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Macintosh: The Martinez master plan

Everton 42 minutes ago
Read
Jul 10, 2013

Schwarzer takes a gamble on Chelsea

Mark Schwarzer is the latest in a long line of footballers to be wooed by Jose Mourinho. The veteran goalkeeper has been unveiled as Chelsea's newest signing, but will his decision to join the Stamford Bridge ranks cost him a place in the record books?

The 40-year-old will become the oldest goalkeeper to ever appear at a World Cup - and the second oldest player overall behind Cameroon's Roger Milla - if he is taken to Brazil by Australia coach Holger Osieck next year. Until a matter of weeks ago, that would have seemed the simplest of formalities.

Having played a record-breaking 108 times for his country, Schwarzer's name is one of the first added to Osieck's squad list come time for international duties. His consistency for his country, for whom he has appeared at two consecutive World Cups already, is matched only by his professionalism and leadership. He, alongside Lucas Neill and Luke Wilkshire, is a mainstay of the national team, charged with helping Australia's generation next progress onto the world stage.

However, his automatic selection for the Socceroos was a result of regular playing time at club level for Fulham. Despite various dips and rises in form, not to mention competition from Australia's other goalkeepers, the fact that Schwarzer was playing week-in week-out in the Premier League allowed him to keep a firm grip on his place in the national team.

That, of course, is unlikely to be the case at Chelsea. Incumbent goalkeeper Petr Cech made 59 appearances in all competitions for the Blues last season, and is evidently a key player in the squad. At 31 years of age, Cech will surely not give up his starting spot easily, particularly with Mourinho back at the helm.

Which hints at a reason behind Schwarzer's move. Under Mourinho, Chelsea will consider themselves genuine contenders for the Premier League title next season, and what better way for a veteran to sign off on a strong Premier League career than by pushing for silverware.

Schwarzer, who will turn 41 in October, was refused the opportunity to join Arsenal in 2010 after Fulham rejected two transfer bids, while the goalkeeper himself turned down Bayern Munich and Juventus in 2008 in favour of more game time at Fulham.

These nearly-realised dreams of big-club success surely played on his mind when Mourinho came knocking.

Strangely enough, Schwarzer decided to leave Fulham because of rumblings Maarten Stekelenburg was poised to join the club and his first-team place could not be guaranteed. A potential decline in playing time in a World Cup year was seen by Schwarzer as unthinkable. Now he appears certain to be trapped behind Cech.

The move, though, is a great one for Mourinho and Chelsea. They have signed an experienced goalkeeper who will push Cech all season. On a personal level, it's also great for Schwarzer, who will join a world-class club nearby his home in west London, allowing his young family to remain settled.

But the people to benefit most will be Schwarzer's competitors. Borussia Dortmund's Mitch Langerak, Liverpool's Brad Jones, Adam Federici of Reading, and Mat Ryan, who recently secured a move to Club Brugge will be delighted by the news. If someone such as Langerak - who played and won just three matches for the Champions League finalists last season - can secure even a semi-regular starting spot, it could spell danger for Schwarzer, and his country.

Indeed, if there has been an ongoing gripe from Australian football fans in recent years, it has been that Schwarzer has rarely been rested in internationals, which would allow other shot-stoppers to gain experience. Even in friendly clashes, Schwarzer has been handed the gloves as if by default. That could come back to bite Osieck, who will surely be loathe to drop his favourite custodian in the next 12 months.

It's an understandable move for Schwarzer, who has done right by his family and his unfulfilled dreams of Premier League glory. But his greatest triumph could yet come in Brazil next year, during a World Cup which he could now turn out to be watching from the sidelines.

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