Olivier Giroud has admitted he saw himself ‘far away from Chelsea’ during a difficult January window, one which saw his proposed exit eventually blocked by manager Frank Lampard: with the experienced Frenchman set to join Inter Milan.
By the time the coronavirus outbreak halted English football earlier this month, Giroud had forced his way back into starting contention with the Blues.
Tammy Abraham’s absence through a troublesome ankle injury saw him seize his opportunity to feature more regularly – with fellow forward Michy Batshuayi misfiring.
However, the 33-year-old has now revealed he was poised to join Serie A side Inter Milan two months ago, only for the move to be blocked last-minute by his boss.
Since playing 71 minutes during their 1-0 defeat to West Ham on November 30, he was an unused substitute once and not involved in matchdays for the Blues‘ following eleven top-flight matches.
During a press conference in January, Lampard was asked to clarify Giroud’s future amid speculation that he would be departing – just two years after sealing a move to west London from rivals Arsenal. He revealed that they were close to finalising things, despite the player behaving excellently despite the tricky circumstances:
Lampard on Giroud, January 10: “I think he has been a great professional here. He has trained brilliantly through this season, even without many opportunities. So I hold him in a high regard in that respect, though nothing is done yet.”
With his contract set to expire this summer, he netted two goals in three league starts between February 22 and March 8, a 4-0 home thrashing against Everton proving their final game before this current hiatus.
France’s Euro 2020 campaign remained of paramount importance to him, hence why his quest for more first-team minutes was key:
Giroud was keen on a reunion with Antonio Conte in Milan, though Lampard’s failure to sign a replacement meant he blocked the move from completion.
As quoted by the Evening Standard via Telefoot, Giroud said:
“In January, I saw myself far away from Chelsea. I saw six complicated months ahead of me, that’s why I had the desire to change scenery and tried to leave.
It was all done, but in the end Chelsea didn’t want to let me go. Everyone knows that Inter’s sporting project was the most interesting for me. Then aside, Lazio and Tottenham also looked at me.”
He also revealed there was interest elsewhere in Italy and back home in France, as well as the speculation surrounding him potentially joining his third London club in Tottenham:
“At one point, it was a question of where I wanted to play. I talked to Conte on the phone, he’s known me from when he took me to Chelsea: that was an advantage for me.
They play in the Champions League and are a great club. Lazio, for their part, tried absolutely everything, even coming to London to try something, but the deal was blocked.
I also talked on the phone to Lyon’s president [Jean-Michel Aulas], who expressed an interest, but I told him that my priority was going to Inter.”