Immediately after Chelsea’s 5–1 win against MK Dons in the FA Cup, arguably the team’s finest performance of the season and one that further broke down the intense anger that followed the sacking of Jose Mourinho in December, John Terry opted to make a major announcement.
“It’s not going to be a fairytale ending, I’m not going to retire at Chelsea,” he said, conveying his predicament with the same melodramatic flair that has defined his career both on and off the pitch. “I was in last week before the Arsenal game and it’s not going to be extended.
“They said that, when the new manager comes in, things might change but it’s a ‘no’ at the minute. I needed to know now, like I have done every January and sometimes it takes a couple of months to get done. Unfortunately it was a ‘no’. I’m going to be playing out my career elsewhere, which it took me a couple of days to get over. But, like I say, I knew before the Arsenal game and my performance isn’t going to change: the way I train, what I give for the club. I want to give everything and finish on a high, on 100% good terms with the club.”
As the most successful captain in Chelsea’s history and someone who has been with the club since the age of 14, he had to know that this would be a bombshell — even though, now 35 years old, his last few contract extensions have been somewhat tentative one-year agreements. He also had to know that his words instantly overshadowed Chelsea’s victory.
Still unsettled by the Mourinho decision, fans were outraged that their beloved and still productive captain was being cast off in this period of uncertainty. The media largely adopted the same position because, well, outrage sells.
Suddenly what should have been a pleasant day for Chelsea executives was an uncomfortable one. So, that very evening, the club released a mealy mouthed statement in an effort to soften the backlash.
From the Guardian:
“John requested a meeting with the club the week before last and, in that meeting, he asked about the possibility of an extension to his existing contract,” said a spokesman. “John was advised that, while no new deal was currently on the table, that situation could change in the coming months.
“The club has the utmost respect for John and everything he has helped us achieve to date. He is a fantastic servant to Chelsea and a superb captain. As such, the club will keep the channels of dialogue open.”
According to the Daily Mail (an unfortunate way to begin any sentence, mind you), Chelsea asked Terry to wait until a new manager was appointed so a more definitive decision could be reached before an announcement on the matter was made. This only prompts more questions about why he chose to say what he’s said when he said it.
Over the years there have been many claims of Terry being one of the Chelsea players to use his influence within the club to alter the employment status of various managers. This suggests an understanding that pressure can force a desired change. And by announcing his situation when he did, Terry sparked a wave of pressure from the public and the media that has already been strong enough to make Chelsea scramble and push out an waffling statement.
Now instead of quietly leaving it up to the end of the season and allowing the club to quickly move on if they don’t give him a new contract, Terry has brought about a reality where Chelsea will be inundated with public outrage throughout the final months of the season if they don’t change their position. It’s no longer just Terry and his agent negotiating a new deal, it’s the voices around Stamford Bridge on matchdays, on television around the clock and in the newspaper columns each morning.
That’s not to say that this is a completely cynical or nefarious move by Terry. In the hours since he made his announcement, it’s become clear that clubs around the world are eager to give him larger sums of money than he could ever ask Chelsea for. Playing for Chelsea for another season is obviously something he wants, but it’s also something many other people emotionally invested in the club want. So going public with the news that Chelsea are leaning towards denying that desire is something theses people would want to know with time to try and influence change.
It remains unclear whether this will work. The club obviously didn’t care about third party opinions when they sacked Mourinho for the second time. But it might be Terry’s only hope at getting what he wants as a Chelsea player one last time.