Age, injuries and controversies have prevented John Terry from playing his best soccer in recent years, but Jose Mourinho thinks the Chelsea captain can still make a difference at the highest level.
Mourinho is happy with Terry’s performances this season. He says that the veteran defender could be an important player at Stamford Bridge for years to come, according to the Guardian.
“He’s recovering his self-esteem,” Mourinho said about Terry. “In the last few years he was not playing a lot, he had problems on the pitch, he had problems outside the pitch, he had suspensions for different reasons, he had injuries, he had managers who didn’t trust him enough. And it looked like, at a certain moment, his career was going in the wrong direction.
Terry, 32, has spent his entire professional career at Chelsea. He made his debut in 1998 and became a first-team regular in the 2000-01 season. When Mourinho arrived for his first stint as Chelsea manager in 2004, he appointed Terry club captain. The determined center back has since led Chelsea through the most successful period in its history, winning 11 major trophies (to add to the FA Cup Chelsea won with him in 2000).
However, Terry’s fortunes appeared to be on the slide, as age and injuries have taken their toll. Perhaps more harmful was the racism controversy that harmed his image and caused him to lose the England captaincy. He retired from international soccer last year, saying the four-game suspension the FA handed him for racially abusing Anton Ferdinand made his position on the national team “untenable.”
Despite not having England commitments, Terry found it difficult to reach his best form in 2012-13. A knee injury sidelined him for the last six weeks of 2012, and Rafa Benitez, who managed Chelsea for most of last season, preferred to use David Luiz and Gary Cahill after Terry returned. He only started five of Chelsea’s last 18 Premier League games, as the Blues finished third.
When Mourinho returned to Chelsea this summer, he saw that Terry still had plenty to offer. He says the 32-year-old Terry can emulate his peers and play at a high level well into his 30s.
“Even I was questioning, from far away, what was happening to this guy: physical problems, psychological problems, what is going on? I’m happy he’s proving he’s still a top player,” Mourinho continued. “He plays in a position where age doesn’t make a huge difference. It’s a position where players rely more on positioning, on reading the game, and being in the right place at the right time. Experience helps. Look at how many top teams have experienced players at center-half: go to Barcelona and Carles Puyol is there; go to Manchester United and there’s Rio Ferdinand; Jamie Carragher at Liverpool was playing until last season and was important for them. You go to many clubs and top clubs and central defenders are 30 to 34. John is proving his quality. With what he did at Chelsea in the last decade, I think he deserves to be back on track.”
Terry’s contract expires after the end of the 2013-14 season. Last season’s rumors said Chelsea would not offer him a new deal, and it’s unknown what effect Mourinho’s return has on the issue. However it pans out, Mourinho thinks Terry can be a valuable presence on and off the field in the coming months and years.
“I like that loyalty,” Mourinho said. “I also like the fact the foreign players arrive and find a spine in place, a nucleus of local players who can tell them and explain to them where they are, how things work here, the way they have to behave, and even the way they have to play in this league. They have to understand what they’ve joined. For example, an English player knows what it’s like to play eight matches in three weeks at Christmas time. For a foreigner, that can come as a shock, so you need locals around who can explain what it means to people, why you can’t complain and why you have to buy into it. Ideally it’s not just about having British players either, but having players who are made in Chelsea. In three or four years’ time, if we don’t have other Englishmen to replace this nucleus of players — when Lamps [Frank Lampard] is 39, John is 36 — I will be very sad. Every club needs that.
While Terry most likely wants to continue his career at Stamford Bridge, he hasn’t addressed his contract situation in public. But his performances this season speak for him. He has played all 90 minutes in Chelsea’s first seven league games, and the third-place Blues trail leaders Arsenal and Liverpool by two points in the standings. If Terry’s Chelsea career is nearing an end, his last days at Stamford Bridge will see him involved in Chelsea’s most important pursuits. Neither he, nor Mourinho would have it any other way.
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