As we take on German Champions and European Heavyweights Bayern Munich in the unusually-timed 2nd leg, it seemed fitting that the preamble to this fixture involves the birthday of two former Blues players that surprised millions of football fans during THAT unforgettable night 8 years ago in Munich.
On 19 May 2012, Ryan Bertrand became the first player to debut in a Champions League final. Imagine that for a second, you’re 22 years old and the manager tells you that you are going to be making your Champions League debut in the final against Bayern Munich in their own backyard! While the feeling would be a healthy combination of nerves and excitement, arguably more the former, there would never be a better time to be making your debut.
While Bertrand was looking to propel his Blues career, on the other side of the coin you had Salomon Kalou who was playing his last game for the Club in a glittering career spanning 6 seasons which included over 100 goal contributions despite often playing second fiddle to the likes of his Ivorian compatriot – King Didier Drogba. To celebrate the special day of these former Blues, below is brief stroll down memory lane outlining the profile and highlighting the successes of these two during their time at Chelsea Football Club.
The Birthday Boys as Blues
The softly-spoken Ivorian joined Chelsea in May 2006 as a 20-year-old Feyenoord striker that was highly-regarded by then manager Mourinho: “Saloman is a very impressive boy. Chelsea need big players and need the best young talent in the world and in Saloman we are getting that.”
Up until his final season with the Club, Salomon was a regular member of the team and although his appearances were mainly from the substitute’s bench, his contributions and impact to the Blues were significant, both directly in terms goals and assists, as well as indirectly through his selfless displays working for the collective benefit.
While Chelsea fans and the general football community reflect on the countless memories provided by star Blues players during that era, the real supporters will always fondly remember our other fantastic Ivorian striker who won it all as a Blue which included 60 goals and 44 assists in 254 appearances for the Club.
- A superbly taken hat-trick in a 7-0 thrashing against Stoke in 2010 which included a glorious diving header on the bounce for his opener.
- Close range volley against Benfica in 2012 Champions League Quarter Final.
- The Ivory Coast connection involving slick passes from Kalou, Drogba and Essien whereby he slotted it home from close range to complete the classy move (October 2010).
- The dribble past two Birmingham players and unleashing of his 25-yard curler into the corner (April 2011).
Chelsea signed Bertrand in July 2005 from Gillingham and was immediately sent on a series of domestic loan spells to Bournemouth, Oldham Athletic, Norwich, Reading, and Nottingham Forest between 2006-2011. During this time, Ryan gained invaluable experienced and was rewarded with a call-up back to his parent club in 2011. This call-up coincided with a memorable first senior debut for the club in a 3-1 win against Birmingham.
While he played well each time he was called upon during his 57 appearances for the club which included 2 goals and 2 assists, ultimately, his playing time (and thus tenure with the club) would be brief given the Blues were blessed to have a certain other English Left Back by the name of Ashley Cole.
Having said that, while his playing time was limited, the memories and legacy he created during this stint will be long-lasting.
- Assist on debut against Birmingham as his pinpoint cross found Malouda who buried the chance superbly (April 2011). Note: This was the same game Kalou scored his stunning goal as aforementioned.
- His man-of-the-match performances in his first start of the season against Wigan Athletic where the Blues won 2-1, and then in the 0-0 against Arsenal (April 2012).
- His all-round efforts in the Champions League final – his debut appearance! (May 2012).
- His first goal for Chelsea in a 3-2 loss against Manchester City in the 2012-13 Community Shield.
- His second goal for the Blues in a 6-0 thrashing of Wolverhampton Wanderers (September 2012).
Given the timing of the second leg of next week’s Champions League tie against Bayern Munich, and factoring the birthdays of Salomon Kalou and Ryan Bertrand, this represented the perfect time to celebrate a couple of our lesser spoken about Champions League heroes.
While it is fair to say these two players won’t be held in the same regard as the likes of John Terry, Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Gianfranco Zola, Gianluca Vialli, or Frank Lampard, their heroics on that fateful night in May 2012 will forever guarantee their unique place in Chelsea fan’s hearts and minds.
Again, Happy Birthday Salomon and Ryan! Once a Blue…
Written by: Ross-John (RJ) Bonaccorsi (@RJ_Goodthings)
Edited by: Jai Mcintosh & Ross-John (RJ) Bonaccorsi