The long-term future for John Terry at Chelsea maybe uncertain, but the club captain believes he has manager Jose Mourinho to thank for the career he has enjoyed at Stamford Bridge.
Whenever Terry is unveiled by Chelsea to conduct a pre-match press conference there is usually something significant at stake. That is certainly the case in Gelsenkirchen on Tuesday evening as they take on the group leaders Schalke in the first of two matches over the next fortnight which could determine whether they progress to the next phase of the Champions League or not.
But these are important times for Terry too, as the clock continues to tick down on the seven months left on his contract. Under interim manager Rafael Benitez last season he became a peripheral figure, which was initially caused by suffering a knee injury against Liverpool in November.
Now Benitez has departed and been replaced with the second coming of Mourinho, the 32-year-old, who has started every Premier League game this season, has looked reborn in central defence and been one of Chelsea’s most important players once again.
The duo enjoyed a close bond during Mourinho’s first spell at Stamford Bridge between 2004 and 2007 and Terry is fully aware that the former Real Madrid coach is key to his past, present and any hope of staying beyond next summer.
He said: “The manager’s been great for me. He’s very honest with us as individuals and collectively. My career is where it is because of this man sitting next to me.
“For me, it’s about playing. That’s the most important thing. The manager was honest with me at the start of the season: you play well and stay fit, you’re in the side. If I get injured, everything’s up in the air. We don’t really know [about the contract]. But now I’m playing well. Hopefully everything else takes care of itself.
“When it was announced, from word go I was excited for the manager to come back. With the injuries I had last year, I needed to hit the ground running and come back fit. I did. I tried to impress him from day one. Thankfully that’s worked and I’m in the side. I’m happy with my form and the way the team are playing at the moment.”
Terry would certainly not want Chelsea to be at risk of another early exit from Europe’s premier club competition and will be determined to engineer a positive result here. The former England international has not had much fortune in major finals on the continent. He missed what would have been the winning penalty in the shootout against Manchester United to decide the 2008 Champions League Final, was suspended when Chelsea lifted the trophy in 2012 and missed the Europa League triumph last May through injury.
This, therefore, might be his last chance to triumph with Chelsea at this level. “That’s obviously the target,” he said. “I played in one and was very disappointed in Moscow, but delighted for the side to go on and win it the way we did. But as an individual you want to be playing in those moments.
“Win this game and we’re in a much stronger position. With every competition, literally every game and competition we go in to win it.”
Mourinho is set to make changes to the first team. Ashley Cole is still sidelined with a rib injury, while David Luiz could be dropped in favour of Gary Cahill.
Schalke, in the form of 20-year-old Germany midfielder Julian Draxler, are certainly hopeful of putting another dent into Chelsea’s and Terry’s ambitions. Draxler, who is a transfer target for several clubs including Mourinho’s side, said: “I don’t think Chelsea will be surprised by how good we are.
“Mourinho will tell his side how strong we are. He’s one of the best coaches, if not the best coach in the world. It will be a difficult game, but we are at home and we’ve won the first two matches. We can beat Chelsea.”Reuse content