John Terry made the number 26 shirt iconic at Chelsea.
The club’s greatest ever captain, Terry lifted five Premier League titles as well as the Champions League trophy with the unorthodox number on his back, but he certainly had good reason for doing so.
During a 2019 Q&A on Instagram, the Blues icon explained: “When I broke into the first team at Chelsea that was my number and I had seen some fans with my name and number on their shirts. I didn’t want them paying out for another shirt.”
Chelsea’s iconic No. 26 shirts
A very classy reason to say the least, and it also had the fortunate side effect of proving an easy number to immortalise in Chelsea’s history because it’s not exactly the first shirt that players reach for.
Much like Trent Alexander-Arnold standing by his number 66 jersey at Anfield, it’s a strip that’s not only incredibly personal to the player, but one that, by osmosis, becomes synonymous with that specific individual too.
And since Terry waved goodbye to Stamford Bridge on the back of yet another title triumph in 2016/17, the jersey for which he will be forever associated has gone untouched.
Koulibaly inherits No. 26
As a result, you would certainly have been forgiven for thinking that the Blues had quietly retired the shirt in much the same way AC Milan have done for Paolo Maldini or West Ham United did for Bobby Moore.
However, as understandable of an assumption as that is to make, it’s simply not the case because Terry’s legendary No. 26 shirt will indeed be returning to west London this season.
That’s because new signing Kalidou Koulibaly also happens to be a fan of the number having worn it for eight seasons at Napoli and will now continue that streak by way of inheriting Terry’s No. 26 batons at the Bridge.
And while Chelsea fans have suspected as much for quite some time now, they didn’t know the exact circumstances in which the Senegal international got his hands on such a timeless shirt.
Koulibaly calls up John Terry
Well, they can wonder no longer because Koulibaly didn’t just get the number by way of a five-second chat with the kit man, but, rather, showed his class by having a direct conversation with Terry himself.
On Monday, Koulibaly uploaded brilliant footage to his social media accounts that documented the phone call that he had with Terry where, in superb English, he politely asks for permission to inherit the jersey.
Trust us when we say it’s just as heartwarming and gentlemanly as it sounds, so be sure to check out Koulibaly and Terry’s changing of the guard for yourselves down below:
📌 July 15th, 2022
— Koulibaly Kalidou (@kkoulibaly26) August 1, 2022
Terry can be heard replying to Koulibaly’s request by saying: “The 26 was very special to me, I really appreciate you calling. It’s no problem for me for you to take it, absolute pleasure. I wish you well because I know how important the number was for me and I’ve seen you wear 26 as well.
“My pleasure mate, I give you the 26.” If that’s not going to endear Koulibaly to Chelsea fans, then we don’t know what will.
Pure class from both guys
You can just tell from that clip alone the level of respect that Koulibaly has for the club and its legends, not wanting to make any assumptions about why Terry’s beloved jersey hadn’t been used these past five years.
Plus, it’s just as classy from Terry to pave the way for Koulibaly to follow in his footsteps, clearly appreciating that the Blues signing had taken time out of his day to get his permission.
And while Koulibaly says himself at the end of the call that it’s a ‘heavy shirt’ for him to inherit, there’s no denying that he’s got all the tools to ensure that he’s a worthy successor to Mr. Chelsea himself.
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