Words are almost futile in describing how incredible Jonh Terry’s career has been at Chelsea. The captain has lifted five Premier League trophies, a Europa League and a Champions League, as well as much more, yet his importance remains vital every year, even when his time on the pitch is limited.
His announcement is hard to accept: Terry will be leaving the Blues, and his absence will surely be a heavy one in the upcoming season. Such a central figure in a changing room is not easy to replace. Think of Patrick Vieira at Arsenal, Paul Scholes at Manchester United, Alan Shearer at Newcastle, Steven Gerrard at Liverpool, Carlos Puyol at Barcelona and Javier Zanetti at Inter, outside of the Premier League.
At every level, a team needs leaders. Successful clubs are carried by the personality of their key players. And Terry has always been one of them, even this season when Antonio Conte saw him as nothing more than a squad member. A crucial one, of course, but more for his presence off the pitch than his contribution on the pitch.
His goal against Watford, once the Premier League title had already been secured, is a symbol of his consistency. Terry scored in 17 Premier League seasons in a row: a total of 41 goals in 22 seasons at the club. A legend, put simply.
Yet his game against Watford was only his first match from the start since September: when Chelsea started winning games and marching to the title, Terry’s game time was near to none. His role as a centre back was replaced by Gary Cahill, David Luis and Cesar Azpilicueta. But his role as a captain was once again crucial in keeping the group united in performances and intent. The team followed Conte into battle and snatched an unpredictable title victory.
Moving on from here, the issue is to understand who will inherit Terry’s charismatic role. Frank Lampard has left, after Didier Drogba and Petr Chech, as well as Bratislav Ivanovic. Less and less players from the old guard remain. Gary Cahill seems the natural replacement, after so many years alongside JT, but only the future will say if a new leader can take over what Terry will leave behind.