Tchau Londres. Que cidade!!! Pra sempre na minha vida. Meu filho caçula nasceu ali. Esses 3 anos foram incriveis. Voltarei em breve. Tchau!!
..and just like that, it’s over. What Chelsea fans have suspected and rumoured for the past few months was more or less confirmed on Friday evening by the man himself. Juliano Belletti is leaving the club this summer – his new destination unknown – but it is with a heavy heart whilst leaving a clutch of quite wonderful memories from a man who has become a cult hero.
With right-back proving to be a problematic area for Jose Mourinho in the summer of 2007, a surprise move was made for the veteran Barcelona man and he arrived towards the end of the transfer window, making his debut as a substitute against Portsmouth. Wearing the number 35 shirt, it was an arrival without great fanfare, and one which belied the relationship he would eventually have with the supporters. Many questioned the wisdom of spending a reported fee of £5.5m on a 31 year-old, especially from a club who weren’t high on most people’s Christmas card lists, our old friends from Barcelona.
To become beloved by a fanbase takes feats of brilliance, or if that doesn’t materialise, helping put one over your rivals always helps. In Belletti’s case, he was able to combine both. His fantastic solo effort at Wigan in November of the same year he signed notwithstanding, it was his 35-yard Goal of the Season against Tottenham at the Bridge in January 2008 which truly endeared him to the many, and signalled the start of a fantastic relationship.
Despite the goal, a regular place wasn’t quite guaranteed and resulted in the arrival of Jose Bosingwa a year later, but not to be cast aside, our Brazilian hero emerged as something of a utility player, finding a new home in various midfield roles under Luiz Felipe Scolari. It really didn’t matter whether he was at the back or in the middle though, as he showed away to Middlesbrough by adding another unstoppable effort against Middlesbrough to his CV. He had even found time to add a second career strike against Tottenham – not a spectacular one by any means, but anyone who manages to achieve such a feat surely belongs in Chelsea folklore.
94 total appearances and five goals in just under three complete years in London doesn’t begin to tell the story of someone who worked his way into the hearts of a crowd who regularly fill the air with a chant of his name to the now-famous tune of ‘Seven Nation Army’. Even towards the end of his time at the club, where it was widely recognised that he’d be leaving, his appearances as a substitute, even if he was just warming up, were greeted in such a fashion. Fate transpired that he would get a final farewell outing in the FA Cup Final with Michael Ballack going off injured, and sure, he conceded a penalty, but we’ll let him off that one. After all, he did score in a Champions League Final to consign Arsenal to defeat as well.
His time at Chelsea has come to and end, with a new adventure ahead, most likely back in Brazil. Wherever you go, tudo de melhor para o futuro Juliano.