The Chelsea Worst XI: Centre Of A Tension

It’s time, once again, for the Chelsea Worst XI and today we’ll be lifting the covers off the central defensive partnership to complete our back four. As always, it was a closely fought contest, but the winners are truly deserving of their places in our team.

Here’s how the vote-share was divided.

  1. Winston Bogarde (32%)
  2. Tal Ben Haim (27%)
  3. Papy Djilobodji (27%)
  4. Khalid Boulahrouz (14%)

It was a toss-up between Ben Haim and Djilobodji for the second centre back slot but we’ve decided to go with the Israeli, considering he had a lot more game time than the solitary blink-and-you-miss-it appearance by Djilobodji. Let’s take a closer look at Bogarde and Ben Haim – Bunglers in Crime.

Before The Blues

If it weren’t for his Chelsea spell, Winston Bogarde would have gone down as a mediocre Dutch defender who had somehow played for multiple European giants and even represented his country in a World Cup. Self-sabotage was a favourite pastime for the Dutch in those days, so perhaps they craved an anti-Jaap Stam and called up Bogarde to balance ‘The Force’. Bogarde played his best football at Ajax, which led to a move to Italy. It was a short stint at AC Milan, where he presumably couldn’t cut it amongst defensive stalwarts such as Maldini, Costacurta, and Desailly. Seeking to escape their shadow, he found himself on his way to Barcelona after just half a season. His Spanish retreat lasted a couple more seasons before he was on the move again.

Unlike his defensive partner, Ben Haim did not have an impressive list of former clubs, having only played in Israel and under Sam Allardyce at Bolton. Ben Haim was a decent defender but not a lot more. In particular, he hadn’t shown any traits that would have top clubs lining up for his signature, so it was quite a surprise when news broke that Chelsea had made an unsuccessful attempt to sign him. Ben Haim’s head was apparently turned at the prospect of playing for Chelsea and he proceeded to run down his contract so he could leave on a free transfer.

The Chelsea Years

Chelsea would like very much to erase any memory of Winston Bogarde putting on a blue shirt, but until Elon Musk succeeds in creating a wormhole into the past, the Bogarde affair will remain a part of footballing folklore. This was a seasoned international who found himself surplus to requirements and carried on regardless. Of course, he was well within his rights to do so and it was no surprise to see a person choose money over ambition. It was the fact that he made it clear where his priorities lied that made it embarrassing for Chelsea. Bogarde soldiered on despite the blues’ best attempts to shift him and by completing his contract, became a byword for ‘sunk cost’.

Ben Haim finally got his wish in the summer of 2007 and joined Chelsea on a Bosman. The world sat with bated breath to find out why Mourinho had been pushing so hard to get him. To his credit, Ben Haim performed as well as could be expected of a player who had been brought in as a fourth-choice centre-back. Thrust into the limelight in the absence of the first-choice pairing, Ben Haim, to his credit, did a decent job but found himself back on the bench once they recovered. Mourinho was the driving factor behind Ben Haim’s move and when he was sacked, the Israeli international felt the club had pulled a bait-and-switch on him by appointing his fellow countryman, Avram Grant, as manager. This resulted in a fine and an end to Tal Ben Haim’s Chelsea career.

Present Day

After leaving Chelsea, no club seemed to be willing to offer a contract to Bogarde, which came as a surprise to exactly zero people. The Dutchman subsequently announced his retirement from playing football. After a few ill-fated business ventures, Bogarde decided to enjoy his retirement after an exhausting career. Wikipedia states that he is now the assistant manager of Ajax reserves, presumably because that’s where he’s most comfortable.

Ben Haim, on the other hand, played for eight more clubs before going back to play in Israel with Maccabi Tel Aviv. Incidentally, he again wound up with Avram Grant as his manager at one of those clubs, Portsmouth. Both players are a part of Chelsea history for different reasons, but both elicited the same response when people learned more about them: “What is he doing here?”