LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 04: Raul Meireles of Chelsea celebrates victory after the UEFA Champions League Quarter Final second leg match between Chelsea and Benfica at Stamford Bridge on April 4, 2012 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
After a day's worth of rumours that a deal was close, we finally have official confirmation that Raul Meireles is a Fenerbahce player. Turns out that Fener are even slow at announcing things than Chelsea are, because the Blues beat them to the punch with this one. Unconfirmed reports have this deal as worth around €10 million.
And so Chelsea lose another central midfielder, just days after the loan of Michael Essien to Real Madrid. This is a fascinating move -- Chelsea's strength lies in the attacking band of midfield, not so much the double pivot, and the club has continued to strengthen the former without giving any apparent thought to the latter. In fact, two of the players we're relying on to provide depth in the centre, Brazilians Oscar and Ramires, are probably better off (at least for now) higher up the pitch.
But that's a discussion for later, I think. Right now is for goodbyes, and although Meireles was an often frustrating figure, he was instrumental in some key moments last season. His work over the two legs of the Barcelona tie was magnificent, and he was superb in flashes over the course of last year. And at least with him on the team he didn't bloody score against us again.
Now, you weren't anyone's favourite. Yes, your hair was stupid. But thanks for last year, Raul, and good luck in Turkey. Never forget that you're a Champion of Europe.