Just about two weeks ago now Chelsea announced that three players – Juliano Belletti, Michael Ballack and Joe Cole – would not have their contracts renewed and would be leaving the club. Speculation suggests that, regardless of the amounts Chelsea are (or are not) willing to shell out on new players, it is going to be a summer of change at Stamford Bridge. We’ll write about each new announcement as and when they are made but, in the meantime, we’re taking a look at each of the three players we already know are leaving and the impact they’ve had at Stamford Bridge.
First up: Juliano Belletti. The man who scored the goal that sealed the Champions League for Barcelona against Arsenal in 2007, Belletti joined Chelsea in August that year, signing a three year contract. Mourinho, then the manager, gave him his Premier League debut against Portsmouth on 25 August. The Brazilian came on for Mikel in the 64th minute, and Chelsea won the game one nil.
But all of Belletti’s first season at Chelsea wouldn’t run so smoothly. Chelsea stuttered in their first game of the season, and Mourinho left the club. He became a fairly regular starter under Avram Grant, and his reputation for scoring spectacular long range goals (in that first season against Wigan and Spurs) was cemented, leading to him become a cult hero among regulars at Stamford Bridge.
Belletti’s appearances under Ancelotti were more sporadic, and he was eventually injured in Chelsea’s fourth round FA Cup tie against Preston North End. When he finally made his way back from injury, his appearances were less helpful. In February he was sent off against Man City for a unfathomably clumsy tackle on Gareth Barry to give away a penalty – Chelsea lost the game 4-2. He also managed to give away a penalty in the FA Cup final against Portsmouth, but thankfully Chelsea still went on to win the game.
On Wednesday 9th June, Chelsea announced that he would be leaving the club, presumably as part of a drive to freshen up and bring down the average age of the squad. It could also mark the end of the era of Chelsea hoarding right backs.
Whilst never the finest player in the squad, Belletti was nonetheless a very capable right back who joined us in the twilight years of his career. Costing Chelsea probably only around £2m, he was actually a very good deal, his ultimate worth coming from his ability to slot in at various positions. Usually dependable, always very committed and with odd flashes of Brazilian brilliance, Belletti will better remembered by Chelsea fans than supporters of other teams who normally underrate him. He will probably end up finishing his career in Brazil – and good luck to him.
All together now: Juuuu-liano Belletti…