So much has happened this season with Chelsea being constantly under the focus of the media. From the abrupt sacking of the Champions League winning manager Di Matteo to the appointment of a not-so-popular Rafa Benitez and the hate which followed him throughout his time at Chelsea. Winning the Europa League and securing a top 4 berth was definitely positive but I wouldn’t call this as a successful season. This was a rollercoaster ride which we fortunately ended on a positive note (Read: Jose Mourinho). But in all of this mess, most of us have forgotten about the case of Florent Malouda and his banishment to train with the Chelsea U-21s.
In 2007, the French International almost joined Liverpool but Chelsea intervened and signed him for a reported 13 million pounds from Lyon. He never really impressed under Mourinho or Scolari or Grant but featured regularly under Ancelotti who preferred to play him on the left of the diamond formation. A very vital member of the team which won the famous Double, Malouda scored 15 goals and provided 15 assists in 2009-10, helping Chelsea achieve the incredible feat. He went on to score another 15 goals in the next season but disappeared soon after.
He was never a player anywhere near the legendary status of Lampard, Drogba or Zola but he was a true professional who gave his 100 percent whenever he was on the field. As time passed, he became nothing more than a burden on our wage bill and with the signing of Eden Hazard, Malouda’s time was coming to an end. There were reports that he refused to take a considerable wage cut when Santos approached to buy him. But he made the decision to wait for a year and finish his contract with the Blues. This lead to him being banished to train with the kids probably ruining his left over career as clubs would be wary to sign a player over 30 who hadn’t played top level football for a year.
Question for the fans is – Did he really deserve such a horrible punishment?
For me, it’s a definite NO. Firstly, the club offered him a four year contract and he has every right to stay out the contract if he wants to. We entice players when they’re at their peak with high wages and then complain when they’re not that good anymore and refuse to move out of the club to their desired destination. People call him “greedy” but I feel he was merely claiming his right to earn those high wages as he was under contract. So what if he’s a multi-millionaire? Who are we to judge his financial responsibilities towards his family? Even for him, losing a huge chunk of money by accepting low salary is going to hurt. Why should he let that happen to him and his family when it is in his rights to wait out the length of the contract?
He has always been a good and a loyal servant, never creating any sort of problem for the club and the team. He has made a considerable contribution to our success (even though it was only for a couple of seasons) and such players deserve more respect. And what has our club gained from all of this? Malouda was off training happily with the kids while we kept paying him the high wages throughout the season. A considerable amount of money down the drain for what? Not to mention this sours the relationship between the club and players even after their departure. Remember Alex and Anelka’s comments after they were banished from the team? They may not have the same reasons but the club was under fire as these players criticized Chelsea for the unfair treatment. If senior players aren’t treated with respect it would only lead to our current players thinking twice before signing a substantially lengthy deal when they’re nearing 28-29.
Malouda wouldn’t have been a vital addition to our squad and he may not be the player that he used to be but atleast he could’ve played a part for us during this tiring season on the back of a decent performance in the Euros. Instead of playing Bertrand on the wing (huge disaster) he could’ve put in a shift or two whenever required. The Santos approach might only be just one side of the story as Malouda did say: “I’m going to explode details to them when I am free, but the strategy employed is to make me look like a player who wants to be paid a lot.” Now we can vaguely make out that there might be something more to the Santos story which makes Malouda sound like a greedy footballer.
Regardless of what the truth is, it was the club’s fault to offer him a four year contract. The board could have handled the situation delicately after it became clear that their actions had been hasty. But instead, they banished him to train with the U-21s, and along with the media made him look like a greedy, money-hungry footballer. A basis which guided opinions of fans and others alike.
To say that he will always be remembered will be a lie. He’s free now and that would definitely help reduce our wage bill. Most will forget him or have vague memories of him playing for us. But I hope the fans don’t remember him as a mercenary. Legends live forever, but that doesn’t mean other players don’t deserve any respect. He certainly has mine. Thank You for everything – Florent Malouda. May your next venture give you the respect you deserve.