It took everyone by surprise when Chelsea legend John Terry announced his contract was not going to be extended at Stamford Bridge.
An illustrious 18-year career in west London, during which he has played almost 700 games and won four Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, a Champions League and a Europa League, will come to an end at the end of this season.
However, whilst letting go a player who turns 36 this year may seem like a rational decision, Chelsea will be making a big mistake if they let their most successful captain go this summer.
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As the Blues attempt to right the many wrongs of this season and move on from one of the worst title defences in Premier League history, Terry’s leadership will be needed more than ever next campaign.
His departure will see the Cech-Terry-Lampard-Drogba spine completely disband, from which Chelsea’s many triumphs have been built around over the past ten years. A replacement will inevitably be bought, but money will not fill the void.
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Fans need only to look north for examples of where teams have suffered following the departures of influential players, with Manchester United and Liverpool both struggling since Ryan Giggs and Steven Gerrard departed respectively.
The powers that be are doing the right thing in building a new team around the likes of Kurt Zouma, Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard and possible recruits such as John Stones. However, the experience and advice Terry can still offer to them, both on and off the pitch, remains invaluable for their development no matter their obvious talent.
There is the possibility of Terry's contract being renewed by whoever arrives as Jose Mourinho's long-term successor - a scenario fans will sincerely hope comes to fruition. A future role in Chelsea's coaching staff is also highly likely for the Englishman, but the Blues need John Terry the player right now, not John Terry the coach.
The most obvious reason to question the judgement behind letting go a man synonymous with Chelsea's recent success is that he is still very much performing on the pitch. Terry is far from a liability and defensively he remains one of the Premier League's finest, even at 35-years-old.
Indeed, it was only last season that he made a mockery of those doubting his capacity to keep up with the intensity of the Premier League when he played every league game on the way to the title.
Such is his devotion to the cause, Terry would happily take a back-seat role if required, rather than play every week like he has throughout his career. Even if used sparingly, the former England captain would be a fine asset for a transitional Chelsea.
Terry still offers an awful lot for a club he first joined as a 14-year-old. His eventual departure is inevitable, but Chelsea might be made to rue releasing him should they fail to realise the role he can still play at Stamford Bridge.
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