The Premier League has seen many long-serving keepers in its time. However, having become only the second stopper in the history of the top flight to reach 500 appearances in the league; Mark Schwarzer is one of the most recognisable in football.
Following his release by Fulham at the end of the 2012/2013 season, local rivals Chelsea have signed the Australian on a one-year contract. Despite his advancing years, he has successfully proven to Jose Mourinho the potential he still possesses. However, has he made the right decision to move to a club where many people believe he will act as no more than a back-up to Chelsea number one Petr Cech?
Personally, I feel that this is a good decision from the Aussie. Granted he won’t play as many matches as he has been used to at Fulham or Middlesbrough, however as a player nearing the conclusion of what has been a remarkable career, this may not be a hugely detrimental outcome. Nevertheless, he will be involved more than the previous Chelsea second keeper Ross Turnbull, who Schwarzer has been bought in as a replacement for. With the vast amount of experience, coupled with his proven ability in stress-filled situations he will actually be one of the first keepers in the past few seasons to offer any real competition to Cech, and this could prove to bring interesting results in the starting line-up at Stamford Bridge. While I believe many people, including Schwarzer himself still feel Cech is in the driving seat for the first-team place, it would be foolish to discount this experienced stopper.
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Another factor that is likely to have strongly influenced the decision of the veteran keeper is the chance to finally be involved in Champions League football. Having been part of both Middlesbrough and Fulham’s heroics in the Europa League, the one challenge left to tackle is that of top tier European competition, and at Chelsea, he is offered the chance to live that dream.
It is not merely the desire of potential Champions League football that has lured Schwarzer down the road though, but also his unequivocal yearning to compete for Australia in the 2014 Brazil World Cup, which the Socceroos have already qualified for.
“I’ve got a big fight on my hands at the club but I’ve also got a great opportunity to work with some fantastic players,” the former Fulham keeper told Sky Sports Radio.
“I’ve got every confidence in my own ability … to get the games that I need to make sure I’m right for the World Cup, which is also vitally important to me.”
At 40, this will be Schwarzer’s last chance to be involved in a competition of this prestige, and quite clearly this is an important element in his decision to move to Chelsea.
However, would there have been another opportunity for Schwarzer to take, which would have guaranteed him first team football? Is playing in cup games and the occasional Premier League game, assuming Cech does maintain his first team role, enough to convince Aussie national team coach Holger Osieck, that Schwarzer has had enough game time to line up at their first match of the tournament in 2014?
If a club such as Chelsea felt the Aussie still had enough quality to play in their first team, it is almost a certainty that another team would have come along and acquired his services. Perhaps this team would have offered a guaranteed first-team role, and ensured Schwarzer does gain his desired place on the plane to Brazil.
Not only may the move mean less first team games, but it could also lead to the Socceroo ending his career sitting on the bench. It would be fitting for the romanticists in football if Schwarzer is to retire on the back of yet another remarkable season between the sticks, however it may well transpire that he becomes a forgotten man, who after this season’s conclusion of acting as number 2two retires without the send off he truly deserves.
Despite these possibilities, I still remain confident in my opinion that Schwarzer may well surprise a lot of people with his impact at Chelsea. There is sure to be competition every week for a place in that starting line-up and Cech is not going to have it his way all the time.
When it comes down to the final verdict, if this was a young player, at the beginning of their career, this move would be a silly one. A young and inexperienced player would find themselves wasting away on the bench for a few seasons. Scott Sinclair is a perfect example of this at Manchester City. However Schwarzer is at the other end of this spectrum. Experienced, and still comfortably good enough, he will get some game time, and save Chelsea on countless occasions.
Evidently, Schwarzer’s main aim is to ensure he is in Australia’s squad in Brazil in one year’s time, and with their coach giving his blessing to the new Chelsea keeper for his move, despite the possibility of less playing time, it certainly seems like it would be foolish to deny this Premier League legend one final hurrah.
Has Schwarzer made the right decision?
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