"Mr. Chelsea" John Terry will leave Stamford Bridge on his own terms
John Terry did not allow the club's spin doctors to massage the message of Chelsea's decision not to offer their club captain a new contract. He seized the agenda for himself on Sunday, in typical John Terry fashion.
"It's not going to be a fairytale ending, I'm not going to retire at Chelsea," Terry told reporters after Chelsea's 5-1 FA Cup win at MK Dons, explaining that attempts to get a new deal struck had fallen on the deaf ears of the club's negotiators, sporting director Michael Emenalo and director Marina Granovskaia.
This was a case of Chelsea, a club in dire need of rebuilding, letting go of a 35-year-old player of fading powers and big wages. But most Chelsea fans are unlikely to be unhappy that their "Captain, Leader, Legend" is being cut adrift and Terry has now let them know who to blame. They already sing lustily for fallen hero Jose Mourinho, sacked in December.
"I was in last week before the Arsenal game and it [my contract] is not going to be extended," Terry revealed, pointedly mentioning a match in which he demonstrated all his craft and experience to extinguish the threat of Arsene Wenger's title-chasing Gunners in last week's 1-0 victory at the Emirates.
Terry's departure signals the end of the Chelsea dynasty that began with Mourinho's first game in charge, the 2004-05 season opener, a 1-0 home defeat of Manchester United. Like Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba and Petr Cech, who all played that day, Terry will become part of the club's past, a name that will remain emblazoned on flags in the Shed End or Matthew Harding Stand.
Terry is the totem of the club's most successful period, winning a European Cup, four Premier League titles, five FA Cups, the Europa League and three League Cups. Last season, as Chelsea swept to the title, Terry played all 38 matches, every minute of the season, becoming just the second outfield player -- Man United's Gary Pallister was the first in 1992-93 -- to do so.
Terry's effect on teammates is clear, too, if you look at the stats. In the 477 Premier League matches he has played, Chelsea have a 63.3 win percentage; in the 174 matches he has missed, the club's win percentage drops to 47.7 percent.
But with a new manager required to replace interim boss Guus Hiddink after Mourinho was sacked for the second time, 2016-17 will be a clean slate at the Bridge. "They said that when the new manager comes in, things might change," Terry said on Sunday. A door left slightly ajar, then, with Terry's timing of his revelation perhaps a last-gasp attempt to curry favour with fans and friendly media who can call for his time to be extended.
But at his age, any new manager, with Mauricio Pochettino and Diego Simeone leading the bookmakers' lists, will have to build their defence around someone other than a player who has served Chelsea with distinction since 1998.
Terry has, though, been mired in controversy almost since he made his breakthrough as a young defender. Tabloid tales have followed him, and a 2011 incident with Anton Ferdinand, in which Terry was alleged to have used a racist term against the QPR defender, was the lowest ebb of a lowly public image.
Terry was found not guilty by a magistrate but banned by the Football Association for four matches on lesser burden of proof, having also lost the England captaincy for a second time.
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Chelsea fans remain loyal to "JT", and they will lionise him to the last. Though decline had set in this season, as the Blues put up the worst title defence in living memory, Terry has always been "Mr. Chelsea".
They stuck behind him in his most troubled hours, including when he slipped while taking the penalty that would have won the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow, and when he was deservedly sent off against Barcelona in the same competition's semifinal in 2012. In the Munich final, a banned Terry took centre stage in the trophy ceremony wearing full kit -- including shin pads -- after his teammates beat Bayern. Amid worldwide mockery, the Chelsea faithful stoutly defended their captain. And why not? After so long at the club, he deserved his walk-on part in the greatest night in the club's history.
Stamford Bridge will not be the same without him. Even on those days he was not playing, Terry swaggered around like he owned the place, a man fully confident in his standing. He had spoken of wanting to be at the club until he was 40 and was never likely to be happy when that possibility was taken from him.
But he at least got to break the news on his own terms.
John Brewin is a staff writer for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JohnBrewinESPN.