This is the ninth instalment in Football FanCast’s Legacies series, which pays tribute to those players and managers who leave a compelling story behind as they move on to pastures new.
Next up in the Legacies series involves a player in Gary Cahil who’s divided opinion over the years, even though he was an integral part of Chelsea’s success over the course of the past seven and a half seasons.
Having fallen out of favour with Maurizio Sarri, Cahill decided to call time on his Chelsea journey earlier this summer and seek opportunities elsewhere.
With the defender out of contract, the footballing world will soon find out his next move, but what legacy does he leave behind after such a prolonged spell in west London?
Cahill arrived from Bolton for a fee of around £7m in 2012 after coming up through the ranks at Aston Villa.
His first goal came in an FA Cup quarter-final tie against Leicester in 2012, and he’s scored plenty of goals since then.
Blessed with the opportunity of playing around top defenders, Cahill raised his standards and seldom looked out of his depth in a serial winning squad, even when sharing the pitch with the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba.
He was vital to Jose Mourinho’s team during his second stint as Chelsea manager, making 66 Premier League appearances in his first two seasons.
And his growing influence continued into Antonio Conte’s time at the helm. He started 36 of Chelsea’s 38 league matches as they stormed to another Premier League title, scoring six vital goals in the process.
Within six months of joining the club, Cahil was starting in the Champions League final alongside David Luiz, and he helped the club clinch the most coveted trophy in world football just days after the Blues beat Liverpool 2-1 in the FA Cup final. Indeed, it rapidly became apparent that he was good enough to compete at the pinnacle of club football.
Having formed a comfortable partnership with Terry for a couple of years, Conte shook things up once more and moved Cahill to the left of a central defensive trio, with Luiz and Cesar Azpilicueta completing the unit.
Cahill began to fall out of favour in recent years, with the arrival of Antonio Rudiger and emergence of Andreas Christensen forcing him to accept a bit-part role before he departed.
Cahill’s first season at Chelsea may well end up being his most memorable of all.
After his arrival for a modest fee, the ex-Villa man found himself at the forefront of a Chelsea revival under the watch of Roberto Di Matteo.
Throughout his time as a Premier League footballer Cahill managed to score 27 goals, proving he was a threat in front of goal as well as a strong defensive unit at the back.
His 92 clean sheets in 349 appearances equates to around one in every 3.8 games on average, and that’s a stellar return given he also played for Bolton and Villa in the top flight.
The rivalry between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea has always been a fierce one and there is a special place in Chelsea fans’ hearts for anyone who manages to notch in the all-London affair.
And that’s exactly what Cahil did.
William Gallas awkwardly headed a a corner back into the danger zone and, with the ball dropping back towards the turf, Cahil seized his opportunity and lashed home an emphatic volley into the roof of the net and silenced the White Hart Lane crowd.
The defender loved a goal against Spurs though and he didn’t stop there. He made sure to raise his game once again in 2016 when Spurs were chasing Leicester City for the title.
At 2-0 down, Chelsea needed to pull off a fightback to deny their bitter rivals the title in an enchanting, captivating, vicious, violent and season-defining game that was later coined the “Battle of the Bridge”.
And it was Cahill who bagged the first of two, poking the ball into the net from close range to instigate a fightback that passed the trophy into Leicester’s hands.
What’s his legacy?
When you look at the trophies he’s won, he seems to qualify for legendary status as much as anybody else, but it doesn’t quite work that way.
While this may be too harsh to apply to Cahill, there is a point to be made that the successes of many players are facilitated by the calibre of their teammates.
That is not to say that he did not deserve his spot in one of Europe’s elite teams, but he was ever so slightly punching above his weight.
Cahill’s legacy tells us that even with all the money in the world, there are bargain buys to be found: for a mere £7m, Chelsea signed a future captain and a player who went on to win every trophy possible with the club.
He’s perhaps not a legend, but certainly a player Chelsea fans will remember fondly as someone who played an integral role in quenching Roman Abramovich’s insatiable thirst for silverware.