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Chelsea legend John Terry is rated as one of the greatest players to have ever played for the club, but the Blues legend has hailed three of the club’s iconic figures for the role they played in the club when they arrived.
Terry, who was an academy product, started out with Chelsea not competing for the biggest trophies, ended up with the club now among the best in the world.
Terry has looked back at the signings of Gianfranco Zola, Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli across two summers in 1995 and 1996, and how they changed the club’s mentality to fitness and nutrition, which was nonexistent before their arrival.
“Compared to what it’s like today, it [the professionalism of players] is black and white, complete opposites,” Terry said during a conversation with the former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen on the platform Unacademy.
“[At the start of my career] we would finish training and go upstairs and have burger and chips or sausage and mash. It was just a couple of ladies who lived by the training ground who would cook the food.
“There was no nutritional aspect. You would finish training, leave straightaway and be home by 1pm.
“We were lucky at Chelsea because we signed Zola, Gullit and Vialli and they turned up at the training ground and said, ‘where’s the food, where’s the protein? We need a bigger gym, we need to stretch more’.
“They took it to another level and I was really lucky to be around those players at that stage of my career.
“Gianfranco would get in two hours before anyone else, he would go to the gym for a weight session, he would stretch for two hours after training.
“He would eat the right food and those guys just took it to another level and it’s probably gone on another five or six levels from there to where we are today.”
Chelsea would eventually win the FA Cup in 1997, which started an era of trophy success for the Blues, with Gianfranco Zola going on to become one of the greatest players in the club’s history.