Petr Cech will certainly go down in the history books as one of the greatest goalkeepers in Premier League history. The Czech has a record of clean sheets in the division and has won every trophy there is to win at club level. Thibaut Courtois’s emergence cost Cech his starting place at Stamford Bridge, but he reignited his career with a move to Arsenal, adding three more years of first-team football and another FA Cup to his personal cabinet, with a Europa League final against his ex-club still to come.
It’s been widely reported that the Chelsea legend will make his way back to South-West London and accept a role as a sporting director for the Blues, mirroring the sorts of structural decisions that clubs who have experienced long-term success, like Barcelona and Ajax, like to deploy themselves. This is a smart move from Chelsea, and there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that more moves like this could reap long-term rewards.
The appointment of Maurizio Sarri cannot be undermined in terms of it’s importance in starting a new phase of Roman Abramovich’s development with this club. There’s evidently a new approach to Chelsea’s recruitment and remit for the upcoming season. In years past Sarri might not have survived the patchy form his side have endured, but he lives to tell the tale. There’s an emphasis on playing attacking, attractive football and youngsters are being encouraged for more game time. With the plethora of talent continuing to emerge at Chelsea, the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi and Ruben Loftus-Cheek have proven there is a way to make a name for yourself in SW3.
Cech’s appointment echoes the model of European giants. Ajax are just one example: the Amsterdam side appointed Dutch goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar as their CEO and Marc Overmars as their technical director, and Bayern Munich boast a whole host of players representing their backroom team with Karl-Heinz Rummenigge and Hasan Salihamidzic being just two examples of ex-players with heavy involvement behind the scenes. Just look at how far the development of young players has taken Ajax in the Champions League this season.
Questions will be raised about Cech’s CV in getting the role, as many will argue that being a good footballer on the pitch doesn’t always equate to being a character with a good footballing and business brain. The move does seem an intelligent and considered one for both parties, though. The soon-to-be-retired goalkeeper has spent many years at Stamford Bridge serving under different managers and learning from club legends like Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard – he will know exactly what Chelsea need and what it will take to get there.
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He’ll be a respected figure among the fans, staff at the club and more importantly the players. He’s open with the media, honest and committed to bettering himself always, shown by his resilient displays for Arsenal this season despite the arrival of Bernd Leno.
With his appointment expected to be confirmed at the end of the season, Chelsea look to be showing signs of a new approach and patience in rebuilding the club’s image and identity. The looming transfer ban may slow down the process, but the development of Sarri’s philosophy, the gradual inclusion of more academy stars in the first team and the identification of former players for key roles suggests the Blues may be moving rather successfully to an era of long-term success on and off the pitch.