Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud “did everything” he could to leave the club during the January transfer window.
The 33-year-old saw his football largely restricted to the Europa League under Maurizio Sarri last season, finishing up as the competition’s top scorer with 11 goals as Chelsea on the tournament.
How close was Giroud to leaving Chelsea? Five things to know…
- Giroud was the Europa League’s top scorer last season with 11 goals.
- This season, he’s been unable to usurp Tammy Abraham from Chelsea’s starting XI and has played just 442 minutes in the league.
- He’s also often found himself behind Michy Batshuayi for a place on the bench.
- Giroud even spoke to Inter boss Antonio Conte in January.
- Spurs and Lazio also showed interest but Frank Lampard blocked a potential move.
This season, things have got even worse. Giroud is behind Tammy Abraham in the pecking order, while Michy Batshuayi has more often than not been Frank Lampard’s back-up on the bench. The Belgian striker has been subbed on 15 times by Lampard in the Premier League this season. In comparison, Giroud has made four substitute appearances.
A number of European clubs were thought to be interested in Giroud, including London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Italian giants Inter Milan and Lazio.
In the end, no move transpired, although that wasn’t for the want of trying on Giroud’s part.
“To be honest, I saw myself playing elsewhere,” he told Telefoot. “I had six tough months, which is why I wanted a change of scene to get back to playing and enjoying myself on the pitch, so I tried to leave in January.
“I did everything I could, but Chelsea didn’t want to let me leave because the condition in place was that they had to bring in a replacement. On 31 January, I still hoped that I would leave. I was very disappointed, but I’d say that by the following morning, I’d put that behind me.
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“I got straight back into the swing of things and was lucky that we had the winter break. I came back the week after raring to go and had the game against Manchester United when I came on and scored, but was marginally offside.
“Then there was the goal against Tottenham and I started playing regularly. That’s how it is now. The coach [Frank Lampard] had promised me more playing time and kept his word, so I simply tried to take my chance.”
Of the three clubs credited with the biggest interest in Giroud, the France international says Inter was the “most interesting project”, with former Chelsea boss Antonio Conte particularly keen on reuniting with the player.
“Everyone knows the most interesting sporting project for me was at Inter Milan,” Giroud added. “The problem was that it dragged on and although Lazio and Tottenham were both interested, in the end, it was no longer a question of where I would go, rather if I could leave or not.
“As for Inter, I’d spoken to (Antonio) Conte on the phone and he knew me from his time at Chelsea, having been the coach that brought me here. He liked my profile as a player, so that was an advantage, plus Inter were going to be in the Champions League [next year] and it’s a huge club.
“I went to see Frank Lampard in his office on the three or four final days of the transfer window every morning to try to find a solution. He gave me my chance, and I took it. In the end, Lampard needed me.”
Can Giroud overhaul Abraham?
With 13 goals in 25 Premier League appearances so far this season, it’s been something of a breakthrough campaign for Abraham, who has previously been farmed out on loan to the likes of Swansea City and Aston Villa.
Although it’s hard to see a 33-year-old Giroud permanently overhauling Abraham in Lampard’s starting XI, he could certainly rotate with the England international to avoid burnout – perhaps ahead of Batshuayi, who has one Premier League goal for the season compared to Giroud’s two.
This season, Abraham leads the way among the three strikers in terms of goals per 90 minutes (0.60) and shots on target per 90 (1.53). But Giroud has continued to demonstrate his famed ability to bring the best out of others, winning 5.29 aerial duels per 90 and creating 1.22 chances per 90.
Didier Deschamps used Giroud to great effect en route to winning the 2018 World Cup and with wingers such as Chrisitan Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and Pedro at his disposal, Lampard could use him as a similarly effective foil should opposition tactics dictate it — it also wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility for Giroud and Abraham to be used in partnership together.