That’s how many Chelsea conceded during the entirety of the title-winning 2004/05 Premier League season – a record which still stands to this day.
To hit that kind of tally, you need an outstanding centre-back partnership, and in John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, Chelsea had exactly that.
There’s nothing left to say about Terry, whose status as a club legend and all-time great is not up for debate. However, for whatever reason, Carvalho is often overlooked when it comes to discussing the best to ever grace the Premier League. Why?
Carvalho moved to Stamford Bridge in 2004 when he was 26 years old, and while he obviously had a good few years left in him, he wasn’t going to reach ten years of service. Indeed, Father Time caught up with Carvalho during the 2008/09 season, when his 30-year-old body began to fail him.
Having delivered just four years of outstanding performances, Carvalho’s efforts at Stamford Bridge seem to get overshadowed by Terry’s 19-year tenure, but the Portuguese international still deserves to be part of the all-time great conversation.
After all, this is the man who Terry told Dubai Eye was his best-ever partner. When you think of everyone Terry has played alongside – Rio Ferdinand, David Luiz, William Gallas are just three examples – that’s high praise indeed.
“I think sometimes we go day after day for the big names. Big names make big headlines and players like Carvalho are sometimes players people forget,” José Mourinho said of his countryman (via the Newcastle Chronicle) back in 2007.
That’s precisely the problem. Carvalho was never a man to steal the spotlight. He was simply a defender who went out and did his job at the highest-possible standard, before going home and doing it all again next week. That was it.
Aerially dominant with perfect positioning, he was the ideal man to disrupt opponents. You’d bank on him winning any challenge, whether it be on the ground or in the air, and that’s all defending is. It’s the art of stopping an opponent from scoring.
Carvalho wasn’t the most physically imposing defender around. Instead, his intelligence was his greatest weapon. He knew where to stand to block someone, where to run to ensure he could catch someone and how much force to put into a tackle to win it safely. It was all about precision.
That cerebral advantage was what made Carvalho so good. Sure, Terry would have done well alongside anyone (as we saw towards the end of his career), but it was Carvalho’s influence which took Chelsea to the next level. Without him, there would have been no mid-noughties dominance.
Unfortunately, as he grew older, he struggled to actually execute his plans and ideas. Holding down a consistent spot in the team became hard, and he eventually swapped the Bridge for the Santiago Bernabéu to reunite with Mourinho at Real Madrid in 2010.
That abrupt exit definitely harmed his reputation. Terry lasted 19 years in the Premier League with the Blues, Ferdinand managed 12 with Manchester United and Nemanja Vidi? managed eight. Four years at the top wasn’t enough.
Having said that, it should be about what Carvalho did during his time at the Bridge and not how long he managed to do it for.
In a league which is famed for its physicality, Carvalho showed that things could be done differently. You didn’t have to put in a crunching tackle and flatten attackers to look good. As long as you’re winning the ball, you’re doing a good job.
By dissecting the game of football, Carvalho dominated the Premier League during his peak, and that’s what greatness is all about.
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