Chelsea dilemma for neutrals as tricky trio thrill
Published: 30.10.12 / Written by: David Gold
Chelsea have given neutrals little reason to like them in recent years.
Starting the fad for billionaire owners to take over football teams and buy success immediately, Chelsea were the epitomy of much that seemed to have gone wrong with football. Especially when they then hired a manager in love with himself, happy to proclaim his genius before he’d even proven it, and through defensive football too.
That their captain is the most despised man in English football, John Terry, is one reason. That they signed a player who wrote in his own autobiography that he almost crashed his car when he heard he was only being offered £55,000 a week, Ashley Cole, who has subsequently moved from his boyhood club to their greatest rivals, is another. That they boasted a player, Didier Drogba, who would dive, feign injury and whine incessantly was another.
And last year, when Chelsea won the Champions League despite being outplayed in each and every one of their matches between the round of 16 and the final, beating the magical Barcelona on the way, neutrals would have been angered that this team had swiped the most coveted trophy in world club football.
Yet now, a mere few months on, something strange is happening. Chelsea are starting to be, yes, liked. It is not just that Terry has finally faced justice, or that Drogba is gone. Chelsea are actually playing good football. Their key men are now not functional, morally questionable individuals but humble foreigners with skill, guile and craft. Oscar, Juan Mata and Eden Hazard are a majestic trio whose talents can make Chelsea into one of the country’s most exciting teams to watch. They still have some way to go to catch up with their rivals when it comes to style, but they are on the right path at least.
The team seems more humble than the one who preceded them. This could be a new Chelsea, a one less reviled. It is certainly closer to the one Roman Abramovich craved when he arrived at Stamford Bridge. Now, having won the Champions League, there is almost a freedom around to pursue more idealistic goals, such as playing good football.
There will be those who still despise the way Chelsea have achieved their glory, and critics will point to their monstrous debts and ask how they are able to get away with spending such unsustainable sums. Yet Chelsea are doing the most important thing in football public relations. Playing good football. What happens on the pitch is always most important, and after the antics of Terry and Cole of late, it is a welcome distraction that the rest of the team is playing so well, and lighting up the early weeks of the season.
Much more of this, and neutrals might even start to quite like Chelsea. Now that would be a bit odd. But refreshing, too, and not a moment too soon.