Saturday 18 January 2020

Blues stars eager for return of Special One

Chelsea 1 Stoke City 0

Jason Burt

Hours after this fractious but vital victory, and after caretaker manager Roberto di Matteo had delivered the message that it was all about the team and not the individual -- in an echo of his predecessor Andre Villas-Boas -- the Chelsea players had their say.



Didier Drogba declared it would be "nice" to have Jose Mourinho back at the club, while John Terry hailed the Special One as a "fantastic manager, a very good man-manager as well".

It's groundhog day at Chelsea -- and will be until some of those promised radical changes are made this summer.

"People have got this thing about the senior players at Chelsea having a massive influence," Terry added. "I can assure you that's not the case, and it hasn't been the case since I have been at the football club. All the players care about Chelsea and the owner certainly does."

But where else but Chelsea would players -- rather than the manager or chairman -- even discuss the owner's thoughts? No Manchester City player talks about Sheikh Mansour, no one at Manchester United declares about the Glazer family. Steven Gerrard doesn't comment on John W Henry and neither does Robin van Persie on Stan Kroenke. Only at Chelsea.

Only at Chelsea would Drogba also add that it would be "fun" to have Mourinho back next season at a time when the club is scrapping for its life to finish in the top four of the Premier League and facing the daunting task of over-turning a 3-1 Champions League deficit at home to Napoli on Wednesday.

galvanising

True, both players spoke highly of Di Matteo and the apparent galvanising effect he has had on the squad since Villas-Boas's rough dismissal, but it jarred -- as did Terry's claim that the eight months at Chelsea would prove to a "good learning experience" for the 34-year-old Portuguese.

Terry returned on Saturday, making an extraordinarily quick return from knee surgery and took the field with Frank Lampard and Drogba -- 34 yesterday -- who scored the contest's only goal, a fine finish to register his 100th Premier League strike in Chelsea colours -- the first African player to hit the century mark.

The Ivorian's tremendous career is drawing to a close. With Drogba's contract running out this summer and his demands for a two-year extension unlikely to be granted, he will probably head overseas with lucrative offers on the table, from China in particular.

No-one would blame him -- not least because he devotes such large amounts of his income to charity and his foundation, for which he held another ball on Saturday -- and it probably is time to move on.

Both Drogba and Terry also spoke about the need to focus on the Napoli encounter while Di Matteo said that the squad would take inspiration from Arsenal's 3-0 win against AC Milan last week, having trailed 4-0 from the first leg. (Daily Telegraph, London)

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