Depending what side of the fence you fall on you might interpret Jose Mourinho’s choosing of Petr Cech for the Capital One Cup final as a decent professional gesture.
With Thibaut Courtois having played and performed well in the semi-final victory over Liverpool Mourinho wouldn't have been ostracised in any way had he sided with the young Belgian.
It could be claimed that it was a decision made to benefit the chances the Blues had at taking home the trophy, after all Cech is the more experienced, and therefore arguably the best equipped to deal with pressure, of Chelsea’s two stoppers. Let’s not fool ourselves though, in Courtois the Czech international has a match in every aspect bar years on the clock.
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So let’s assume that Mourinho’s choice was made to give one of his most leal servants the chance to play in one last final; lift one last cup as a player who had contributed to a final clash, not just changed into his kit to hold the trophy. If that assumption is correct, and it’s not altogether unfathomable, then Cech is on his way out this summer.
The No.2 position
The debate surrounding the 32-year-old being too good for the Stamford Bridge subs' bench is one that I won’t go into detail on. I’ve made my opinions clear in a piece I wrote earlier this year, but it will suffice for me to say that I think a departure for pastures new would be healthy for his career.
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Of course what that would leave Mourinho with is a situation wherein he has one world-class ‘keeper and essentially no understudy at all. Having allowed Mark Schwarzer to leave for Leicester City this January currently only Jamal Blackman - a 21-year-old on-loan at Middlesborough - could be used as a deputy.
Cue rumours that Chelsea are turning their attentions towards sourcing Cech’s replacement in the form of an experienced stopper who doesn’t mind potentially sitting on the bench for an entire season but who can still perform when needed. Incase you’re unfamiliar with a name supposedly top of the list - and unless you were born earlier this year you won’t be - Brad Friedel is the man tipped to arrive.
Yes, you have read that correctly. The 43-year-old Friedel who would have probably stopped playing professional football sometime ago had it not been for him declaring bankruptcy in 2011. People scoffed when Mourinho hired Schwarzer, then 40, to be Cech’s immediate backup, if he did turn to a man soon to be four years older than that he would truly be inviting the wolves to dinner.
Admittedly a player of Friedel’s comprehensive experience - he started his career in the mid-nineties - wouldn’t do any harm in the dressing room, but would Mourinho really feel safe using him in say a Champions League game if Courtois were injured? Of course he wouldn’t, and neither, for that matter, would any self-respecting Blues fan.
Courtois needs competition
A third-choice aiming to provide the illusion of competition to a young goalkeeper who has genuine ambitions and prospects of stealing Courtois’ first-team spot is what Friedel may be good for. If Cech leaves the man coming in needs to appear to pose the current No.1 at least some level of threat, not just be good for morale boosting.
There’s plenty of options for Mourinho to choose from who would be better than Friedel as a No.2 and not cost the world. Real Madrid have Keylor Navas, Barcelona have Marc Andre-Ter Stegen, Manchester United have Victor Valdes, Manchester City have Willy Caballero. All of these have one thing in common; they’re good, just not quite as good as the man standing ahead of them in the pecking order.
To leave Chelsea will such a divide would be uncharacteristically suspect of Mourinho. Courtois is world-class, Friedel is more than ready to retire. A crazier import Stamford Bridge would have never seen.
Chelsea fans, who do you think Mourinho should get to hire Cech? Let us know in the comments box below...