Salomon Kalou claims he was frozen out at Chelsea

Villas-Boas axed me for contract clash, says Chelsea hero Kalou

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 28 March 2012

Chelsea’s Lisbon goal hero Salomon Kalou claims he was frozen out of the first team by Andre Villas-Boas because he refused to sign a new contract.

Kalou, who scored the only goal of Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final, first leg away to Benfica, is out of contract at the end of the season and available on a free transfer.

Arsenal and Tottenham are long-standing admirers and it emerged on Wednesday that AC Milan have indicated their interest in the 26-year-old, who cost Chelsea 8million from Feyenoord in 2006.

Happy days: Kalou celebrates his strike against Benfica

Happy days: Kalou celebrates his strike against Benfica

Kalou insists he is happy at Chelsea but the managerial uncertainty complicates his situation. A new boss in the summer would be his eighth in six years at Stamford Bridge, each with a different opinion.

He started only four games for Villas-Boas yet has featured in five of seven games under interim manager Roberto Di Matteo.

‘It has been a difficult year for me with the contract and all that,’ said Kalou. ‘I’ve been told because I didn’t sign the contract I was not allowed to play.

‘For me I respect every manager, I respect the choice. It’s not about going to the manager and asking why I’m not playing, it’s about showing it in training and when you have the opportunity to play, show it every week.

‘Maybe Andre was building a new team and he was maybe thinking I wasn’t part of the future of the club.

‘Robbie has come in and given me the opportunity to play more and I am happy with that. My goal is to play and show that I should play more.

‘Every time I get an opportunity to play I fight for the team. I have never put myself first before the club. I’ve been here for six years, I enjoy being here. There’s no reason why I don’t want to stay.’

Chelsea's Salomon Kalou (21) scores past Benfica's goalkeeper Artur

Vital strike: Kalou slides the ball past Benfica's goalkeeper Artur

Chelsea were reported to have offered Kalou a one-year extension earlier
this season but the Ivory Coast star denies it. ‘I never heard that,’
he said.What is important is that he feels wanted and is involved regularly, preferably from the start. He has made 243 appearances for Chelsea, 104 of them as a substitute.

His goal against Benfica, which put Chelsea on course for their sixth Champions League semi-final in nine years, was his 60th for the club.

‘For me it has been a hard season not playing,’ said Kalou. ‘As a player you want to get involved more, you want to help the team to win games and also for yourself, you want to score more goals and show that you’re a better player than people think.

‘If you don’t get on the pitch, it is hard to show that. I feel like maybe sometimes the club never gave me the opportunity to show what I can do. That is a big frustration for me. Hopefully this is a new beginning and everything will be all right.’

Di Matteo, not a popular No 2 while alongside Villas-Boas, appears to be more naturally suited to the No 1 role and has made notable progress uniting a dressing room which had become split and disillusioned.

Kalou added: ‘I think the idea is to give the opportunity for everyone to show that they want to play and give 100 per cent. That is how you get everybody behind you and the team to work together.’

Back in favour: Paulo Ferreira (right) also featured against Benfica

Back in favour: Paulo Ferreira (right) also featured against Benfica

Villas-Boas alienated players by cutting them off. When Alex and Nicolas
Anelka told him they wanted to leave, he ordered them out of the
first-team building and banned Anelka from the Christmas lunch.Kalou did not start a game for Villas-Boas after the handball which led to a penalty and a late equaliser in Valencia in October. Oriol Romeu has not played since coming on as a substitute as Chelsea surrendered a three-goal lead to Manchester United in February.

Paulo Ferreira is another recalled by Di Matteo, starting against Benfica in his first appearance since New Year’s Eve. The 33-year-old, who proved a more solid option than Jose Bosingwa on a night when a clean sheet was vital, said: ‘I had not played for a long time but I kept working away, waiting for an opportunity. I don’t need to prove to anyone I can play here.

‘In physical terms, I know I’m not in top form but I had to play with intelligence and I think I did well. I was really happy with my performance.’

Chelsea will not contest the decision to play their FA Cup semi-final against Tottenham at Wembley on Sunday April 15, even though it could leave them at a disadvantage in Europe if they progress.

The first leg of the Champions League semi-final would be played on the following Wednesday at Stamford Bridge and their opponents — AC Milan or Barcelona — will have at least one extra day to recover from their weekend game.