hated it, but I didn’t appreciate the skill. Australian sports are all high-scoring and so when I’d be watching a 0-0 and nothing would happen for half an hour, I’d get really bored. But with Match of the Day you get to see highlights and goals, and that got me into it.

I remember Match of the Day showing Chelsea’s FA Cup match against Norwich in 2002, and Gianfranco Zola scored his flick at the near post. I was like, ‘Wow, that’s amazing’. I liked watching Chelsea with Eidur Gudjohnsen and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink up front. They had a lot of international players, which I enjoyed, being an overseas player living in England myself. I liked the look of their blue kit too — it was really cool.

They were a very likeable team who had a good mixture of overseas players and played good football, even if they weren’t quite the winning machine they became under Roman Abramovich.

Earliest memory as a fan?

The first time I watched a game at Stamford Bridge was when I was invited to the Champions League group game against Spartak Moscow by Chelsea in 2010. I was world champion at the time. I had done a big piece for their website during the World Championships in 2010 and the picture was me holding the Premier League trophy, because they looked like they were going to win it. In the end I won the World Championship and Grand Prix while they won the Premier League and FA Cup that season, so it was like doing the double double!

Chelsea won the game 4-1 but the Spartak fans at Stamford Bridge were unbelievable, jumping up and down with their tops off in November.

Best celebrations?

I remember the second leg of Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final against Barcelona in 2012. I’d watched the first leg at Stamford Bridge, but for the game at the Nou Camp I was at the Crucible playing the World Championships. I lost in the quarters to Ronnie O’Sullivan, and after I got beat my attention was solely on Chelsea.

I was watching it in the players’ lounge. When they went ahead and then Ramires scored the chip and we were hanging on (to go through on away goals), I couldn’t take it any more. I left the room, went to the toilet and put my hands over my head. I didn’t want to come out until it was over. I heard a journalist on the phone shouting, ‘They’ve scored!’ and assumed he meant Barcelona. My heart sank and I came out of the toilet, but then he said, ‘No, Chelsea have scored!’ As soon as I heard that I was jumping around the players’ lounge.

Favourite goal? 

I’d have to go with that Ramires chip in the Nou Camp. There are so many potential goals to choose from — not least that Zola flick against Norwich — but we were dead and buried in the tie at that point, and if he doesn’t score that amazing goal just before half-time I don’t think there’s any way we go through.

Best/worst kit?

I really liked the black away kit with the fluorescent yellow badge from the 2016-17 season. I don’t really have a worst Chelsea kit — probably just one of the old baggy ones!

Best pic of you as a fan?

New signing!

Image-from-iOS-23-e1589654105900.jpg

    (From left to right): Samuel Eto’o, John Obi Mikel, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires, Andre Schurrle, Neil Robertson, John Terry, Gary Cahill and Cesar Azpilicueta

Have you ever met your club heroes?

I went to Cobham to watch the team train in 2013, Jose Mourinho’s first season back. I had a look at the canteen and they showed me around the facilities. It was awesome. I met the whole team in the canteen and spoke to Petr Cech for a long time because he loves watching snooker. Then Mourinho came in — the most intimidating presence I’ve ever felt. I’ve been around some very well-known people, but Mourinho was just… wow. Straight away, he asked me: ‘How many hours do you practice?’

Watching them train was really cool. No one could get the ball off Juan Mata during the little games they were playing. Frank Lampard and Kevin De Bruyne were practising their long-range shooting together. They were very similar, and Kevin seemed like the perfect replacement for Frank. It was unbelievable how hard he was hitting the ball with his left and right foot. Six months later, they sold him! I couldn’t believe it. Samuel Eto’o was there too. At the end of session he had the ball near the corner and was like, ‘I bet I’ll be able to score this’. He was bending it in when John Terry dashed over, dived and headed it off the line.

Every year Chelsea have a club pool tournament, and John had won it six out of seven years. I had no idea how good or bad he was going to be, but I broke and he cleared up. I couldn’t believe it. Then he broke and I cleared up. After that we stopped because it was perfect — no one had missed a ball.

John Terry Neil Robertson Chelsea

He watches a lot of snooker and I absolutely love football, so we talk regularly. After I met him in 2013 he said, ‘Whenever you want to come down, just let me know’. He’d always give me three, four, five of his family tickets, so me and a few friends would go and watch the games. He would apologise if some of his family members would take the tickets! But he’d still give me tickets for The Shed End and that was awesome, with all the hardcore fans singing.

My record watching Chelsea at Stamford Bridge is 24 wins and one draw. John asked me to come down for the Chelsea vs Tottenham game — The Battle of the Bridge (in May 2016). He said, ‘Look, mate. We really need your record. I think you should come down’. I was somewhere else and couldn’t make it, but we got the result we needed anyway (a 2-2 draw, from 2-0 down at half-time, that ended Spurs’ title hopes and confirmed Leicester City as champions). The job was done.

Most memorable away trip?

I went to Old Trafford to see Chelsea against Manchester United in the 2006-07 season. We drew 1-1 thanks to a Ricardo Carvalho equaliser but I got to see both teams more or less at their peak and it was an amazing stadium.

Prawn sandwich or pie in the stand? 

I live on a plant-based diet, so I guess a veggie pie!

Least favourite player?

Alvaro Morata, 100 per cent. He doesn’t have the qualities to fight when the going gets tough and he gave up too easily against physical defenders. After spending the best part of 15 years watching Didier Drogba and then Diego Costa, it was awful to see. I wanted the move to go ahead at the time and I was really excited when Chelsea signed him, but reading Gianluigi Buffon’s comments (about all the “negative thoughts” Morata had while at Juventus) had me worried.

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Chelsea mailbag: Willian and Kepa’s futures, Pjanic and the Kante issue

https://theathletic.com/1832270/2020/05/25/chelsea-mailbag-kante-ngolo-coronavirus-frank-lampard-azpilicueta-willian-abraham-pjanic-hakimi/

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You asked for a Chelsea mailbag, so here it is. The season is likely to be back in just a few weeks and there is lots of talk about at Stamford Bridge.

Here, I’ve answered a selection of the best of your questions. If I’ve not got to yours, don’t worry — there will be a Q&A soon and we’ll do another mailbag in the not too distant future.


Could you tell us about the situation between Kepa and Lampard? Is everything OK now? Does he match Chelsea’s level? — Vlad P

Hi Vlad. Lampard was impressed by Kepa’s response to losing his place and the way he performed when he got back into the team, doing plenty to earn the clean sheet he got in that 2-0 win against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge immediately prior to the pandemic shutdown.

He still has a long way to go to even come close to justifying the massive fee Chelsea paid for him but selling him wasn’t really a viable option before COVID-19 froze football (how many elite clubs are even looking for a starting goalkeeper, let alone prepared to pay huge money for one?).

Now, with so many approaching the next transfer window with caution, it’s even less likely that Chelsea would be able to get value for him. The pragmatic choice in the short term is to keep working with him and hope he can make significant improvement. At 25, that’s still very possible.

Do you think the extensions for Caballero and Giroud are merely precautionary to cover the club during this uncertain time, or do you believe they’ll be in the squad for next season? — Jack W

Hi Jack. It’s too soon to say for certain. What the one-year extensions do is give everyone involved a bit of security. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Giroud still leaving if Chelsea decide to invest heavily in new attacking options in the next transfer window but he’s a capable safety net if they don’t. I’d lean more towards Caballero staying as I don’t think signing another back-up goalkeeper will be a priority for the club in any case.

Should football return in the next month, will we be looking at a fully-fit Chelsea squad for Frank to pick from? — Ted B

Hi Ted. Unless there are fresh injuries in the next few weeks, I think so. Christian Pulisic had just returned to full fitness when football was suspended and both Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are training with the rest of the squad now. N’Golo Kante is in good physical condition too, though his availability will be determined by how he feels about playing during this pandemic. Lampard should have more players to pick from than at any stage this season.

I saw in your recent article about Chelsea’s best outgoings since 2000 that a handy chunk of money is coming in from the Morata sale. Coupling that with the recent transfer window restrictions at Chelsea which have finally been lifted, do we reckon there’ll be some considerable incomings this summer at Stamford Bridge? — Qahir B

Hi Qahir. Chelsea’s intention before COVID-19 hit was to significantly strengthen the squad in the next window. Now, the picture is less clear. Most clubs are waiting to find out if they can even get their seasons finished first and no one really knows yet what the transfer market will look like. It’s possible that clubs with desirable players might be under financial pressure to sell, which would create opportunities for Chelsea and their rivals.

Clubs are also waiting to find out whether or not UEFA will relax or even suspend Financial Fair Play (FFP) for a period in response to all of this. That will have a big impact on what Chelsea do.

I’m sorry I can’t be more definitive but there are too many unknowns right now. What is clear is that, because of Roman Abramovich’s backing, Chelsea are in a stronger position than most clubs to get through this unprecedented crisis — and even capitalise on any opportunities created by it.

Marina has done decently when it comes to player sales. However, our player acquisition record over the years has been terrible. Apart from Kante, none of the transfers have worked out. Keeping this in mind, do you think Chelsea would be wise to get someone like Luis Campos to the bridge? — Raghav B

Hi Raghav. I don’t agree that Chelsea’s recruitment in recent years has been terrible (aside from the disastrous summer of 2017 when Alvaro Morata, Tiemoue Bakayoko, Danny Drinkwater and Davide Zappacosta came in). Lille sporting director Luis Campos has been linked to Chelsea in the past but from what I’m told the club, aren’t looking to appoint an external sporting/technical director. They’re happy with the recruitment structure as it is and want to give Petr Cech room to assume greater responsibility as he grows in experience.

Is there any chance of a Willian contract renewal? And how much have Tammy Abraham’s talks progressed as it’s been on the works for more than a while now — Hari Shankar L

Hi Hari. As I wrote on Friday, talks with Willian over a new contract broke down several months ago and there has been no significant dialogue since. He wants a three-year deal, Chelsea don’t want to give him one, and it doesn’t look like either side is prepared to budge enough for a compromise to happen.

I haven’t heard about any significant progress on Abraham’s new deal. He was waiting to see if Euro 2020 might give him greater leverage, though clearly that won’t happen this summer now. I’m sure it will be revisited sooner rather than later and I’d still be surprised if it doesn’t get done eventually but what Chelsea do in terms of attacking signings in the next transfer window will tell us a lot.

Obviously most transfer rumours are to be taken with a grain of salt but what do you make of us continuing to be linked with midfielders (Pjanic etc). We seem to have too many players for those positions as it is – Kante, Kovacic, Jorginho, Barkley, Loftus-Cheek, Mount, Gilmour, Gallagher/Anjorin? How do you see our midfield shaping up next season – do you think Gilmour & Gallagher will be in the mix? Surely, if we sign a midfielder, it needs to be a dedicated CDM? — Vinayak N

Hi Vinayak. My impression is that the Pjanic noises are coming more from the Juventus side — they are very keen to offload his wages and recoup some money for him. I don’t think Chelsea need to buy any midfielders in the next transfer window, even if (as I suspect) Gallagher and Anjorin spend next season on loan. Gilmour will be in the mix — partly because Lampard loves him but mainly because he’s ready to be.

I am a big fan of Mason Mount and I know Frank is too. Do you see Mount being Chelsea’s main man for a decade? Or do you believe is he only going to play for Chelsea for as long as Frank is? — Shea D

Hi Shea. I think Mount will continue to be a significant part of Chelsea’s plans in the coming years, regardless of whether or not Lampard is in charge. Every minute he’s played this season he’s earned — even on his less eye-catching days, his work ethic and willingness to do the little things to help the team are really impressive. That, combined with his tactical intelligence and versatility, mean he would be valued by pretty much any manager in the world.

Hi Liam, how much do you think Kante not going to training affect his performance and likelihood to start matches? — Caspar B

Hi Caspar. Kante won’t be considered for selection unless he’s training — he simply won’t be physically ready to play. His fears are perfectly understandable and anything other than supporting his stance would be a PR disaster for the club but COVID-19 is likely to be a danger for the foreseeable future. In the long term, having the highest-paid player in the squad sitting out while healthy isn’t a tenable situation.

With Chelsea’s youth being given a chance, is the club going to shift their focus to signing more experienced/established players or will they continue to target youth? — Alexander K

Hi Alexander. We saw with Hakim Ziyech that Lampard is looking for players capable of making an immediate impact (he’ll be 27 by the time he plays his first Premier League game) but I think that will continue to be balanced with Chelsea’s broader policy of not committing to players who have minimal resale value. The target age bracket is likely to be 23 to 28, which fits with what the club has been doing in the transfer market for much of the last decade.

Hi Liam, how serious is Chelsea’s interest in signing Achraf Hakimi? He is the second-best right-back, if not the best but is he as good on the left side as he is on the right? Will he accept playing at left-back? – Nihal S

Hi Nihal. Chelsea looked closely at Hakimi in the past but they aren’t pursuing him anymore. Reece James has seen to that!

Have you heard or believe Chelsea might add some experience in the backroom staff… perhaps someone like Steve Holland? He’s not going to be busy till the Euros considering the situation. If not then don’t you think Frank is lacking that experience in his staff? He might be badly exposed next season just like Andre Villas-Boas (in his first few months) – Shabeeh A

Hi Shabeeh. Everything I’ve heard suggests Lampard is happy with his current backroom staff and there isn’t really room for another assistant. Holland is still very highly regarded at Chelsea but he’s got a great job with Gareth Southgate right now. As for the experience factor, I think that only becomes an issue if (as with AVB) if the players don’t respect or believe in the manager. Neither are the case with Lampard and this dressing room.

Who is your favorite Chelsea player to interview? — Matthew N

Hi Matthew. That’s tough because I’ve enjoyed most of them! In the current squad, I’d probably go for Cesar Azpilicueta, who is just an all-round lovely man. One I’ve never done that I’d love to do is Diego Costa, if he ever agreed to speak English. He’s a glorious maniac.

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Could you imagine losing out on Top 4 because the likes of Kante, Tomori, Dave, or simply put a select few players refused to participate?

Again, how is this fairer than PPG? Least in PPG it gave us the most realistic finish to the season with club's past performances. 

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