Kalou still heading for Chelsea exit despite vital Euro strike
09:37 GMT, 28 March 2012
Chelsea's Salomon Kalou was coy when
asked about extending his contract past the end of the season after his
match-winning performance in the Champions League victory at Benfica.
The Ivory Coast international scored
the decisive goal in the west London side's 1-0 win in Portugal last
night, prodding home in the 75th minute of the quarter-final first leg.
Happy days: Kalou celebrates his strike against Benfica
Kalou has been with the Stamford Bridge outfit since joining from Feyenoord in 2006, but could leave at the end of the campaign when his contract expires.
Former Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas claimed he had been offered a new deal before he was sacked and the 26-year-old laughed off speculation about his future after the game.
'I know my contract ends at the end of the season,' he said.
'For me the most important thing is not to fight for a new deal, it is just to enjoy myself with the team and play the best I can and help the team win the games we have left to play.
'As long as I do that, I am fine and I am happy with myself.'
Last year Kalou said he wanted guarantees of more game time from Chelsea before penning a new deal.
The winger was little more than a bit-part player under Villas-Boas, although he has been given a more important role under interim manager Roberto Di Matteo.
Vital strike: Kalou slides the ball past Benfica's goalkeeper Artur
The Italian has overseen an impressive turnaround in his short time at the Chelsea helm and Kalou has praised the new attitude at the club.
'I think the idea is to give an opportunity for everyone to show that they want to play for the club and give 100%,' he said.
'That is how you get everybody behind you and that is how you get the team to work together.'
Such has Di Matteo's impact been that Chelsea are on the brink of the Champions League semi-finals just weeks after their European campaign seemed in tatters. Kalou was proud to net last night's all-important goal and believes anything is possible in this season's competition.
'It means a lot to me to score,' he said. 'I am happy to be in the team, playing games and to score.
'I still think I can improve and if I can help teams to win games, I'd be delighted to do that.
'Anything is possible. We have the team for it, we have the players for it.
'I believe there is no reason why we could not win the Champions League.'
warm welcome: Luiz applauds the Benfica supporters
But defender David Luiz warned Chelsea still had work to do against his former side.
'We knew we would have lots of difficulties here and we knew Benfica would look to score at every moment, but in the end we managed to score a goal and not concede any,' said the Brazil centre-back, who joined the Blues after four years in Lisbon in January 2011.
'We have a great advantage for the second leg, but nothing’s decided yet. Benfica are a really strong team and the second game will be even more difficult than this one, but we’ll be prepared for everything.'
Kalou's goal sealed a happy return for Luiz.
'I felt very happy to come back home and be welcomed in such a warm way,' he explained.
'Their recognition of my work was very gratifying. I gave everything for Benfica during my stay here and I was delighted with my welcome. However, I’m a professional and I showed that here tonight.
'I showed that I’m not just a player but a man with character, and that’s what I aim to be on and off the pitch. Obviously, it was a special game.'
Double up: Chelsea's David Luiz and Paulo Ferreira
Another player happy to be involved was Paulo Ferreira, manager Roberto Di Matteo’s surprise choice to fill in for the injured Branislav Ivanović at right-back.
The Portuguese defender was making his first appearance for Chelsea in 2012, and he praised his team’s mature approach to the game.
'We showed humility by defending when we had to defend,' he said. 'We played against a good side with good players and today I think everyone played for the team, all together.'
Despite holding a crucial away goal, the 33-year-old is now anticipating another testing encounter at Stamford Bridge next Wednesday.
'I think it isn’t finished. We know Benfica can score goals away and we need to be careful, but we’ll be at home and we want to reach the semi-finals. Obviously our away goal is good and we didn’t concede, but if Benfica score over there, everything will be equal.'
With Chelsea also through to the semi-finals of the FA Cup, Ferreira is nonetheless confident the club can end an often trying season on a high.
'We have wonderful players and we’re still in two competitions that I think we can win and we have to believe,' he said. 'We have to think game by game, but of course we’re in two competitions and anything can happen.'