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Conor Gallagher is used to being the odd one out in expensive midfields, surrounded by extravagant purchases. At Chelsea, he is often part of a trio that cost a total of £222 million, while he himself was acquired for nothing. Enzo Fernandez and Moises Caicedo, on the other hand, were acquired for prices exceeding £100 million. Chelsea was the first to push the boundaries and pay such high fees for midfielders, making Gallagher the sidekick to four players with transfer fees in the nine figures. “Training and playing alongside midfielders worth over £100 million is a good experience,” Gallagher stated modestly.
It could be argued that nobody else has as much experience as Jude Bellingham. Despite his withdrawal from the England squad for matches against Malta and North Macedonia, Real Madrid could potentially pay up to £114m to acquire him. Declan Rice’s transfer fee was £105m. Gallagher’s rapid development has made him a potential regular partner for the Euro 2024 squad, especially considering his role as captain at Chelsea this season. With Jordan Henderson currently in Saudi Arabia and Kalvin Phillips on the bench at Manchester City, Gallagher’s performance at the club level is making a strong case for his inclusion in the national team.
One year ago on Wednesday, he got on a plane to Qatar. Gallagher openly confessed during the World Cup that he was unsure why he was chosen for the team. He explained, “I wasn’t getting much playing time at Chelsea and we were struggling, so that’s why I said that in an interview.”
Playing a minor role for Stamford Bridge caused him to experience imposter syndrome while representing his country. He admitted to feeling uncertain about whether he would start and the team’s plans for the season due to the previous year’s uncertainties. He worried that he would become dispensable with the influx of high-priced midfielders. He expressed concern about losing his spot on the team. Despite trying to downplay it, he acknowledged that he was anxious about competing with top players in his position for playing time.
However, Chelsea has been experiencing confusion for most of the past year, but Gallagher is currently benefiting from the chaos. Being a homegrown player, he holds special value to Todd Boehly as he would bring in pure profit if sold. Due to Financial Fair Play regulations, it made sense to sell Gallagher. However, Mauricio Pochettino saw potential in keeping him in the team. Tottenham and West Ham also showed interest in acquiring him. Even on deadline day, his future remained uncertain.
“It was a busy time for transfers at Chelsea and I talked with the manager who told me he valued me as a player and included me in his plans. I was delighted with that,” stated Gallagher. Pochettino has various methods of showing how crucial Gallagher is to the team. He has played in every league game while Fernandez and Caicedo, the highly-priced players, were both taken out in the chaotic 4-4 tie against Manchester City on Sunday. In contrast, Gallagher played the entire match.
He has served primarily as a temporary captain this season, representing his beloved Chelsea in the absence of Reece James and Ben Chilwell. “I enjoy wearing the armband,” he expressed. This opportunity allows him to lead alongside the esteemed Thiago Silva and follow in the footsteps of legendary players like John Terry and Frank Lampard, who have inspired him. “Especially Frank, since he was my manager last season and provided me with valuable guidance,” Gallagher shared.
Lampard had a long career at Stamford Bridge. Gallagher has been a member of Chelsea’s team for 15 years. It is uncertain if he will continue to be a part of the team for much longer. He only has two years left on his contract and Chelsea may consider selling him, but Gallagher is confident that he will sign a new contract. He stated, “I am certain that will be sorted out. Everyone is aware that Chelsea is my team and I enjoy playing for them.”
He has been influenced by both World Cup winner Fernandez and the record-breaking Premier League player Caicedo while learning. In addition to this, his development as a player has also been influenced by non-league midfielders. Before establishing himself at Chelsea, he had previous experiences at Charlton, Swansea, West Brom, and Crystal Palace. His brothers, Dan, Jake, and Josh, have played for lower-level teams such as Dorking, Welling, Leatherhead, Aylesbury, and Maidstone. Despite this, the successful sibling acknowledges their understanding of the game and has incorporated aspects of their playing style into his own.
However, the learning process began harshly. “I was thrown into goal,” Gallagher remembered. “They handed me the goalie gloves and relentlessly hit balls at me.” He is not the only member of his family to receive an England call-up: Jake also caught the attention of the England C team, representing non-league football. Despite playing at different levels, their goals remain the same. “I hope to play more for England,” Conor said. While it may not be the same as playing alongside Caicedo, Fernandez, Bellingham, and Rice, this could be a pivotal season for Gallagher on both the national and club level.