Football: Bates keeps faith with 'unlucky' Vialli

Click to follow
The Independent Online
It seemed the final indignity when Gianluca Vialli was substituted early in the first half of Chelsea's last Premiership match of the season at Everton on Sunday. Vialli was made the fall guy for the dismissal of Frode Grodas, and few Chelsea fans expect him to stay at the club beyond Saturday's FA Cup final against Middlesbrough at Wembley.

However, Ken Bates, the Chelsea chairman, who was the first to commiserate with Vialli on Sunday, said yesterday that he expected Vialli to remain at the club.

"He was changed very early and came out of the dressing- room first on Sunday," Bates said. "I was there, I gave him a big hug and said to him: 'You're not having any luck at the moment you're even being substituted for a goalkeeper.'"

Vialli is expected to be a substitute on Saturday and Bates added: "It is a measure of the strength of our squad that he's on the bench. But I wouldn't anticipate him not to be here next season. He likes London, he's very happy to be driven around by chauffeur, to sneak the odd fag when he thinks no one's looking, it's his kind of town.

"I wouldn't expect him to be happy about not being in the first team, I would not expect that of any player whether he was 17 or 37. I expect a certain amount of loyalty in that situation, but also dissatisfaction otherwise it would mean the player had given up striving. He has two years to go on his contract and his future is down to the manager. All team selection sales and purchases are down to the manager."

Vialli joined Chelsea on a free transfer from Juventus who he captained to success in the European Cup final last May. The shaven-headed figure was an immediate hit with the supporters but his relationship with Gullit, a one-time friend in Italy, appears to have deteriorated. The incident at Goodison Park on Sunday follows an equally humiliating occasion at Fratton Park in the FA Cup sixth round when he was ready to come on as substitute only to be sent back to the bench when a defender was injured and a different player brought on.

Yet both his and Gullit's reaction in the wake of the semi-final win over Wimbledon suggested that the rift was nothing like as serious as media speculation had indicated. Vialli, despite his lack of matches, finished the season as Chelsea's top League goalscorer and could yet play a part both in the FA Cup final and, given his dedication to personal fitness, next season. Bates added: "It is now a squad game we have often had three or four supposedly recognised first-team players not playing."

Were Vialli to leave, Chelsea, despite paying him wages reputedly approaching pounds 1m per year, could still be in profit as they signed him for nothing and will be entitled to a fee. They would prefer, though, to keep him at the club.

Comments