Terry pulls a fast one much to Abramovich’s amusement
Chelsea 1 Leicester City 1
Roman Abramovich laughed and clapped. But probably not in sympathy.
When John Terry stood on the pitch, telling an adoring crowd how much he wanted to stay at Chelsea, the club’s billionaire owner could see himself being outflanked by an employee who looked sure to leave until an apparently token offer came his way.
In a political battle away from Stamford Bridge, you would back Abramovich to make mincemeat of ‘JT’. Abramovich is pally with Vladimir Putin. The Chelsea captain has no clout with world leaders. But hand him the stage when he has an agenda to pursue and there is only going to be one winner in the eyes of the audience.
With astonishing chutzpah, Terry turned an end-of-season lap of honour into a people’s ultimatum to the board. In fairness, the supporters encouraged him, but it still required some nerve to turn this day into the John Terry show.
The key passage is this: after the crowd had sung “We want you to stay”, Terry responded: “We all want the same thing. I want to finish my career here. We have a few days when we’ll be speaking to the club. The club know that.”
An extrapolation is that Terry was telling the owner to improve his offer or risk ridicule. No wonder Abramovich could not conceal his mirth. Terry, of course, was doing what household names tend to do: looking after No1, while also claiming the high ground as Chelsea’s spiritual leader.
With their super-late offer of a one-year contract extension, Chelsea might have thought they had defused a fan revolt and transferred the pressure back to Terry, who would be forced to choose between a severely reduced role (and salary) and walking away from a team he has served for 20 years. That way, Chelsea could have said, “Well, we tried, but he chose another path”.
The lateness of that approach was the first clear sign that it was made with little real enthusiasm.
Had Chelsea wanted to keep Terry, surely they would have moved before now. Instead, they waited until two days before this final fixture to announce that a new deal was being proposed.
Terry said that offer involved “a different role”. He would need a few days to consider it. Translated, this means it was for a lot less money, with reduced playing time.
The original idea was that Terry would be cleared out in time for Antonio Conte’s arrival as manager. The Italian would be spared the burden of being the one to end a famous career and Chelsea would cut away Terry’s political power, especially with the fans. If that was the plan, it fell apart with Chelsea’s unexpected U-turn, which they may have conceived as an offer Terry definitely could refuse and, therefore, a roundabout way of achieving the desired end.
Ranieri overwhelmed by Bridge reception
Claudio Ranieri's "emotion was at the maximum" after the guard of honour he was given by the Chelsea players at Stamford Bridge yesterday.
The manager of title-winning Leicester City was given a warm welcome back to his former club, where he was manager from 2000 to 2004, before the match when he and his players were applauded on to the pitch.
"My emotion was at the maximum," said Ranieri, whose side ended up winning the title by 10 points after Danny Drinkwater cancelled out Cesc Fabregas' opening goal from the penalty spot.
"It was a fantastic welcome back from everybody.
"From Roman Abramovich, then from all our fans and all the Chelsea fans. It was an amazing moment for me."
Ranieri, though, was not totally satisfied with his side's performance on the pitch. "We wanted to keep a clean sheet," he said.
"It would have been our 16th of the season. We were a bit unlucky.
"It will be difficult next season. This was a fairytale - I hope the next one is not a nightmare. We are fighting between 10, 11 teams for the high positions."