When you hear the name, ‘John Terry’, you immediately associate it with an incredible defender and inspirational captain who’s led admittedly expensively assembled Chelsea sides to many a trophy over the years.
However, you can’t help but also be reminded of the less endearing aspects of his often questionable character. The racism allegations, the infidelity, the Wayne Bridge handshake that never was and on a lighter note, his infamous swift wardrobe change after the Champions League final in 2012 that went viral as it inspired several memes that flooded the internet.
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While we all had a good laugh at the doctored images of Terry celebrating alongside the likes of Usain Bolt, Andy Murray and even the Royal Family, the unfortunate yet inescapable reality is that the negative impact of the more distasteful events that he’s been at the centre of has affected his reputation as a footballer.
But if we were to take a moment and strip away the misconducts, if we were to focus solely on the fantastic footballer and his insatiable desire to win, his achievements are nothing short of extraordinary.
To begin with, Terry is Chelsea’s most successful captain by miles. Since first pulling on the armband in 2004, he’s led the Londoners to four league titles, four FA Cups, a Champions League crown and a Europa League trophy.
His ability as a defender has always shone through. There’s no better organiser of a defensive line and his commanding presence lifts the performances of those around him. He’s tenacious in a tackle, reads the game exceptionally well, is unequivocally dominating in the air and has the ability to carry the ball forward.
His outstanding performances naturally merited recognition and the individual accolades have inevitably piled up. He was named Europe’s Club Defender of the Year thrice and was voted the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2005.
However, the appreciation he’s received at Chelsea is unrivalled. He’s been named the club’s Player of the Year in 2001 and 2006. A banner hangs inside Stamford Bridge that encapsulates the fans’ feelings towards him, proudly proclaiming of their skipper, ‘Captain. Leader. Legend.’
His combative style of defending has always endeared him to the fans while his uncanny knack for scoring crucial goals, invariably by means of a trademark header, is something that will forever separate him from most central defenders.
Indeed, Terry is now the league’s all-time leading goal scoring defender with a remarkable 39 efforts to his name. The fact that none of those goals were penalties or free-kicks only makes the feat all the more impressive.
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He is no stranger to adversity either. His untimely slip during the penalty shootouts against Manchester United in the 2008 Champions League final was the stuff of nightmares for someone who’s a Blue through and through.
He shed more than his fair share of tears as the rain pelted down on that fateful night in Moscow and watched on as United lifted the coveted ‘big ears’ trophy but that only fuelled his desire to push on and succeed, standing testament to his mind-set as a fierce competitor.
Terry began his career as an intelligent and dedicated individual with a thirst for knowledge. Renowned France centre-back, Marcel Desailly was the man particularly barraged with the then 18 year-old’s questions as he took him under his wing.
if we were to take a moment and strip away the misconducts, his achievements are nothing short of extraordinary.
That dedication to the game has held Terry in good stead even today as it’s enabled him to keep performing at the highest level 16 years on. When Andre Villas-Boas took over the reins at Stamford Bridge in 2011 and employed a high defensive line, Terry’s lack of pace saw him exposed time and again.
Many believed his career to be in its twilight stage then before Roberto Di Matteo’s regime returned him to prominence. However, his replacement, Rafa Benitez took a different stance as he believed the Chelsea skipper was useful but could only be employed sparingly, hinting yet again that his retirement was on the horizon.
Ever since Jose Mourinho retained his post at the helm in west London though, Terry’s retirement is nowhere in sight. In fact, he’s proved his doubters wrong and emphatically so, becoming only the second outfield player to feature in every minute of a Premier League title-winning season.
Yes, on the basis of his football career with Chelsea alone, there is much about Terry to be likened to even the legendary figures of Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi. Like the Englishman, the Milanese stars were both one-club men, inspirational captains and fabled defenders.
English football hasn’t seen a defender and leader in his mould since the likes of Tony Adams and Bobby Moore. Terry is the kind of defensive talent and headstrong character that should be celebrated across the nation. Instead, he’s a target at every away ground in the country as his misdemeanours have supplied opposition fans with plenty of ammunition.
Despite being the best defender in England this season, his relatively early retirement from international football amidst scrutiny and criticism ensuing from the incident with Anton Ferdinand means that he’s unavailable to the national team as they attempt to usher in a new era. The 34 year-old’s experience and leadership would’ve been a major asset to Roy Hodgson’s young squad.
John Terry is the greatest defender to grace the Premier League’s stage, of that there can be no dispute. His quality alone secured him a place among the best defenders to play the beautiful game but when the curtains do finally come down on his illustrious career, it’s his sustained influence and remarkable longevity that must see him regarded alongside the Maldinis and Baresis in the pantheon of football.