A couple of weeks ago, it was reported that Chelsea were intending to take up an option to extend Olivier Giroud’s contract for another year.
The France striker had looked set to leave London in January after barely featuring in Frank Lampard’s XI, but in the end was forced to stay after the club failed to secure a suitable replacement in the transfer window.
However, soon after he was back in the team and playing an important role again, and the idea that the former Arsenal forward had almost left just weeks before looked preposterous.
A one year extension option is hardly uncommon, especially for older players, and under normal circumstances this move by the cub wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows.
But the fact that this clause hadn’t been mentioned at all was curious. The talk in January was all “Chelsea will let him go or lose him in the summer,” but as it turns out they were able to unilaterally extend his deal anyway.
To add to the gently growing mystery, there has still been no announcement of the news by the club, even though it’s now a couple of weeks since sites like the Guardian reported that they were “preparing” to activate their option.
It’s not clear what “preparation” might be needed when they presumably just need to inform their forward of their decision, but let’s leave that to one side with the other minor curiosities of the situation.
Ultimately what’s puzzling is firstly why this alleged clause wasn’t central to the discussions about his future all season; and secondly why it wasn’t activated long ago.
If Chelsea want him to stay (as it appears they do now) they need to activate it to keep him at the club. If they want to sell him (as it appeared they wanted to in January) they need to activate it to prevent him leaving for free and to maintain his value.
So it never should have been in any doubt that the 33 year old was going to get that extra 12 months added, whether he went or not. Of course it’s possible that the negotiations with Inter Milan and the other clubs were all taking place on the understanding that Chelsea could and would extend that deal. In fact, that might explain why there were so many teams interesting in spending money on a player who was ostensibly available for free a few months later.
How Giroud feels is also uncertain. We know he wanted to leave after barely playing from August until January, but has the faith Lampard put in him in the final weeks of the season changed his mind? Have the club agreed to sell him if a team meets their asking price? Would he behave as well in a second season forced to sit on the bench? What happens if Chelsea spend £100m on a new forward in the summer? There are a lot more questions that answers at the moment.
The entire situation surrounding the striker is a little unclear, and while it has rightly been a footnote so far in the story of the coronavirus chaos and how it affects Premier League clubs, as things begin to resolve themselves over the next few months it will become an increasingly important bit of news in the context of Frank Lampard’s ongoing rebuild at Stamford Bridge.