Sam Wallace: Roman cannot complain if 'Mr Chelsea' leaves
Abramovich took big wages to a new level. Someone else has now picked up the baton
Monday 13 July 2009
John Terry wants to leave Chelsea in order to double his wages at Manchester City. Let's just run that one again: double his wages. Is there anyone who would find that an easy proposition to ignore?
First of all, a reality check. A salary of £280,000 a week is a preposterous amount to pay anyone, even more so when you attempt to justify it to a nurse, a teacher or a soldier. But it happens to be the going rate for certain footballers. It is a ludicrous offer but it is a real offer from City, so this is Terry's position.
He earns £135,000 a week at Chelsea, where his deal will expire in three years' time. There is, as with all footballers, no guarantee of a new deal after that or at what level it will be. At City, Terry will earn at least £60m in all, with the difference in the overall packages about £40m. For a player who turns 29 in December, and has had a history of injuries, this is the last big deal of his career.
The lure of the money, it is fair to say, is not up for debate. What about loyalty to Chelsea? Terry has a three-year contract remaining with the club and, if Roman Abramovich chooses not to sell, then Terry will have to force his way out. It will be bitter and recriminatory, with Terry cast as the villain and probably forced to go public with his desire to move. If he wants the money then he will have to swallow that.
Most of all he will be cast as the traitor who billed himself as "Mr Chelsea" and then turned his back on the club. Indeed, Terry has in the past affirmed his loyalty to the club, he has kissed the badge and signed off countless matchday programme notes with his battlecry, "Come on the Chels". But that is what a good captain does: he comes to embody the spirit of a team and a club.
So Chelsea could look at it two ways. They could curse Terry for leaving or recognise he has played an integral part in the most successful spell in the club's history. Perhaps if he had not played through injury at times, his leaving would not be such a big deal. Perhaps if Terry had been more like Ricardo Carvalho and regularly whined about leaving it would be easier to part with him.
The "Mr Chelsea" tag was partly of Terry's own making but it was also created by the club and the Chelsea fans. As Abramovich's money transformed Chelsea, and foreign superstars came and went every season, they seized on something that connected Chelsea to their past.
Something that made Chelsea more than just a team of mercenaries and Terry, the kid who came through the ranks, fitted the bill. Yes, Terry will have to take some stick for being the man who epitomised Chelsea and then asked to leave.
But then it was not him who put up that banner on the Matthew Harding stand that says "JT – captain, leader, legend". That looked suspiciously like the club's marketing department, who also plaster the stadium superstore with pictures of Terry to sell replica shirts.
Abramovich can have no complaints. Just as he took Ashley Cole from Arsenal, Shaun Wright-Phillips from City and countless others from less wealthy clubs, he is now no longer the biggest boy in the school yard. He took the culture of paying bigger fees and bigger wages to a different level. Now someone else has picked up the baton.
This is about money. Of course it is, but even wealthy footballers have to make decisions on that basis. It is also about ambition and at the moment it is City whose summer signings suggest they have the more. Abramovich should know this spiel by now: his club once used it to sign players themselves.
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