Olivier Giroud’s great escape from his Chelsea purgatory ended in frustration, but there may still be hope left for him.
Leaving Chelsea was Olivier Giroud’s main target ahead of one of the most important years of his career.
The 33-year-old knows his time is running out. The upcoming Euro 2020 may be his final international tournament. Therefore, he was desperate to escape Stamford Bridge in January.
Like two seasons ago at Arsenal, Giroud finds himself on the fringes and at risk of not making the France squad.
He has only made three starts under Chelsea coach Frank Lampard in all competitions this season. Tammy Abraham’s breakthrough campaign has severely limited his opportunities.
Not helping Giroud is the fact that Michy Batshuayi has leapfrogged him in the pecking order. The Belgian’s goal tally for this term, though, makes that call a bit of a mystery for all of us.
Nevertheless, Giroud’s only option to guarantee himself of regular football was to leave Chelsea in January.
The striker could have waited for his contract to expire in the summer and leave as a free agent. He knew, however, that would harm his hopes of competing in Euro 2020.
A glimmer of hope
The former Arsenal man wasn’t short of offers in the January transfer window and seemed set for an exit.
At the very top of the list was Inter Milan, whose head coach Antonio Conte signed Olivier Giroud for Chelsea in 2018.
The Italian was keen on bringing Giroud to the San Siro and personally informed him so. Thus, Chelsea and Inter began talks on a potential €6.50m transfer.
Giroud, meanwhile, verbally accepted a 2.5-year contract offer from the Serie A title challengers.
But Chelsea were adamant from the outset that they would only permit the transfer on one condition. That was in their ability to find a suitable replacement to support Abraham upfront.
The long delay caused Inter’s interest to fade before Lampard put the brakes on Giroud leaving on Friday.
But there may still be a glimmer of hope for the Frenchman in terms of game time in London. After all, Lampard is short of options upon failing to sign even one new player this winter.
While Abraham has been struggling with fitness issues recently, and Batshuayi’s performances have hardly been convincing.
To compensate for this problem, Lampard briefly attempted to play Christian Pulisic as a false nine. But it didn’t work, with the American currently sidelined with an adductor injury.
So there is no reason to doubt that Giroud will feature again for the Blues despite not making a Premier League appearance since a 1-0 home defeat to West Ham on November 30.
His commitment and professionalism during these difficult times will also serve him well.
“He has been incredible as a player and a man during this time,” confirmed Lampard on Friday.
Giroud is a game-changer
Tottenham, Manchester United, Barcelona and Lazio all allegedly had Olivier Giroud on their radars this winter.
This isn’t really surprising considering that the World Cup winner is a proven goalscorer in the Premier League and Europe. He’s also one of the most committed footballers in the game.
So Chelsea’s failure to sign a new striker in the January transfer window may be a blessing in disguise.
“He’s like [Didier] Drogba,” ex-Tottenham goalkeeper Jimmy Walker told Love Sport Radio.
“He can hold the ball up, win headers, link the play and be a real focal point for the side.
Thus, the 33-year-old could add some valuable depth to Lampard’s squad in the Champions League.
Bayern Munich await them in the last-16 stage, which will be anything but easy. If anyone can spring a surprise, though, then it could well be Giroud.
The veteran forward is someone for big occasions and broke the deadlock in last season’s Europa League final against Arsenal.