We were anticipating that Pato’s deal would result in one of Loic Remy or Radamel Falcao being sold, but despite all the rumours linking both players with moves locally and abroad, both have stayed put with the team. Falcao however, seems to still be injured and God knows when/ if he will be fit.
This, perhaps, is where Pato comes in. Despite not selling one of our two back up strikers, we seem to have given up on Falcao for good and have seen the need to sign another back up, even if we could not offload Falcao (I would like to remind myself and everyone that just three years ago, Falcao was the best striker on the planet, just how quickly things change in football)
All of that has made it more surprising that we were prepared to give Pato, who like we’ve mentioned is only a second or first back up at most, the legendary jersey #11 worn by club icon and former striker, Didier Drogba for five+one years at our club. Drogba has been for the past decade the perfect metaphor for Chelsea; strong, prolific, successful and a little bit mischievous. He has been the catalyst of the greatest moments in Chelsea history (his Champions League winning goal, FA Cup Final(s) performances and 2009-10 league performances are only a few standouts)
Drogba had initially inherited the #11 jersey from the last old school winger to wear the number with Chelsea, and that was Damian Duff, who was one of the very first signings of the Abramovic revolution. Other wearers of the number include Boudewijn Zenden and of course, club legend and our second most successful captain ever, Dennis Wise.
So are we insulting the memory of those players by giving the number eleven jersey to Pato? Well, not really. Aside from Zola’s 25 jersey, we really have never had a culture of preserving numbers, and we really should not. Signalling out one of the numbers as “special” usually adds unneeded pressure on the new player that gets to wear it. One can take a look at the abysmal failure of both Angel Di Maria and Memphis, both of whom wore United’s number seven kit and were only able to deliver a series of underwhelming performances because of the pressure and sheer weight placed upon their shoulders, among other things.
One has to also consider the fact that in football, there isn’t traditional a large set of numbers for players to choose from. Meaning that if a club were to preserve numbers only for players who are “worthy” of them, then the remaining numbers would not be enough the other squad members. And if there is a number that we should consider retiring, then it’s 26, after John Terry’s probable departure from Stamford Bridge.
Pato might be a disappointing signing for many, especially since we were being linked with names like Texeirra before January, but him being given the number 11 is not that big of a deal, and we really should not make it out to be.