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Gary Cahill: Bargain?

Richard Heathcote

The Gary Cahill love-in continues.  Or is it just getting started?  His old Bolton manager is the latest to have offered up praise, speaking to the media ahead of England's friendly against Denmark on Wednesday.

"Gary has fully established himself in the England team now and there was never any doubt that was going to happen - no matter who was in competition for places"

"From day one when I walked into Bolton, he just oozed class."

-Owen Coyle; source: Express

Unlike Bolton's ex-manager, we here at WAGNH greeted the then 26-year-old defender's arrival in January 2012 with a healthy amount of skepticism.  With his contract at Bolton Wanderers set to expire that summer, the general thinking was that Chelsea got a good deal at £7m, especially since - as Matilda Hankinson told us in our Q&A with Lion of Vienna Suite - Bolton had valued Cahill at £16m just the summer before but decided to hang on to him, probably in a (misguided, in retrospect) effort to survive in the Premier League.  The second half of that run-on sentence has now also been confirmed by Owen Coyle.

"The summer before he moved to Chelsea, Manchester City came in and offered £17 million and a player."

"That was going to be a huge deal. Obviously, something happened, so he stayed on at Bolton and it never materialised"

"Come the following January in 2012, when it was Chelsea who came in, it was the right thing for him, no doubt. They got absolutely got a bargain at £7million. We were at the wrong end of the table and caught up in a battle but I'd always said we would do right by him and give him his chance."

-Owen Coyle; source: Express

A good deal?  Ok, maybe.  A bargain?  Well... let's just say that we - we being the media at large - still haven't learned that transfer fees are only a portion of a club's total investment in a player.  And Gary Cahill's wages are what made us quite uncomfortable.  Here's some math:  80k/week @ 7m = 50k/week @ 15m.

"With Cahill earning £80,000 a week and Chelsea paying Bolton £7M for his services, the overall package is about £30M. Manchester United paid out a total of £31M to acquire Phil Jones over the summer. Jones is a comparable player right now with a significantly brighter future than Cahill (on account of being more than six years younger). This deal looks significantly less attractive with that in mind."

-Graham MacAree; source: WAGNH

Of course, we had only ever imagined Gary Cahill as backup to John Terry and David Luiz and any future world-class center back reinforcements.  We weren't alone: Villas-Boas hardly rated him, raising further question marks over the purchase.  Jose Mourinho liked him, but left him on the bench for most of September and October.  Injuries affected his run-ins to each of the last two seasons.

Yet, he's persevered and battled through to start (and WIN!) both the Champions League and Europa League finals.  Currently, he's working on a 14-match streak of consecutive starts.  He's played almost 7000 minutes since the start of the 2012-13 season - that's more than Oscar!  Cahill's minutes are fifth overall in that span after Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Ramires, and Eden Hazard; with Ivanovic and David Luiz often used in other positions, Cahill is easily our most used center back over the last two seasons.

"He'll go from strength to strength now. He'll thrive in the World Cup atmosphere."

"I always felt that Chelsea was the right fit for him. John Terry was there, a great player and a leader and there were things that he had that Gary could learn from to get better."

-Owen Coyle; source: Express

I doubt I'll ever be entirely convinced by Cahill, whose best skill's often been the ability to make most observers ignore his mistakes, but it's hard to deny that he's played a key role in our best defensive partnership, and thus the Premier League's best defensive partnership, this season.  With a rock solid (if somewhat sleepy at corners lately) Terry covering for him, Cahill no longer emits that annoying back-up beeping sound that used to consistently destroy our offside traps and allow free shots from the top of the box.  He's kicked his fetish for last-ditch tackles and has finally emerged as the two-way aerial threat that we were promised.  That's not to say that he's become completely error-proof (see: Fulham, just a few days ago), but maybe, just maybe, he's finally become worthy of our original investment.

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