John Terry recently sat down for a Q&A with Stephen Hendry on Instagram Live and spoke about his time under José Mourinho. He also talked a bit about Antonio Conte, with whom he also won a Premier League title.
Particularly, JT mentions the handling of the Nathan Aké situation, and how he tried to encourage Conte to make use of the young defender.
“Even throughout that season, he was putting me on the bench. I went to see him around Christmas time, and was like ‘gaffer, listen you’re putting me on the bench and we’ve got Nathan Ake’, who for me was an unbelievably talented young player. I said ‘put him on the bench because the chances of him coming on are really slim, it’s going to be great experience for him.’
“He was on the bench for about seven, eight or 10 games, and he ended up playing against Spurs in the [FA Cup] semi-final that year. And it was just little stuff like that. I’m not sure players would have done what I done.“
-John Terry; source: Football.London
You’ve just got to love JT here; despite knowing it would mean getting even less game time in his final season, he nevertheless prioritized the future of an exciting academy product. Though Terry’s influence couldn’t sway Conte entirely, he did seem to help get Aké a handful of appearances in our title-winning season.
(Ed.counterpoint: that said, not sure it was the smartest to encourage Chelsea and Conte to recall Aké from a good situation at Bournemouth, only to then just stick him on the bench. Not exactly a good way to generate goodwill.)
Aké had been on an impressive and successful loan at Bournemouth before being recalled by Chelsea. However, after his return, two starts and eight unused sub appearances in 18 Premier League games led to him being sold to Bournemouth, and we all know the story since then.
While the legal battles have cast a shadow over him in recent times, one cannot really fault Conte too much in this situation. Chelsea were on course to winning a title very much against the odds, and the team in the back end of the 2016-17 season wasn’t as explosive as the months before. Essentially, Conte put his faith in experience before youth, and who can blame him.
Whether or not Chelsea’s buy-back clause, which supposedly expired in January, is still existent remains a mystery, but after all the rumours linking us to Aké throughout 2019, it’s been rather quiet since. Chelsea may have moved on to other targets.
It’s a shame how the Nathan Aké situation ended at Chelsea, especially seeing how good a defender he has developed into. Terry, ever a proponent of Chelsea youth, apparently tried to fix things, but it was probably too little too late. But these are sorts of things that truly make Captain, Leader such a club Legend indeed.