Aside from the brief flirtations that each of our core players have made with leaving during the past two or three years (John Terry to Manchester City, Frank Lampard to Inter Milan, Ashley Cole to Real Madrid, for example) that quickly fizzled out, Chelsea have avoided the posturing and machinations of star players wanting to leave that have constantly plagued our EPL rivals. Arsenal have gone through this repeatedly - most recently with Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri - but also in the past with Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Alexander Hleb, Patrick Vieira, and Thierry Henry.
Despite their wealth, Manchester City have struggled as well, losing Robinho and now Carlos Tevez. Xabi Alonso, Fernando Torres, and Javier Mascherano all forced their way out of Anfield, while Luca Modric may be starting a similar exodus at Tottenham. Even Manchester United has not been immune, losing Cristiano Ronaldo and Carlos Tevez, and narrowly avoiding a similar fate last season when Wayne Rooney announced publicly that he wanted out.
I keep wondering why Chelsea have been able to avoid this, despite the revolving door of managers, the trauma of so many heartbreaking exits from Europe, and the intense competition for places in the starting lineup. Didier Drogba had every right to leave when Roman Abramovich brought in Andriy Shevchenko and then Fernando Torres, but he has apparently committed himself to the cause for at least another season. Nicolas Anelka announced the other day that he would reject any transfer and refused to be part of the Torres deal in January when he was allegedly offered to Liverpool. Even Florent Malouda went on record recently saying that he wants to stay through 2013. No one would have been critical if Alex, Branislav Ivanovic, John Obi Mikel, or Salomon Kalou had ever forced a move away from the club over a lack of regular playing time at various points in their careers.
So why has this happened? Why have we been able to hang onto players through the duration of their contracts even when there have been moments when it seemed like change was inevitable or when numbers seemed to indicate that some big players had to go? Why does Abramovich change managers as frequently as girlfriends while keeping the core of his squad intact? I can't come up with too many players, if any, who the club has lost since 2003 that it didn't mind losing. There are a few theories that can explain this phenomenon:
1) There is very strong team chemistry and no one wants to leave. This could be possible, and we know that there are several very close factions on the team. We also know that some of those factions have perhaps grown to be too strong in recent seasons, dictating personnel decisions and influencing certain managers too much. This could have produced an environment where the stars have so much power and comfort that they don't want to risk being thrown into a different mix at a new club where they would have less clout.
2) Life in London on big wages is very appealing. Perhaps Anelka doesn't want to move to Liverpool or Turkey or anywhere else because he simply enjoys living in London on a massive salary and playing in the Champions League. This seems less plausible to me.
3) Something about the club has created an atmosphere of genuine loyalty, and the players are truly committed to it. This would be rather unusual and extreme in the modern world of football. You see it at Barcelona and maybe AC Milan as well, but rarely at other clubs. Very few players seem to have real loyalty to a club and are happy to move on at the drop of a hat. Adebayor and Tevez have both mocked former employers with goal celebrations, and Modric, Torres, and others have taken jabs at their clubs by saying that they wanted to move on to win things. We know that Lampard and Terry are extremely loyal to Chelsea, but can we say the same about Drogba and Anelka, or Ashley Cole or Michael Essien? Why do they continue to reject moves elsewhere?
In the end I really have no idea why we can't get rid of anyone (not that I want us to...I actually prefer the stability of a constant nucleus). Does anyone have any ideas?