Chelsea Football Club today bids farewell to Salomon Kalou, who has come to the end of his contract.
Kalou signed in the summer of 2006 and leaves six years later with winners’ medals including ones for the Premier League, FA Cup, Carling Cup and, of course, the Champions League.
He arrived as a 20-year-old understudy to the established Didier Drogba and fellow-new-arrival Andriy Shevchenko and quickly gained a reputation as an impact substitute.
No player in Chelsea history has come off the bench to enter the action more often than Kalou’s 107 occasions but it is a record he doesn’t enjoy owning, so it will please him that he closed his time at the club as a clear first-choice starter under Roberto Di Matteo.
He scored 60 goals during his six seasons, nine in his first year including an important equaliser against Spurs in an FA Cup quarter-final. He was an extra-time substitute in the Final as Chelsea beat Manchester United at the new Wembley, and had come on in the last few minutes of a Carling Cup Final victory over Arsenal at Cardiff earlier in the campaign. Jose Mourinho used the young player in 58 of the 64 games that season, starting him in 25.
Facing strong competition in the 2010/11 season from Drogba, Malouda, Nicolas Anelka and later Fernando Torres, Kalou netted 13 goals, including 10 in the league.
In his final season at the club, he appeared to fall out of favour with Andre Villas-Boas after handling for a late penalty equaliser conceded in Valencia, but returned to the starting line-up for Di Matteo’s first game in charge and didn’t look back, scoring the winner in Lisbon in Chelsea’s Champions League quarter-final first leg and making the starting line-up in the FA Cup Final against Liverpool, and in Germany versus Bayern Munich.
John Terry once described Kalou as the ‘nicest man in the world’ and it would be hard to find anyone who knew him at Chelsea who would disagree.
Maybe a lack of edge led to managers’ reluctance to start him in more games, and he could be guilty of wayward finishing at times, but he provided international-standard depth to the attacking section of the squad and undoubtedly played his part in an era of very high achievement at Stamford Bridge, culminating in that never-to-be-forgotten night in Munich, an occasion in which the Ivorian closed the curtain on his Chelsea career in the most memorable manner.
Kalou made a total of 254 appearances for the club, including 147 starts, and scored 60 goals.
But Chelsea fans shouldn’t be worried about where the striker will end up, he looks set to disappoint Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle by signing for Lille following his release by Chelsea.
Jose Bosingwa also left Chelsea FC today after 4 years at the London club.