Veteran centre-half Ricardo Carvalho is off to Real Madrid, reuniting with manager Jose Mourinho. Carvalho, who arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2004 from Porto for the sum of £20M as Marcel Desailly's replacement, was an instant hit at the club, helping the team win back to back league titles in his first two seasons while forming a record-breaking defensive partnership with captain John Terry. One of the best defenders to ever put on Chelsea blue and part of one of the great Portuguese teams, Carvalho's departure marks a turning of the page for the team.
Perhaps underappreciated by most, it was Carvalho's presence that allowed John Terry to get away with his feet of treacle for so long. Clever, quick, and strong, with astonishing pure technique, Carvalho solidified the back line while the performances of Cech and Terry were flagging. However, all things come to an end, and Carvalho's age has been starting to show through injuries and a dip in form. Never the most sturdy player in the world, Carvalho has had to miss significant time in each of the past three seasons, eventually finding himself relegated to third choice centre-back behind Terry and Brazilian international Alex.
Carvalho was one of Jose Mourinho's biggest supporters at Chelsea, and Mourinho has conversely shown great loyalty to the man he brought to us from Porto. The first transfer rumblings started more than a year ago, with the defender requesting a transfer to Inter Milan to reunite with the Special One, a move that was ultimately denied by Carlo Ancelotti and the Chelsea hierarchy, presumably due to the need for defensive cover. While Chelsea's personnel at the back haven't changed much, the prospects are a year older, Branislav Ivanovic has burst onto the scene as an elite player, and Carvalho's creaking legs are a year older, so the manager must have been happier with the idea of letting Ricardo go, especially for £6.7M.
I can't imagine that anyone will be thrilled by this chain of events, though, as it puts far too much pressure on Alex, Terry, and Ivanovic, with no suitable backup for the central positions if any one of them goes down. Will Chelsea rely on the kids? Bruma, Hutchinson, and Mancienne all might feature, but none of them inspires anything approaching confidence. Unless there's a huge breakout by a prospect, one will have to imagine that Ancelotti and the Stamford Bridge faithful will be praying fervently for good health for our defenders. Worth noting is that Chelsea's net spend is currently around £5M, with Carvalho's sale making up for most of Ramires's transfer fee - so there might be more big moves in the works.
All that aside, good luck at Madrid, Riccy. You've done an excellent job for us and you'll be deeply missed. Hopefully Wayne Rooney won't stamp on your crotch anymore.