May 3, 2015 – 9:00PM
Chelsea’s Ivorian striker Didier Drogba celebrates scoring at Stamford Bridge in London. Photo: AFP
While next month’s friendly between Chelsea and Sydney FC at ANZ Stadium offers a rare opportunity for Australian fans to welcome the English Premier League champions-elect, it may also mark the farewell for two of the club’s greatest players, legendary striker Didier Drogba and champion goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Drogba, 37, comes out of contract on June 30 and has so far not been offered a contract extension despite scoring seven goals in 38 appearances in all competitions, while 32-year old Cech has been restricted to just 15 appearances, only six of which have come in the league after the arrival of Belgian international Thibaut Courtois.
Cech has been suggested as a target for both Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain, although unlike Drogba – who has been linked with a move to the United States – he has another year to run on his contract. However, his patience for sitting on the bench appears is unlikely to last into a second campaign.
“It was a very different season to before and I had a completely different role to what I used to have and I had to find a way to go through the year,” Cech said via a phone interview from London. “Obviously we have games where we need to be always ready and every player, you want to play as much as possible, so my year was different to previous years. I had to find my way through.”
“I feel that every game I played I played on the level I was required to be, so it was very positive for me and it gave me the reassurance that I’m ready to play and I want to play. So let’s see what’s going to happen at the end of the season and what’s going to be the plan at the end of the season. I have no plans yet and as soon as the season is over, I’ll look to the future and just see what I want to decide. I feel that I’m fit and ready to play and I don’t want to lose time on the bench.”
Although Chelsea have come under fire for their “boring” style, conceding just 27 goals in 34 games, they’ve only scored two fewer goals than Manchester City – and the players aren’t the slightest bit perturbed about the jibes.
“Personally, everyone can have their own opinion but we are three points ahead and the league is always won by the team with the most points,” he said. “We are the team with the most points and we certainly enjoy that and we are proud of our achievement.”
The Czech Republic veteran knows manager Jose Mourinho isn’t discriminating on the basis of age, however, as both Drogba and the in-form John Terry, who turns 35 in December, have been getting plenty of game time.
“If you have the quality to play, it doesn’t matter if you are 40 or 18, you should have a chance to play,” he said. “Didier and JT have proven a lot of people wrong and it’s great to see they can compete at the highest level for another year and they will continue doing so.”
It’s the second time Cech has worked with Mourinho, the pair arriving at the same time in 2004. His secret to success, Cech claims, is simplicity.
“He’s great on taking on board and making everybody understand the way he wants to play, the way he wants to work and the way he wants people to work around him. That’s his biggest strength. He has players who know him, who’ve never seen him before, [new signings] you’ve only heard of, but everybody understands exactly the way he wants to play, exactly what he wants at the training ground and in the game. I think that’s a huge advantage and he’s one of the best in the world at this.”
Cech said he was expecting Sydney FC to give a strong account of themselves at ANZ Stadium on June 2, adding he had no qualms about the timing of the match – only one week after the end of the EPL season – as it was the only possible window to make the journey.
”Usually in those games, the home teams want to compete and show what quality they have, so it [is an] interesting match-up,” Cech said. “I think it’s the only time if you want to go to Australia and to make sure all our supporters in Australia can come to watch us play live. It was the only possible week, because we have to be with our national teams for international games the week after, so we wouldn’t be able to [come later].
“It’s a chance after all these years to make our Chelsea fans happy because we know that not everyone can come to Stamford Bridge, so this is a great chance for them to come to the stadium and watch us play live.”
Tickets go on general sale on Wednesday, the 40,000 pre-sales ticket allocation quickly exhausted last Friday.
The Canberra Times