Cech should be treated with respect by Chelsea and sold if he wishes to leave
The point was made to Petr Cech after his first game back from injury in Austria this summer and his reply was emphatic.
“You’ve been the best goalkeeper in the Premier League for the past 10 years, you are too good to sit on the substitutes’ bench,” said a journalist.
There was no fake modesty or flat-batting the issue from Cech, as he responded by simply saying: “I don’t want to be on the bench.”
That is exactly where Cech found himself for Chelsea’s opening Premier League game of the season against Burnley after manager Jose Mourinho made Thibaut Courtois his new number one.
Understandably, given he is one of the brightest goalkeeping talents in the world, there will be much said and written about Courtois over the next days and weeks.
But it would be completely wrong to overlook the achievements of Cech and what he can still offer, to Chelsea or another one of Europe’s leading clubs.
While Chelsea’s travelling fans sung the name of Manchester City’s Frank Lampard, they forgot to acknowledge the club legend sitting next to Didier Drogba on the bench at Turf Moor.
Along with Lampard and Drogba, Cech is to Chelsea what Steven Gerrard is to Liverpool, what Ryan Giggs is to Manchester United and what Thierry Henry is to Arsenal. His name should echo around the ground whenever he is inside the stadium – whether he’s on the pitch or not.
To remain on the substitutes’ bench would be an enormous waste. Aged 32, Cech could play at the top level for another 10 years. He would currently be number one at any other club in the Premier League and, apart from Bayern Munich, Europe.
Paris Saint-Germain, Monaco and Real Madrid have already expressed an interest in Cech and other clubs will come forwards.
Mourinho played his cards close to his chest last week, refusing to name his goalkeeper for the Burnley game until the last minute.
Cech deserved an early steer and if he knocks on Mourinho’s door this week and asks to leave Stamford Bridge, then Chelsea should grant his wish with the most heartfelt of thanks.
The former Rennes man has earned the right to decide his own fate, having been Chelsea’s goalkeeper for every piece of silverware won during the Roman Abramovich era.
It is no surprise that Cech is said to be one of the favourite players of Chelsea owner Abramovich.
Other than helping Abramovich’s Blues to win three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League, Cech has been crowned Premier League goalkeeper of the year on three occasions – including last term.
He has kept a club record 220 clean sheets. The previous record of 208 was set by Peter Bonetti in 1979 and, incredibly, Cech needed 272 fewer games than Bonetti to reach that landmark.
When Cech dislocated his shoulder against Atletico Madrid last season, Chelsea were still in with a chance of winning the Champions League and the Premier League.
Mark Schwarzer was a capable deputy, but there is no doubt that Cech would not have made the kind of error the Australian did in the vital home defeat to Sunderland. From that moment, Chelsea were out of the title race.
That will be playing on Mourinho’s mind as he considers what to do about Cech and protecting his Chelsea team if Courtois suffers an injury or loss of form.
Also influencing Mourinho’s decision could be his deteriorating relationship with Cech’s trusted ally and goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon.
Lollichon had recommended that both Cech and Courtois should be offered new contracts, with Courtois returning on loan to Atletico Madrid and Cech remaining as number one for the current season.
Mourinho ignored his advice and it is telling the Portuguese brought his own goalkeeper coach, Silvino Louro, back to Chelsea last year. It seems certain that Lollichon would follow Cech out of the Stamford Bridge exit door if he is sold or loaned out.
Chelsea still need to offload a player to comply to foreign quota regulations. Whether or not that is Cech should not be influenced by internal politics or rules, but simply by respect. Nobody is more deserving of the correct treatment.