Revealed: The team-talk from Roman that inspired Chelsea to European glory
21:30 GMT, 20 October 2012
You can picture the scene: John Terry, Frank Lampard, Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba are sat in the team room, waiting for the owner, Roman Abramovich, to address his employees.
You can imagine one or two players might shift nervously in their seats as the Russian oligarch reminds them that his money brought them to the club and that he can just as easily dispense with them.
For six years, Salomon Kalou was an integral part of the squad and experienced almost all football has to offer, from the Champions League victory to the seven different managers; from the Premier League and FA Cup double to the fall-out from John Terry racially abusing an opponent.
Inspiring: Roman Abramovich spoke to the players before Chelsea's Munich triumph
But still, it is those team meetings with Abramovich that stand out most when Kalou, now in France at Lille, talks about his time at Chelsea.
‘That’s the role of the owner, to remind everyone that the only boss is him and we should be working for the best interests of the club — not individuals,’ says Kalou.
‘Roman always reminds us very well and it works every time. I remember he came twice to tell us — once in Carlo Ancelotti’s time and we won the double. And he came again after AVB [Andre Villas-Boas’s sacking] and we won the Champions League.’
They cannot have been comfortable encounters but Kalou insists the players were not fearful of Abramovich. ‘No,’ he says. ‘We weren’t scared. But he doesn’t speak all the time, so when he does you listen.
‘Maybe if he backs off, it won’t work. Because when you invest in ideas, you really want them to work. Sometimes you have to remind people, “I’m the one doing that. You have to do it the right way”. It’s important because people seem to forget when it’s difficult [and say], “Oh, Chelsea have been here for eight years. We don’t have to work hard, we will just play and I’m going to be playing anyway”.
‘So, if the manager doesn’t, it’s important for someone to remind the players, “You have been here for six years but I can change the team any time I want, so you better get back to the pitch and do the job right”.
‘I think, if you see the results, it is positive. He has the idea, “I want to run this club, I want things to work”. He wanted to win the Champions League and then he won it, so it was worth it — doing all that.’
Worth it, perhaps, but it is still not conventional man-management. /10/20/article-2220733-13323399000005DC-376_634x416.jpg” width=”634″ height=”416″ alt=”Parade: Chelsea players with their trophies from what was an amazing season” class=”blkBorder” />
Parade: Chelsea players with their trophies from what was an amazing season
‘Every time I got to the level where I had convinced a manager that I should be in the team and play regularly, the manager was sacked. So you have to go back to the beginning because you don’t have the stature that some players have when a new manager comes in [and] automatically he knows that he is going to need them to be in the team because they are the main players.
New role: Salomon Kalou is now one of the more experienced players
‘So you have to convince the new manager
and when you convince him at the end, he gets sacked again. You go
through the same emotion every season and you think it’s never going to
Not so now. At Lille, French champions two years ago in a team in which Eden Hazard, Gervinho and Yohan Cabaye played, Kalou will be one of the senior players when they take on Bayern Munich in the Champions League this week. ‘I can say that my stature as a player has changed,’ he says.
‘I’m seen as more of a main player than I was at Chelsea. The players and coaches and fans expect me to bring that little something that can change the game. I have more responsibility.’
The almost constant state of crisis
management at Chelsea, from the air-rifle shooting in the dressing room
to managerial sackings, at least forged a team dynamic, according to
‘We constantly had
to cope with that and that made us stronger,’ he says. ‘If you are
talking mentally, the strongest team in England for the last six years
have always been Chelsea.
issue that happened, we’re always going to talk about it. Because we
knew each other for so long and we have that relationship among each
other where we joke about stuff, we talk about everything. So we would
never get disturbed by any kind of situation.’
one issue remained undiscussed: Terry’s racial insult, directed at
Anton Ferdinand a year ago. Kalou says that was because he trusted
Terry. ‘Do I think he’s a racist No, because I never have that
experience with him personally,’ he adds.
‘When we saw it, we didn’t feel it
personally. We never went, “Oh, wow. Why did he say that” We never
talked about it because, for us, we judge him as he acted with us. I see
the person I go training with every day and how he treated me. I never
had a problem with him like that.’
Try and try again: Kalou had to make his mark on every new Chelsea manager
Kalou’s only experience of racism, he says, was in Holland as a young player from some opposition fans. ‘When we played against other teams sometimes, we got it from the fans, they bully you and stuff. But in England, never.’
In contrast, life at Lille must seem sedate. The manager, Rudi Garcia, has been in place for four years; there are no race rows brewing and no youth team players have been shot in the dressing room.
‘That’s what makes Chelsea, Chelsea,’ says Kalou. ‘There is always something going on. If it isn’t on the pitch, it is off the pitch.’
For now, though, the soap opera is over and Kalou can focus on the football.