Gary Cahill – Club Legend or Club Mole?

A man who has unanimously divided opinion throughout his Chelsea career, especially in recent years, Gary James Cahill.

Gary Cahill came from humble beginnings, breaking through the academy at Aston Villa and racking up 28 appearances with them, before forging his career in the lower levels of the English game with Burnley (on loan), Sheffield United (on loan), subsequentially gaining Premier League experience with Bolton Wanderers. Cahill forged a respectable career in Greater Manchester, where he also broke through into the England national team, and with his contract due to expire at the end of the 2011/12 season, Cahill was prone for a big move. That move would be to Chelsea Football Club, with a deal agreed on January 16th, 2012 for a fee of £7 million, after over 3 weeks of negotiations between the clubs. Cahill at the time was ecstatic to get the move when revealed, he went on to say:

“Chelsea is a massive club, it is a club that looks to win trophies season in season out and it is a big opportunity for me to be a part of that. Opportunities like this you can’t turn down.” – Cahill speaking on January 16, 2012.

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   Source – The Telegraph

Cahill, after making his debut on February 5th in a 3-3 draw against Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, solidified himself in the starting 11, and went on to make 19 appearances that season, including an appearance in the UEFA Champions League final against Bayern Munich, putting in a heroic performance despite not being fully-fit due to a previous hamstring injury. Cahill had gone from featuring for Bolton Wanderers in a relegation dogfight to playing a fundamental role in winning the highest accolade in European club football in the space of 6 months.

Cahill was a main-stay feature in the side for the 2012/13, 2013/14, and 2014/15 seasons with Chelsea, partnering club legend John Terry in central defense, as the club went onto win The Premier League, The League Cup and The UEFA Europa League in this time. Despite a blip in his appearance numbers in the 2015/16 season, Cahill returned to the side to muster 43 appearances in both the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons under Antonio Conte, where his side won The Premier League and The FA Cup. During the 2016/17 season, Cahill captained Chelsea for the first time in a 4-2 win over Leicester City in the EFL Cup, with John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic sidelined due to injury. With John Terry now a regular feature on the bench under Conte, Cahill assumed the rank of Chelsea’s on the field captain. On July 26th, 2017, Cahill was appointed as the club captain ahead of the 2017/18 season, following Terry’s departure. At this point in time, all was rosy in the Cahill camp, all this alongside a thriving role in the national team.

However, this same season also represented a downfall in Cahill’s importance to the club. In fact, Cahill only made 27 league appearances in the 2017/18 season, which signaled as the beginning of the deterioration of Cahill’s Chelsea career.

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Source – theworldnews.net

Maurizio Sarri was swooped into West London for the 2018/19 season, and it was quickly seen that Cahill was not one of the Italian’s favorites. Instead, Sarri preferred the partnership of David Luiz and Antonio Rudiger, a strong relationship built between the two at the center of Chelsea’s defense under Conte when Sarri’s fellow Italian coach attempted to switch back to a back four defense, initially donning a back three when he first arrived. Cahill’s role on and off the field under Sarri began in dispute when he was subsequentially left on the bench from the get-go, with Cahill speaking out as early as September 2018:

“Having been a big part of things for six years, I’m finding it difficult to deal with this situation,” Cahill said. “A lot of things have been running through my head. We had such a good experience at the World Cup and I’d never take that back. The flip side is I came back a week before the season started against three defenders who’d been back plenty of time before me.” – Gary Cahill speaking in September 2018

Sarri’s delay in confirming the club captain for the 2018/19 season certainly didn’t help the situation either. Evidently, in November 2018, Sarri confirmed his decision:

“As we have seen in the last matches the captain is Cahill, and if Cahill is not on the pitch, the captain is Azpilicueta, like at Burnley,” he told a pre-match press conference.

“Our captain is Cahill. Cahill was the captain last season. I spoke with his team-mates and everybody told me he was really a very good captain.”

Now, this above quote doesn’t read well at all if you’re a supporter of Gary Cahill. For Sarri to come out and say “Everybody told me he was really a very good captain” shows Sarri clearly didn’t pay too much attention to the captaincy as a whole, also not seemingly bothered about building a relationship with the club captain. In the same month, it was also revealed by Matt Law of The Telegraph that Cahill would be allowed to leave on loan in the January transfer window. With Cahill’s contract up at the end of this current season, this revelation effectively revealed that Cahill’s time in SW6 was coming to a close, coming off the back of Sarri’s comments that Cahill is not ‘technical’ enough for his style of football, as seen below:

“Every match I have to choose. For me it is not [possible] to have him on the bench. Maybe he is the best [of our defenders] in the box, but our defenders may play 100 or 110 balls in a match so I need defenders [to play] very technically.”

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Source – Alamy

Cahill himself revealed in the same interview in September his openness to leaving in January, just like he did all those years ago with Aston Villa and Bolton Wanderers respectively:

Now I have to take charge of my own future and I just hope the club will respect that when it comes to the time. For me to do this all season is going to be very difficult.”

Many widely expected Cahill to leave in the January window, with apparent interest from Monaco, Arsenal, and former employers Aston Villa. There was concrete interest from cross-town neighbors Fulham, however, money apparently proved the stumbling block here, and Cahill has since remained at Chelsea, albeit normal service resumed on the bench for the English defender. Many would have expected Cahill to quietly ride out his time at Chelsea, and seek the initiative to solidify a move for when his contract expires in the summer, and this may still stand true.

However, after the 4-0 loss to Bournemouth on January 30th, rumors began to circulate of a mole within the camp, leaking dressing room information to outside sources in spite of Sarri’s honesty with struggling to motivate his players. At the time, Cahill was not an immediate suspect, why would he be? The guy has hardly featured under Sarri, and really has nothing to prove on the field for Chelsea after the amass of titles he has won with the club. Nonetheless, on February 15th, Matt Law of The Telegraph, a well respected, and well-informed source proceeded to write an article on Sarri’s treatment of club captain Cahill, who admitted to feeling like a ‘ghost’ in relation to being left out of the Europa League squad to face Malmö.

Coming off the back of this article, rumors are circulating more than ever that Cahill could possibly be the one leaking this information. Those spreading and fueling the rumors use the basis that Matt Law is a lifelong Aston Villa fan, and the fact Matt has repeatedly written and defended Cahill, in an attempt to put this conspiracy together. The defense to this conspiracy was perhaps not helped when popular twitter sensation Alex Goldberg challenged Matt on his sources, as seen below:

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I personally tweeted about this particular exchange and commended both parties. I felt it was brave and refreshing of Alex to pursue the answer to such a direct question, on the flip side, I respect Matt for his professional, yet diligent response. For many, whilst Matt cannot reveal his sources, first rule in journalism and all that, the lack of denial and effort to squash Goldberg’s theory was perhaps telling… Personally, I believe its incredibly early to deem Cahill the “mole.” I feel poor timing, and an existing discard towards Cahill due to his lack of clear leadership and muted approach as Club Captain have significantly contributed to this assumption. Does it look great for Cahill right now in light of the above? Absolutely not. I perhaps wouldn’t disagree with you if you told me it was Cahill all along, however, is the continued hate towards a significant individual in Chelsea’s recent history of success warranted?

I also believe the subsequent hate and animosity towards Cahill before anything has been confirmed (which it may never) is extremely premature. In recent months, Cahill has attracted an unnecessary and borderline cynical amount of hate on Twitter in particular, all stemming from his decline in importance to the Chelsea side. As thoroughly highlighted in the beginning to the middle section of this article, Cahill has won numerous trophies with Chelsea, been a colossal part of many of them, and a loyal servant to the club. The argument on whether he is a club legend or not is one for another day or another article perhaps (Personally, I wouldn’t have him down as a club legend). 

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When you broaden the area potentially affected by the lack of working relationship between Sarri and Cahill, I believe the squad as a whole fall into this proximity. It is widely reported that Gary Cahill is profoundly respected around the club, by the staff and his teammates. Despite not featuring on the field, Cahill is still the club captain at Chelsea, which would only mean his influence is still felt throughout the club, particularly in everyday happenings at the club’s Cobham training facility. There’s no doubt, whoever the apparent mole is, that there is unrest within the Chelsea playing hierarchy. How much of this stems from Sarri’s treatment of Cahill? It cannot be cordial for the players to see a respected, influential figure within the club, simply diminished by a new coach who still has so much to prove.

Nevertheless, whilst he will never compare to the legend that is John Terry, I do believe many of us can agree on the fact that Cahill deserves far more respect on social media, the same respect he undoubtedly receives from his peers, of whom apparently are desperate for Cahill to return to the side. If it’s good enough for them, it must be good enough for us.

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  Source – TalkFootball365

Written by Dan McCarthy – @maccasport

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