Sam Allardyce recently hinted that the Blues defender could make a return to international action - but the veteran centre-back must take one step at a time
John Terry must forget the notion that he will ever play for England again and instead focus on reclaiming his place as Chelsea’s best defender.
Sam Allardyce claimed earlier this week that Terry could be handed a Three Lions recall, four years on from his international retirement.
Now, going backwards to move forwards rarely works, and there are many reasons why a recall would be unwise for both Allardyce and Terry.
Firstly, the Blues captain gave up on playing for his country in 2012 following a much-publicised racism row with both Anton Ferdinand – who he was alleged to have abused during a fixture with Queens Park Rangers – and the Football Association.
So toxic was the row that Fabio Capello also walked away from England after supporting his captain. Allardyce would be kicking a hornets’ nest if he chose to pick Terry in any upcoming squads.
But beyond that, and more importantly, Terry simply is not good enough to warrant an England call anymore. It may perhaps be harsh to single out a 35-year-old whose career is clearly winding down, but Terry has regressed significantly in the previous two seasons.
Such has been his fall from grace, it must be said that he is likely to lose his Blues place as soon as Kurt Zouma returns to fitness.
The France international, a central defender capable of both the brutal and the balletic, has been sidelined with a knee ligament injury since February but is nearing a return to full fitness and is likely to be given the chance to prove himself under Antonio Conte.
Thus Terry’s selection is out of necessity, rather than any talent on the defender’s behalf. Conte has just four central defenders to pick from, including Terry and Gary Cahill, with Ola Aina and Matt Miazga the back-ups. Aina is just 19 and has played once for the senior team, while Miazga is similarly inexperienced, playing just twice for the first XI.
Chelsea are also desperately hunting for central defensive reinforcements, a further sign that Conte simply does not trust his current selection. A bid for Milan defender Alessio Romagnoli has been rejected by the Serie A club, while pursuits of Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Torino’s Nikola Maksimovic are reported to be continuing.
It is not hard to imagine that a marquee summer signing will arrive and, all being well with Zouma’s recovery, slot into the back four alongside the 21-year-old.
Zouma is, after all, the player that Conte can build a back four around and rely on to continually produce excellent displays. At a relatively tender age Zouma has already made 58 appearances for the club and has shown that he is good on the ball, quick on the turn and exceptional in the tackle.
He is widely regarded, along with the likes of PSG’s Marquinhos and Athletic Bilbao’s Aymeric Laporte, as one of the best young central defenders in Europe, and his rise is in stark contrast to Terry’s fall.
Previously able to combat his lack of pace with a brilliant footballing mind, Terry has become leaden and is no longer the totem of this Chelsea side.
The veteran was as bad as anyone else in Chelsea’s squad during last season, as the champions crumbled to finish 10th in the worst ever Premier League title defence, and has yet to rediscover his form under Conte thus far.
The Italian will surely soon look to his younger, better alternative and give Zouma a run in the starting XI once his injury problems are behind him.
Allardyce must too seek alternatives; England’s defence is not as strong as it once was, but the reinstating of a has-been central defender will add nothing to the country’s current defensive unit.
Manchester City’s John Stones should be the undisputed first pick, while Chris Smalling may enjoy a renaissance under Jose Mourinho at the Blues’ bitter rivals United. Prevously unknown Rob Holding, too, is playing well enough for Arsenal to merit a future call.
Sanity, then, dictates that Terry must forget any hope he may have had of once again pulling on the colours of his country. Indeed, if Zouma hits the ground running upon his return, he may soon be wondering if he will ever play for Chelsea again.