As has been pointed out on numerous Chelsea (and other) fan sites recently, it’s election time in the Primera Liga again. What this usually translates to is an upturn in transfer rumours as club presidential candidates make elaborate promises regarding new faces they will bring in to revive their teams’ fortunes.
No great surprise, then, to see that our record signing is the subject of more than one of these rumours. On Friday, it was suggested that Valencia are the latest club aiming to get Jimmy’s signature. Today, several sites exclusively reveal that chairman Ken has offered Jimmy a gratis exit clause, paving the way for what must be the Dutchman’s last big-money move in football before he hangs up his Pumas.
Jimmy’s performance in the 2003 isn’t exactly up for debate. A smattering of goals and a lot of time spent on his backside, rolling the most expressive eyes in football, is about all I took from the games I saw. Without wanting to labour the point, the man earns a reputed £70,000 a week for doing one thing and one thing only: putting the ball in the back of the net. I remember the revelation last season when we seemed to have found a forward that played comfortably alongside our £15million man, but with Eidur’s drop in form this year, coupled with Franco Zola’s resurgence as our most effective front man, it seems that Jimmy’s price tag has cost the team dear. An un-droppable player might be a rare thing in the modern game, but Signor Ranieri’s patience with the temperamental Dutchman certainly implied that life without Jimmy was, for the time being at least, not worth living. Or perhaps it was simply Claudio’s parsimonious soul: after all, if we’re paying the guy that much, we’d better get some play out of him.
A quick look at OPTA’s stats for the season… doesn’t tell us much. Our position in the various statistics tables tell us pretty much what you would expect: Franco shows good accuracy in front of goal with 42 shots on target over the course of the season (51%), while Marcel Desailly sneaks into the list of players with most clearances (9th place with 318 made). Perhaps the proudest figure is Super Frank Lampard, 5th in the table for successful tackles made. But of Jimmy, not a sign. Are we asking too much? I think not. The bottomless pocket of Kenyon aside, JFH is the joint most expensive player in the League. We expect goals, and lots of them. Above and beyond that, we want to see professionalism, desire, and team spirit. When the goals flowed, the Chelsea faithful may have been willing to overlook the dives and diatribes. Without the predatory finish that has become his trademark, we’re a lot less patient.
I’ve had a lot of conversations about JFH this season, usually in my local. As a Blue isolated from civilisation and forced to live under the shadow of Highbury, intelligent football banter can be hard to come by. But the prevailing sentiment seems to be that if he’d been on form, as was the case last year, we would have been a formidable side indeed. Goals came from all over the team in 2002-3: Lampard, JT, Gallas, Jesper, Bolo, and even Marcel with a crucial equaliser in the ‘Pool game. With a firing front line, what might have been possible? As it is, we’re left to reflect on missed chances and (faint sound of grinding teeth) shared points with Tottenham.
So who to replace Jimmy, should he go? Much as we all want our talismanic Sard to stay for another year, we all have to recognise that this will almost certainly be Franco’s swansong. Mikkael’s future seems to be the subject of some considerable debate (“We have said to Mikkael that he only has to wave a little finger and we will be there for him”, said Markus Aretz, Munchengladbach spokesman, showing a remarkably un-Teutonic willingness to please) and while there’s no doubt that Eidur and Carlton are class acts, a proven 20-goal striker would allay some lingering Blue fears about another indifferent season upfront. Let’s give thanks for the allegedly short shrift that Papa Smurf gave Gabriel Batistuta’s agent earlier in the season while hoping that, whatever transfer gambles we make this summer, we can avoid another Casiraghi.