Gallas made threat to score own goal, say angry Chelsea

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The Independent Football

Chelsea last night issued an extraordinary statement claiming they sold William Gallas to Arsenal because the defender had threatened to score an own goal if he was selected for their first game of the season.

The Premiership champions also alleged that the 29-year-old French international had initially refused to play in the FA Cup semi-final against Liverpool last season "in an effort to force an increased contract offer ".

The detailed statement is unprecedented ­ both in its content and intemperate language ­ and reflects the anger at the club following Gallas's departure across London and, more specifically, comments made by him over the weekend criticising the Chelsea manager, Jose Mourinho, who he said was "fickle".

A series of calls was made yesterday involving Mourinho, who is furious at the remarks, and even more so at the deal and loss of such a valued player, the Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon and director of communications Simon Greenberg as to how to respond to Gallas and his attack.

The vitriol in the statement, released on the club's official website, is also a clear indicator of how angry Mourinho is. He has claimed, in the past, that Chelsea have failed to support him following similar incidents and, more pertinently, the spat last year with Uefa following the Champions' League tie against Barcelona.

But there is also another crucial factor. Gallas, despite only having a year left on his contract and refusing to sign a new deal, was sold against the Portuguese's wishes, to help facilitate Ashley Cole's arrival at Stamford Bridge.

Mourinho wanted Gallas to stay even if it meant him leaving next summer on a free transfer and believes his departure now leaves his squad vulnerable. He also made great show of saying, at the season's start, that he would break with his usual rules by trying to keep an unhappy player.

However, Chelsea, who "paid" Gallas plus £5m to Arsenal on the last day of the transfer window in exchange for Cole, hit back yesterday. Their statement said: "Chelsea FC believes it is important for our supporters to be made aware of the full facts regarding William Gallas and the lack of respect he showed to the fans, the manager and the club.

"Despite leaving he continues to attack Jose Mourinho and this cannot be left unchallenged. Chelsea made William Gallas a very substantial and attractive new contract offer to stay towards the end of last season. This was rejected.

"The issue was purely one of money, despite his public comments that he wanted a new challenge, to play abroad and so forth. These were just a smokescreen to cover up the fact he was hawking himself to the highest bidder. Having failed to secure his demands, his position became increasingly intransigent and unacceptable.

"He initially refused to play against Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final last season. As is now well documented he refused to join up with the team in Los Angeles during pre-season, despite agreeing the dates for his return, as the other World Cup players did, with the club."

It is a version of events that is, not surprisingly, disputed by Gallas and his advisers. They claim the player made clear some time ago he wanted to leave Chelsea and was particularly unhappy about being used in a number of different positions. He wanted to settle on one role and was also keen to test himself in a different league, but has changed his mind given Chelsea's behaviour and the implosion of Serie A.

Indeed, Gallas's initial talks with Chelsea included a pledge that he would only move to either Spain or ­ preferably ­ Italy, although that situation changed as negotiations became increasingly rancorous.

Chelsea's strategy is a high-risk one. Gallas, despite his well-earned reputation of being a dressing-room moaner, was a popular player at the club. He is also known to have featured in many games when he was not fully fit and his commitment to the cause has never been questioned. The captain, John Terry, and Claude Makelele, in particular, are known to be upset about his departure and valued his contribution.

However, in their statement, Chelsea went on to say: "When Jose Mourinho generously offered him a way back into the 'family' after the American tour, this was thrown back in the Chelsea manager's face.

"The manager told him [Gallas] that, even if he did not agree a new contract but returned to the 'family' and abided by the rules, he would still select the best players available and would not punish him playing-wise.

"However, despite meetings to try and resolve the problems, Gallas made it clear to Jose Mourinho he would never play for Chelsea again.

"Before the first game of the season against Manchester City, when only four defenders were available and John Terry was doubtful with an injury, he refused to play. He went on to threaten that if he was forced to play, or if he was disciplined and financially punished for his breach of the rules, he could score an own goal or get himself sent off, or make deliberate mistakes. Clearly this was a totally unacceptable situation for the manager, the team and the club.

"Chelsea's interests had to be protected and a solution was collectively agreed. If a satisfactory deal for Chelsea could be found, Gallas would be sold. If that did not happen it was agreed by all that Gallas would have to fulfil the terms of his contract."

Chelsea claimed that Gallas's stance was solely to do with money, and how lucrative a contract he was awarded. But the player has made clear that he wanted to move for sporting reasons and is understood to have been offered a lower amount at Arsenal than Cole is being paid at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea added that Gallas "rarely recognised his responsibilities. He also failed to recognise the role Jose Mourinho and Chelsea played in helping him become a double Premiership champion for a player whose only league title prior to that had been in the French Second Division."

'Clearly this was unacceptable for Chelsea'

This is an edited version of Chelsea's statement.

"Chelsea believes it is important for our supporters to be made aware of the facts regarding William Gallas and the lack of respect he showed to the fans, the manager and the club.

"Despite leaving he continues to attack Jose Mourinho. Chelsea made William Gallas a substantial contract offer towards the end of last season. This was rejected. The issue was purely one of money, despite his public comments that he wanted a new challenge. These were just a smokescreen to cover up the fact he was hawking himself to the highest bidder.

"Having failed to secure his demands, his position became increasingly intransigent and unacceptable. As is well-documented he refused to join up with the team in Los Angeles during pre-season. When Jose Mourinho offered him a way back into the 'family' after the American tour, this was thrown back in the manager's face.

"Before the first game of the season against Manchester City, when only four defenders were available and John Terry was doubtful, he refused to play. He went on to threaten that if he was forced to play, or if he was disciplined and financially punished for his breach of the rules, that he could score an own goal or get himself sent off, or make deliberate mistakes.

"Clearly this was an unacceptable situation for the manager, the team and the club. So a solution in Chelsea's interests had to be found, hence his departure."

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