A series of injuries—and disagreements with interim manager Rafa Benitez—saw Terry feature in 27 of Chelsea’s 69 games last season, the fewest appearances he has made for the club in 11 years. There have been questions over his continuing importance as he trundles toward the end of his playing career, but Jose Mourinho knows that Terry will still have a role within the squad.
One of Mourinho’s first actions when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004 was to make John Terry the club’s captain. He also named Terry as one of his untouchables, the players who, if fit, would always make the teamsheet on matchday. This is no longer the case, as ESPN have the man himself as telling Terry that his place is not guaranteed, but it is certain that the most successful captain in the club’s history still has a great amount of influence both on and off the pitch.
One of the key things that Mourinho can do for Terry is to make sure that he is mentoring at least one of the younger players on a one-to-one basis. Tomas Kalas and Nathan Ake are being prepared for first-team action, and there is no better player to guide them as they make the transition from the youth team than the only player currently at Chelsea who has successfully made that breakthrough himself.
Terry will lead them by example, as he has always done, and will help them achieve their potential as the centre-backs of the future. The responsibility of nurturing the younger talents within the squad will also prepare him for the rigours of coaching, as he has expressed a desire to manage the club in the future.
However, the importance of his influence off the pitch is still matched by his relevance on it. The impact he has is most noticeable when he is missing, and his continued absence was a major factor in Chelsea’s disappointing performances last season.
Although he is unlikely to feature more regularly in 2013-14, Mourinho can ensure that he will get the best from Terry by selecting him for the most important games of the season. Finding the balance between maintaining match fitness and overdoing it will be difficult, but if anyone can manage it it’s The Special One.
Another issue that needs to be resolved quickly is Terry’s successor as captain. Vice-Captain Frank Lampard is at the same stage of his career as Terry, and whilst Petr Cech still has many years left in him, the wisdom behind having your goalkeeper as your captain is questionable.
Once the Confederations Cup players rejoin the squad for the American leg of the preseason tour, Mourinho will need to assess the players who have the potential to be the next leaders and legends of the club.
This gives Terry a year, or possibly two, to pass on his leadership qualities to the next proud holder of the armband that he has dedicated his career to wearing, and to ensure that his legacy lives on for the next generation.
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