The month of January is usually the montf of the year when the country is on the hunt for a good ol’ bargain.
High streets, shopping centres and online retail outlets are all crammed with people all out looking in the January sales.
Football is like one big shopping centre and everyone is looking for a bargain, or a real gem to either fight off the threat of relegation, to aid a title/promotion challenge or simply to cement a league position, and just like the high streets, it is also highly unlikely to find a real damn good purchase; mainly because it is retailers – football clubs in this instance – looking to get rid of unwanted stock at a knocked down price; almost all of the high-end products are at high-end retailers not willing to put items in the sales, but every once in a while, you happen to stumble upon a Gucci coat in amongst the ordinary stock that went un-noticed pre Christmas, and that Gucci coat turns into an item that is treasured for years to come.
Whether Ross Barkley turns into that treasured Gucci coat remains to be seen, but for the price negotiated by Marina Granovskaia, one of Roman Abramovich’s most trusted representatives and Chelsea’s chief transfer mediator, it is quite an outstanding piece of business; For while Barkley had a torrid twelve months under Ronald Koeman, there is no doubting his talent, and at 24, he is still at an age where his best years are ahead of him, and if he fulfils his early promise then the reported £15million is an absolute steal.
With Ross Barkley becoming a rarity, as Chelsea are not one of the more prominent clubs to do their business mid-season – HOF looks back at some of the Gucci coats picked up in January among the unwanted stock.
Nicolas Anelka – Signed from Bolton Wanderers – £15 Million – 2007/2008 season
Nicolas Anelka arrived at Stamford Bridge to a mixed reception, being an ex-Arsenal player didn’t exactly help his cause, but his reputation preceded him, with Le Sulk being among his nicknames.
But as Chelsea fans are always prone to do, once in blue it is up to you to prove yourself – everyone bar Rafa Benitez that is – Anelka made his Chelsea debut against Tottenham but failed to score, and only managed to get on the scoresheet twice before the end of that season. What he will be remembered for that season is his miss in the penalty shoot-out in the Champions League Final against Manchester United in Moscow.
The following season, however, it all seemed to turn around for the Frenchman, with Didier Drogba injured for the beginning of the campaign, Anelka found himself as first choice striker, and he took his chance with both hands. A hat-trick against perennial strugglers Sunderland was followed up with braces against West Bromwich Albion and Blackburn thus becoming the first Premier League striker to hit ten goals before Christmas.
The arrival of Guus Hiddink threatened to derail Anelka’s progress as once Drogba regained fitness, Anelka found himself pushed on the wing, however this didn’t hinder Anelka in front of goal who ended the season as the Golden Boot winner in the Premier League with 19 goals, sealing the award with a goal on the last day of the season, Anelka also finished the season with a trophy – the FA Cup.
The 2009/10 campaign saw Anelka start the season again in fine form with three goals in his first four games, Anelka continued his fine domestic form in the Champions League with goals in wins over APOEL and in both victories against Porto, the 1-0 win in Porto became even more significant as Anelka helped Chelsea become only the second ever team to win in the Estadio Do Dragao.
With Didier Drogba departing for the African Cup Of Nations, Anelka once again found himself front and centre as number one striker, and again he took his chances with aplomb. Anelka’s goal against former club Bolton in April put the Blues four points ahead of Manchester United and in a commanding position to win the club’s fourth league title.
On a crazy last day of the season, Chelsea sealed the title with an 8-0 hiding over Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge, Anelka helped himself to a brace as Chelsea ran riot, upon lifting the title, Anelka became only one of three (now four) players to have won the Premier League title with two different clubs – Ashley Cole, Henning Berg and recent inductee N’Golo Kante being the most recent addition – I see a trend here.
The following seasons were just as fruitful as the previous campaigns with Anelka in terms of goal returns but not in terms of trophies, and in January 2012 Nicolas Anelka departed for China, leaving behind treasured memories of his time in Blue.
Branislav Ivanovic – Signed from Lokomotiv Moscow – £9million – 2007/2008 season
If there has been a better defender bought in the Premier League era for under £10million in terms of impact and trophies delivered at a club then please feel free to get in contact.
When Branislav Ivanovic departed Stamford Bridge in February 2017 his trophy haul read as follows; Premier League winner – three times, FA Cup winner – three times, League Cup winner, Champions League winner and finally Europa League winner, that is an astonishing EIGHT trophies in ten years at Stamford Bridge – nine if you count the 2009 Community Shield, but we’re not Jose Mourinho so we won’t.
Life at Stamford Bridge didn’t exactly begin brightly for the Serbian, Ivanovic didn’t start a league game once signed by Avram Grant – the reason given that Ivanovic lacked the sufficient match fitness to cope with the demands of the Premier League. His troubles didn’t end there, and after eight months after signing Ivanovic made his Chelsea debut in a League Cup tie against Portsmouth.
His Premier League debut shortly followed at Stamford Bridge against Aston Villa, a run in the team was his reward after a good performance but soon the trouble re-surfaced, after a home loss to Arsenal, despite leading 1-0 at half time, manager Luis Felipe Scolari quickly relegated Ivanovic to the bench. Ivanovic need not have worried as the Arsenal defeat was among a host of poor performances which in turn cost Scolari his job, and with a change of manager came a sort of change in fortunes, Guus Hiddink picked up where Scolari left off by continuing not to pick Ivanovic, Hiddink giving Ivanovic his first start at St James’s Park away at Newcastle.
His first Chelsea goals, however, proved to lift off in his career at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea went to Anfield in yet another European tie, this time the Quarter Finals of the Champions League, what happened next no one could have envisaged, Ivanovic scored two brilliant headers to help earn Chelsea a 3-1 1st leg lead which would go a long way to earn Chelsea a place in the final – this still however wasn’t enough to earn a regular first team place with Hiddink again relegating the Serbian to the bench for the remainder of the season.
A new season and another new manager, Ivanovic’s fourth since signing for the club, but in Carlo Ancelotti, Branislav Ivanovic found himself a manager who truly believed in his ability, and as the season progressed, Ivanovic found himself being a integral member of the team – finishing the season as a League and Cup double winner.
Ivanovic began the following season as first choice right back, but due to injuries found himself at centre back.
In the February of that season Ivanovic put pen to paper on a new five year contract with the club as reward of his worth to the team and continuing good form, Branislav Ivanovic had finally arrived.
The following season found itself with the usual fortune and misfortune in equal measures for the Serbian, again a change in manager following the sacking of Carlo Ancelotti, Andre Villas-Boas continued to select Ivanovic, and when Villas-Boas, like many more experienced managers before him, found himself on the end of Abramovich’s axe, it was left to assistant manager and club legend Roberto Di Matteo to take the reins.
Di Matteo’s first port of call was to fix the mess left behind by his predecessor, most notably the shambles in Naples; Chelsea were left chasing a 3-1 deficit, and a stunning turnaround at Stamford Bridge set the Blues on a European adventure that left every man, woman and child connected with the club in total jubilation, and no one more than Branislav Ivanovic played an integral role; scoring the decisive winner in a 4-1 victory over Napoli, Ivanovic put in stunning displays against Benfica and Barcelona, but sadly against the latter Ivanovic picked up his second yellow of the knockout stages thus ruling him out of the final.
The 2012/13 season saw yet another change of manager, however this season also saw Ivanovic cement himself into Chelsea legend and earn redemption for events twelve months previous.
A goal laden season – eight in all competitions – ended again with yet more trophies, after being suspended for the Champions League Final the season before, Ivanovic was Man of the Match in the Europa League Final, culminating in scoring the winning goal deep into injury time, helping Chelsea to become the first club to hold both European trophies simultaneously. Ivanovic also found himself in the headlines for different reasons, in a league match at Anfield, an off the ball scuffle at a corner, Ivanovic found himself on the end of another Luis Suarez bite incident, his first coming with Ajax – resulting in Suarez being banned for ten matches.
The club’s most successful manager, Jose Mourinho, returned for a second spell and Ivanovic quickly became an integral part of the manager’s plans, missing just one league game all season.
Ivanovic was a trophy winner yet again in Mourinho’s second season as Chelsea won a League and League Cup double for the second time under Mourinho, however the defence of the title the following season saw Mourinho sacked as Chelsea found themselves in SIXTEENTH place.
The slight decline in the Serbian’s performances became apparent and once Antonio Conte had been installed as manager and implemented his new look 3-4-3 system it was clear Ivanovic’s days were numbered with the club, Ivanovic left, returning to Russia with Zenit St Petersburg, he arrived as an unknown and left as a legend.
Gary Cahill – Signed from Bolton Wanderers – £7million – 2011/12 season
If Branislav Ivanovic was a bargain at £9million, then what does that make Gary Cahill? If Gary Cahill could have envisaged over Christmas dinner 2011 that by the following year whilst enjoying his turkey and crackers, he would be sitting at the same table with a Champions League and FA Cup winner’s medal in his trophy cabinet, then everyone would have called him crackers, but that is exactly what happened.
Cahill made his debut in a 3-3 home draw to Manchester United and in the March of 2012 Cahill scored his first Chelsea goal in a 5-2 demolition of Leicester in the FA Cup.
Gary Cahill started his first Champions League match in the Semi Final first leg at home to Barcelona, in the game Cahill made some crucial match saving tackles, most notably from Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta as Chelsea held on for a 1-0 victory. In the second leg Cahill again started, but a hamstring injury cut short his match on 13 minutes despite his heroic efforts to play on.
It was a race against time for Cahill to be fit for the Final, a race the defender was determined not to lose, Cahill won the race and earned a number of plaudits for his outstanding display in the final against Bayern Munich – the Champions League trophy was picked up alongside the FA Cup that season, quite a start to life in West London.
And the trophies didn’t stop there as the following season, Cahill added the Europa League to his ever growing CV, Cahill played a vital role in the final, making a goal line clearance to help Chelsea to victory. A new season and a new manager, a trophy winning manager, the return of Jose Mourinho saw the Premier League title and League Cup return to Stamford Bridge in Mourinho’s famed second season, thus helping Gary Cahill become the fastest player ever in Premier League history to win every major trophy available. Cahill was one of six Chelsea players to be named in the PFA team of the year.
Another Premier League title medal followed, this time under the guidance of Antonio Conte, and it was this season that saw Cahill emerge from the shadows of Chelsea Legend John Terry, with Conte naming a new 3-4-3 system, Cahill became the heart of the three man defence, and against Leicester in the EFL Cup, Cahill was named captain in Terry’s absence.
Cahill continued as club captain throughout the season, keeping mentor JT on the sidelines with his performances, and arguably his finest saw him net the winning goal away at Stoke to give Chelsea a vital three points en route to securing their fifth title in the Premier League era.
This season, and with John Terry now departed – I’m still in mourning – Cahill was deservedly named club captain, the season however didn’t start get off to the best of starts with a straight red card in the opening day defeat to Burnley. Yet still Cahill receives undeserved dog’s abuse on Twitter from so called Chelsea fans, quite why is beyond the thoughts of any true Chelsea supporter. Cahill continues to be an integral member of the squad and is one of many reasons why Chelsea are still fighting on three fronts for trophies with over four months of the season remaining.
So Ross Barkley has it all to do if he is to become a hero just as those January signings have proved to be, and from what he has shown despite long term injuries and being out of favour at Everton, he is a very talented footballer who will be suited to life at Stamford Bridge, we all hope he is followed by a few more additions to SW6 to give the squad a boost and ease the pressure on some of the players who have played their fare share of minutes this season – Marcos Alonso being the most notable.
Conte and Granovaskia will hopefully continue to shop in the January sales (based on Saturday, they should), or maybe wait until the summer to find that Gucci coat, whatever happens the high street is always full of shoppers, it is just a case of sifting through the unwanted stock to find that gem of a bargain. Welcome to the January club Ross Barkley, who in time could work out to be the biggest bargain of the lot.