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Terry And Rooney Prepare For Farewells As Wenger Ponders Biggest Exit Of All
Wayne Rooney and John Terry have won 10 Premier League titles between them.
May 20th, 2017 | 09:51 AM | 723 views
For many in football, the 2016-17 season has simply been the start of their Premier League story. That's the case for Chelsea boss Antonio Conte, who could become only the third manager in history to win the double in his first season in England's top flight, after Kenny Dalglish in 1986 and Carlo Ancelotti in 2010.
Young goalkeeper Jordan Pickford, 23, had a good first full year too. He made the most of his extended run in the Sunderland team and was named in the shortlist for the PFA Young Player of the Year award. A bright future awaits.
But for others, this season is the end of the line. Some of the greatest names in Premier League history are set to leave the clubs where they made their name.
John Terry's 19-year association with Chelsea will end with the 36-year-old centre-back leaving Stamford Bridge to pursue a new challenge. Whether that will be as a player, a manager or outside the game remains to be seen, but Chelsea will feel a very different place in his absence. Terry is a divisive figure, but his contribution to the Blues' success on the pitch is beyond doubt. He leaves with an enviable haul of five Premier Leagues, five FA Cups, three League Cups, one Champions League and one Europa League.
Terry is also the last remaining link in the dressing room to the pre-Roman Abramovich era, a time when Chelsea were an attractive but inconsistent top-six outfit struggling against potentially ruinous debts. It will not go unnoticed at the club that, for all the millions that have been spent on youth development, he is still the last academy graduate to make more than 30 first team appearances for them.
Time must surely be up for Wayne Rooney at Manchester United too. It has been many months (years?) since he consistently demonstrated the form that made him one of Europe's hottest talents, but in recent weeks he has looked every one of his 31 years, plus a few more. Manager Jose Mourinho might not have played him had the injury crisis at the club not been so severe, but the Englishman's continued exposure to first team football only strengthens the argument he is finished at this level of the game. United's concern is that his reported £300,000-per-week contract still has a year to run and that Rooney, quite legitimately, may opt to dig his heels in and "fight for his place" on the sort of wages no-one else could afford to match.
Whether Michael Carrick, an 11-year Old Trafford veteran, joins him through the exit door is still in the balance. Reports have suggested Carrick may be offered a year's extension by Mourinho, having impressed his manager. The absence of a similar desire to retain Rooney could make the dressing room a little awkward.
On the other side of Manchester, Pablo Zabaleta bade an emotional farewell to the City supporters after nine years of service on Tuesday night. He took to the field to a standing ovation midway through the second half, was gleefully tossed in the air by his teammates at the end and later received a lifelong season ticket from the club, something that in the pre-Mansour years might have been considered a cruel and unusual punishment.
It was thought this would be the last the City fans would see of Yaya Toure too, but recent reports have suggested Pep Guardiola might be about to issue a reprieve. Toure's agent, Dimitri Seluk, claims not to have been told anything about this at all, but given that he and Guardiola get on like Mentos and Coca-Cola, that's not entirely surprising. Toure, however, was one of the driving forces of City's rise from the chasing pack, an ascent that seems entirely logical now, but was proving more difficult than anyone had imagined before Toure's arrival.
Liverpool fans may finally receive this summer what so many of them wished for several years ago; the departure of midfielder Lucas Leiva. It was some time before the Brazilian won over the supporters, but he's given them the best 10 years of his career. It is perhaps unfortunate those 10 years have brought just a single trophy, the League Cup success of 2012, but it could never be said that he has offered less than his best to the cause.
Elsewhere, scores of ageing players are now seeing out the last days of their contract. Five time Premier League winner John O'Shea hasn't yet discovered if Sunderland will retain his services. Newcastle legend Shay Given is likely to retire after losing his place in the Stoke team to Lee Grant in 2016. Former England goalkeeper Paul Robinson's contract is up at Burnley, where he made three appearances this season, and Joey Barton's heavy ban for gambling offences may end his career too.
And down in North London, where many thousands of seats sat empty on Tuesday for the clash with Sunderland, the biggest name of all ponders his future in the game. Arsene Wenger was managing Arsenal even before Terry had made his Chelsea debut, but the protests continue in spite of the team's improved form. The 2016-17 season will bring a close to the career of so many of the Premier League's most notable figures, but if Wenger is to walk away this summer as well, we really will have lost one of our living legends.
courtesy of ESPNFC
by IAIN MACINTOSH
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