On January 16, 2012, Chelsea signed Gary Cahill from Bolton Wanderers for something like seven pennies and a Snickers bar. Villas-Boas's squad was short on defenders after the banishment and sale of Alex and Cahill was set to come in as a backup. A few weeks later, his services were needed for the first time in that maddening 3-3 draw against Manchester United. A few months later, he was lifting the European Cup (while his former Bolton mates were heading down a division). Over two-hundred appearances later, he's slowly and steadily become Chelsea's elder statesman.
At 31, he's not the oldest member of the squad, but he's oldest of those regularly playing, and appropriately enough, thus wears the captain's armband. At the same time, he's young enough to have started every single game so far this season (missing just 40 minutes or so in all competitions) and solid enough to have survived Conte's every formation and tactics change.
In these five years, Cahill has won every major trophy available to him. Munich, 2012. Amsterdam, 2013. Premier League, 2015. FA Cup, League Cup, PFA Team of the Year. Unsurprisingly, it's that night in Munich that still sticks strongest in his memory.
"The biggest game I've played was the Champions League final, and I'm sure everybody who was involved that night would say the same. To win the tournament for the first time in our history, especially after only signing a few months previously, was magical and I reflect on that night a lot, it's such a great memory."
Cahill had barely recovered from a hamstring injury in time to face Bayern that night — just another moment of divine providence on a night full of them (not to mention the run to the final itself). The following year's Europa League final was a bit less brightly written in the stars, but was nonetheless satisfying in the end.
"I was proud of my performance in the Champions League final because having come in as someone new to the competition, I felt I coped well on the biggest stage. I was also pleased with my display in the Europa League final. After Branislav Ivanovic scored, and we felt the game was dead and buried, I remember I had to make a late tackle which was very important. They're big games, European finals, so to play well in them is very satisfying."
Cahill's big interview on the Chelsea official website contains plenty of fun little nuggets like those, but I did especially enjoy seeing him take pleasure in beating Spurs at key moments, such as the League Cup final in 2015.
"I've been lucky enough to score quite a few in my career which, as a defender, I'm happy with. The best for me would be the volley against Tottenham in 2012 for a number of reasons."
"The game which gave me most satisfaction was the League Cup final against Tottenham in 2015, but I only say that because certain things in football stick with you. Earlier that season we lost 5-3 away against them, which happens, you lose games. But for months after that match I was always having to answer questions about it in interviews. You would have thought we'd lost the Champions League final to them, I couldn't believe so much fuss was made about one game. Sometimes in football you get an opportunity to quieten a few people down so it was very satisfying when we beat them at Wembley."
-Gary Cahill; source: Chelsea FC
Indeed, it was. Perhaps something similar will play out this season, and once again make all the fuss made about the 2-0 loss look silly in the end.
Gary Cahill is currently 70th on the all-time appearance list with 220 and is starting to approach some pretty big names. He's signed on for another two seasons after this one and looks about as integral to Chelsea at the moment as he's ever been.
Well done, EBGC! Here's to many more wins and trophies! And a few more bicep curls.