Following the agreement of a new four year deal for Wayne Bridge last week, it would appear Chelsea are keen to settle the futures of several other key players.
Whilst there’s a slow trickle of last season’s bench warmers heading out of Stamford Bridge, there also appears to be a steady stream heading towards the queue marked ‘new contracts’.
Steve Sidwell, after a year’s sabbatical at Chelsea thanked us very much before settling himself into Aston Villa recently, where he hopes to at least catch sight of the ball. Khalid Boulahrouz, having picked up yellow and red cards more than the ball during his time at Stamford Bridge is now going to inflict his challenges on the German’s with a move to Stuttgart. Then there’s Tal Ben Haim, just 13 appearances last season and he still managed to get himself fined two weeks wages for making his feelings about the boss public. At the time, the defender stated he wanted out of Stamford Bridge and it looks like he could be about to get what he wants with a possible move to Manchester City on the cards. Juliano Belletti looks increasingly likely to part company with Chelsea, following both an up and down year and the signing of Jose Bosingwa, and his agent suggests Benfica could be his destination. The absence of Claudio Pizarro on tour is looking pretty ominous for his future at the club and he’s rumoured to be all set to join the recently departed Claude Makelele at PSG, whilst Florent Malouda, who has gone on tour with the rest of lads, is rumoured to be wanted on a loan deal by Roma.
So, with the odd bit of financial trimming going on, it would seem Chelsea have decided to make some longer term investments with the players they have left. Having somehow persuaded Wayne Bridge it’s not all that bad playing second fiddle to Ashley Cole and getting him to sign up for four years, Chelsea have set about sorting out improved deals for some of our other key players.
The new five-year deal announced for Petr Cech, sees the 26 year old keeper at the club until 2013. Despite the odd bad day on his goal-line (or off it as the case may be) last season, let’s not forget he’s still one of the world’s top keepers. Since arriving at Stamford Bridge in 2004, Cech has kept 90 clean sheets in 166 appearances. In fact, in his first season, he was awarded the Barclays Premiership Golden Gloves for a new top flight record of both not conceding a goal in 1,024 minutes and the most clean sheets (21) in a single season. Add to that his attitude and sheer determination to play, and you’d have to say we’ve got ourselves a right good deal there.
Another player given better terms this week is Michael Essien. Already on a contract with us until 2012, recent reports suggest Chelsea have taken the decision not only to give the influential midfielder a pay rise, but also to add an extra year to his current deal, keeping him at the club until 2013. Considering we’d already had Inter’s new manager and Chelsea’s former boss, Jose Mourinho, sniffing round the Ghanaian earlier this summer, this has to be regarded as another smart move on Chelsea’s part. And with new terms for Ricardo Carvalho also rumoured to be on the agenda, the club definitely seem to be making a real effort to settle things inside the club after all last year’s uncertainties.
But is there more to it than that?
I have my suspicions that there’s two reasons why there might be a hidden agenda behind the club’s apparent generosity, and those reasons are Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard. Call me a cynic, but with both of them playing silly buggers this summer, not to mention Kenyon’s altogether far too smug interviews regarding the negotiations, it’s hard not to look at the motives. Did Essien, for example, who already had a contract until 2012 really need it re-negotiated now? Or was it a timely gesture on Chelsea’s part?
You see, with Chelsea appearing supremely confident that both Drogba and Lampard will be staying at the club, despite Lampard still refusing to sign what to any other 30 year old is an incredibly generous deal, and Drogba not only continuing to surround his Chelsea future in uncertainty but also having picked up some mysterious injury, by sheer coincidence ruling him out of the pre-season tour, you have to wonder exactly where that confidence comes from.
So, could it be that the ‘confidence’ is more a ‘hands off’ warning to potential bidders? Or even a ‘you’ll have to do better than that’? And that all these new deals, in the face of losing two really influential players, is the club’s attempt to prevent the same thing happening with other key players in the near future?
On the other hand though, if I’m going to be really cynical I could even ask the question – are Chelsea sorting out all these improved deals because what they’re actually planning is to get all the key players to sign on the dotted line before they drop the bombshell – in spite of everything they’ve said, they’re going to back down and give Frank ‘I’m more important than anyone else’ Lampard exactly what he’s asked for?