If there ever was a list of Chelsea players who overstayed their welcome, and left as shadows of their iconic former selves, Ricardo Carvalho would feature prominently on it. Not that the West London club are an exceptionally heartless side, all-too-eager to trample over the careers of stars whom it has deemed no longer crucial to its ambitions.
While all Chelsea fans are truly grateful for his services to the club, to many he’ll always be a prime example of a player who should’ve called it quits a long time ago.
Unlike other Mourinho-era wards, Carvalho failed to make the transition successfully across successive managerial changes. While he was too important a figure to be seen as falling out of favor, he was nevertheless deemed not exactly irreplaceable once lesser-accomplished stars began to churn in reliable performances in his absence. Furthermore, he wasn’t exactly a certain ‘John Terry’ for the club to bend over backwards in an attempt to keep him from leaving.
Once the Scolari-era wound down, the club was well and truly fed up of the overt Portuguese presence. Jose Bosingwa had to turn in stellar performances as a bombarding fullback, before the club faithful decided he was worth keeping even though not too many will moan his subsequent sidelining by Ivanovic. Deco, Ferreira and Carvalho on the other hand – either thanks to their runs of poor form or terribly-timed injuries – ended up on the wrong side of history.
Make no mistake. There is a concerted attempt to weed out the Portuguese influence from the club; with Bosingwa all but forgotten, Deco out, Ferreira pretty much a glorified water-boy these days and erstwhile superstar Ricardo Carvalho leaving for Madrid.
Since the heady days of 2007/08, when he was crowned the club’s best player, it’s all gone downhill for him. At the peak of his powers, Terry and he combined to create a formidable partnership in central defense. Terry, the slower of the two, made up for it with incredible positional sense and quick reflexes – while Ricky was the livewire, always ready to dart in with a quick challenge or two, and the impetus-provider for Chelsea’s counter-attacks. As his limbs grew older, and the ligaments began to creak, Ricky lost everything that made him such a feared member of the Blues squad.
The once feared partnership was looking suspect and seemed no longer top choice for the managers-du-jour. Branislav Ivanovic and Alex, both stepped up, and proved to more than adept replacements for Carvalho – in defense and attack. Far from being overawed by having to play in Carvalho’s position, the two of them may have even proved the unutterable – that John Terry may himself be, dare we say it, replaceable.
The last straw – or the final nail in his coffin, as it were – was his failed attempt at stopping Tevez’s equalizer at The Bridge, when City thrashed Chelsea 4-2. Tracking back way too late, leaving too much for Terry to do at the last minute, and grabbing his head in dismay when he should’ve been throwing in a last-ditch effort to stop the ball crossing the line only served to remind everyone how way-over-the-hill Ricardo truly was.
Carvalho’s move to Madrid is certainly without a doubt, a great move for all parties involved. Jose Mourinho gets to work with a trusted lieutenant in defense, Chelsea gets money in return for a star they probably would prefer seated on the bench, and Carvalho gets a shot at resurrecting his career.
He deservedly walks out of Stamford Bridge with his head held high, and a round of applause ringing in his ears. What he won’t hear is the palpable sense of relief among the Blues faithful, on managing to ship out a former superstar with minimal fuss, no media-fuelled circus theatrics and no bad blood.