Further rumors of not only John Terry's impending departure but a farewell party at Stamford Bridge that has taken on even greater significance since it was first mentioned last week are making the rounds in the media this morning. Let's go with the Telegraph, who seem to sum it up the best.
...Terry will still play on the Stamford Bridge turf for one last time after hiring the stadium for a specially arranged match with his closest friends next Monday — the day after Chelsea's final game of the season against Leicester City.
Hiring Stamford Bridge for a game usually costs £22,000*, but Chelsea have agreed to give Terry the club's stadium for free as part of a series of gestures that will be made to the 35-year-old.
It's unclear what any other "gestures" may be planned, but this event is set to include use of the dressing rooms, match officials, the PA system, and, presumably, the stands for spectators as well.
Terry's final match at the Bridge was set to be the final Premier League match of this season, against Leicester City, but now that he's suspended thanks to that red card on Saturday, this special event will be his curtain call. And perhaps a more fitting goodbye, even. Nobody's calling it a testimonial, but it might as well be (depending on the club's level of involvement). Chelsea have been notoriously reluctant to hold testimonials — despite treating our former players with great respect and keeping many of them involved with the club after retirement — but surely the man third all-time in club appearances should get one. (Still waiting for that proper Lampard goodbye, mind.)
In addition to our reticence about testimonials, the club's usual veil of secrecy isn't helping public perception either. While there's no doubt that Terry's comments back in January were not in the script, Chelsea have decided on a public policy of willful ignorance, perhaps hoping to avoid further angering the fans after JT made it a personal issue for many of them. As if the Captain, Leader, Legend's 18 years of loyal (if not always uncontroversial) service to the club wasn't enough to add this situation to the laundry list of this season's grievances.
In any case, while there's technically still a chance that Terry signs a new deal, nobody seems to be operating under that assumption. But, at least it sounds like we'll be getting a chance for a proper goodbye, which is more than most of the Old Guard can claim.
* I love that the keep trotting out this figure as if it's impressive or shocking. Terry makes that much in a day (just about), so even if the club weren't footing the bill, he could easily cover it. Not to mention, he might be heading for a ridiculous payday in China, reunited with old pal Sven-Göran Eriksson at Shanghai SIPG or Dan Petrescu at Jiangsu Suning (or Big Phil Scolari at Guangzhou Evergrande?) or any of the other mega-rich CSL clubs.