When you think of Chelsea legends you would be forgiven for mentioning the likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry, Claude Makelele or even Terry Venables for the older folk out there. One name which would certainly not cross your mind is the name Matej Delac.
Who you ask? Well for you post 2009 Chelsea fans (upwards of 50%) he is Chelsea’s longest serving player. You heard right, the myth that is the 6ft 5’ Croatian shot stopper has played for the club for an impressive eight years and has racked up an incredible zero games for Chelsea. How can you begin to thank someone for that kind of service? I mean Kenny Dalgleish got a stand named after him, Bergkamp even got a statue. I know! How about giving him his first start for Chelsea at his testimonial.
The 25-year-old goalie started his career in Croatia for Inter Zapresic at the age of 16, making him the youngest ever player to start a game in the Croatian first division. He attracted the attention of Europe’s biggest clubs when he saved a penalty in the 85th minute against the then league leaders, Zagreb. That’s not the only record he broke, West Ham’s former gaffer, Slaven Bilic called him up to the national team in 2009 to play against Belarus and everyone’s favourite bunch of heartless pre-Madonna’s, England. This made him the youngest Croatian to be called up to the national squad.
So where did it all go wrong for the Football Manager 2010 legend? Well Delac turned down big offers from the likes of Benfica to play for London’s 3rd best team Chelsea, in a £3 million deal. Since then he’s been on a never-ending loan odyssey around Europe’s most mediocre leagues from the likes of Vitesse, to the depths of Frances 4th division. The reason for his never-ending journey around Europe was thanks to the government denying him a work permit for seven years. Theresa May must really hate the Croatians.
To the fans shock-horror, the club legend has recently handed in his transfer request claiming that his time at Chelsea was coming to an end. At the age of 25 Delac still has at least another 10 years to go on his European football club roadshow. Usually a testimonial is handed to someone after a decade of service, but can Chelsea please do the right thing and give this boy a game, even if it is against a bunch of old has-beens.
R.I.P. Matej Delac’s Premier League career, 2009-2017. Another prodigy swallowed up by the Chelsea youth system. Gone but not forgotten.