Chelsea have been involved in several controversial issues this summer.
You could argue that this is the price of success – but that is an over-simplification, not to mention an avoidance of the truth behind these events.
Obi Mikel, Ken Bates, Ashley Cole – the list only skims the surface of the different clubs and people whose feathers Chelsea have ruffled, but all of these are run-of-the-mill where rich and successful football clubs are concerned (sad, but true).
But there is one problem that will seriously hurt Chelsea if they don’t handle it well – and by recent evidence, they are doing a pretty shoddy job of dealing with it.
The rift beween William Gallas and Jose Mourinho has no easy answers for Chelsea.
Gallas believes that he deserves a guaranteed first-team spot at Chelsea – and considering that he is Terry’s equal as a centre-half (although some fans might disagree with that assessment), I believe he should be first choice along with Terry.
Thing is, it’s not NOW that matters – from what Gallas has been saying all of last season and this summer, the rift between him and Chelsea (or between him and Mourinho) is long-standing has to do with what Gallas calls a “lack of respect” shown to him by the club.
Contrary to what has been portrayed in the media, this has little to do with Gallas being forced to play at left-back – if anything it is an acknowledgement by the manager and club that he is the best player to play in that position (over Glen Johnson and Wayne Bridge). It was Mourinho’s desire to bring in a specialist in that position that brough Del Horno to Chelsea, but even then Gallas was deemed superior.
The ‘lack of respect’ is not due to being played out of position – the problem with Gallas is that he feels slighted at not being an automatic first-choice centre-back for Chelsea for the last five years (a position that he has arguably only made his own in the last season), despite his efforts for the club. Furthermore, considering that he was signed in 2001 and was a star defender for Chelsea even before Terry’s rise to fame, the extra attention awarded to both Terry and Lampard must eat at him. In fact it has been reported that Gallas expected Mourinho to treat him with at least as much consideration as he does Terry and Lampard, and the fact that this did not happen could have driven a wedge between coach and player.
Chelsea offered an improved contract plus plenty of assurances before the World Cup, but for Gallas ‘the damage had already been done’.
Shunting Gallas into the reserves would be extremely stupid.
The defender is a highly respected member of the Chelsea squad, and I doubt that it would be good for team morale to punish Gallas by forcing him to turn out for the reserves.
It’s an unfortunate situation and both sides have made mistakes. It could also have been Mourinho’s desire to have two players for every position and Carvalho’s arrival in 2004 that caused a rift between Gallas and Mourinho, with the former being forced to sit on the bench or play out left. Gallas is the type of player to hold a grudge (as is apparent by his refusal to sign a contract on terms he had demanded earlier), and at the end it doesn’t matter how much Chelsea try to cajole him, the player’s gone.
Question is, will Milan finally make the bid, or will Arsenal, who have said that they have bid for Gallas, take away the French defender?
Wenger bids for Gallas
Arsene Wenger’s bid for Gallas could well be accepted, especially if Gallas refuses to toe the club’s line and play according to Mourinho’s wishes. Arsenal’s success in this deal would see them more than cover the loss of Ashley Cole, and along with Toure allow Arsenal a formidable central defensive pairing.
However, it is also possible that Gallas ends up filling the left-back role for Arsenal.
It has been suggested in some quarters that as the two bids (for Gallas and Cole) are separate, there might be a situation where both players end up at Chelsea or Arsenal, depending on how the final negotiations turn out. I don’t think Chelsea will allow both Cole and Gallas to slip from their grasp, so it’s either a swap, or Chelsea ending up with a trouble-making Cole and a very, very angry Frenchman.