Chelsea fans should savour every second of John Terry in action this coming season. Not just because he is having a remarkable renaissance and enjoying a sort of Indian summer in the latter days of his career; not just because he is still the consummate centre-back, his tackling, vision and leadership an inspiration to younger players; but because this may well be his last in a Chelsea shirt.
The Blues captain signed a fresh one-year deal earlier this summer after a fine campaign last season. It’s clear that, barring injury, he will begin the season partnering Gary Cahill at the centre of the Chelsea back four.
Retiring from England duty has given Terry a new lease of life, allowing him more rest between some games and giving him a vital chance to recharge his batteries over the summer. Moreover, the return of Jose Mourinho has brought the best out of Terry – the manager told Terry that he would disregard his declining form under previous bosses and would give him the chance to prove himself once more, and the defender repaid Mourinho’s faith in spades.
But there is a limit to how much toil and strife Terry’s body can physically take, and at some point he will have to be replaced. Kurt Zouma has already been bought in from St Etienne, and young players like Tomas Kalas and Kenneth Omeruo are waiting in the wings for their chance. The club also seem keen to buy in a “name” centre-back this summer – Varane, Mangala or Miranda – who would expect to replace Terry or Cahill in the first-team line-up fairly soon.
Now there are reports that Terry’s representatives have been contacted by the Qatari side Lekwiyah SC, to see if he would be amenable to a move next summer, after his new contract runs out, Lekhwiya, who were formed in 2009, won the Qatar Stars League last season, and are managed by former Swansea City boss Michael Laudrup. It’s thought Terry may consider a move as long as Laudrup stays in his job.
It would be a strange move downwards in the football world for Terry – from captaining a team competing for the Champions League to a team in a footballing backwater that is desperately trying to raise its profile. However, it would almost certainly be highly lucrative, and there are precedents – Didier Drogba going to China for example, or Frank Lampard’s proposed move to New York City. It would effectively be a move into semi-retirement, and would presumably be a prelude before Terry moved into the coaching side of the game – or indeed retires altogether.
Terry himself has connections with that part of the world – he and his family holiday frequently there, and own property in the Gulf states. That predisposition for spending time there could well tip the balance.
Terry’s future may well depend on how well he performs this season – and how well any potential replacement performs too. Chelsea is unlikely to let him go until they have cover in place – and Terry is unlikely to leave Stamford Bridge until he is no longer first choice. However, both those events could happen sooner than Chelsea fans are likely to want to admit.