Them and us – Mario Melchiot (Wigan Athletic and Chelsea)

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The visit of Chelsea to the DW Stadium on Saturday evening gives TNS the opportunity to look back at the career of a Wigan Athletic and Chelsea legend.  Step forward, Mario Melchiot.

Mario was born in Amsterdam on 4th November 1976 and started his career as a youngster with Ajax.  He had three eventful seasons with the  ‘Godenzonen’ during which he helped the club to two Dutch Cup Final victories and the Dutch Championship.  After making 73 league appearances during which he netted once, he was transferred to Chelsea, who were then managed by Gianluca Vialli, in the summer of  1999.

He took time to settle into things at Stamford Bridge and it was 22nd April 2000 before he made his Premiership debut for the Pensioners in a home game against Middlesbrough that resulted in a 1-1 draw.  From then on he was ever present in the team all the way to the 2000 FA Cup Final against Aston Villa, after which he picked up a winners medal following a 1-0 victory!

His next outing for the Pensioners also resulted in him winning a medal, this time it was following a 2-0 Charity Shield victory over Manchester United, a game during which he netted his first Chelsea goal.

He made a total of 117+13 Premier League appearances during his spell at Stamford Bridge, netting four times.  He then joined Birmingham City, who were managed former (and future!) Latics manager Steve Bruce on 8th July 2004.  His debut for the St Andrews outfit also resulted in a 1-1 draw on 14th August 2001.

He was to make 55+1 Premier League appearances for Birmingham during which he scored twice.  Ironically one of the goals he scored came against Latics in a Premier League fixture on 2nd January 2006 in a 2-0 victory at St Andrews!

In August 2006,  Mario spent a season in France with Rennes during which he appeared in 30 games and scored twice.

He arrived at the JJB Stadium on 15th June 2007, signing a three-year contract, on a free transfer from the French outfit. He was new manager Chris Hutchings’ third summer signing. He turned down a few Premiership clubs and a host to top name European clubs, including Marseille, Paris St Germain, Lyon, Roma, Lazio and Olympiakos in order to sign for the Blues, expressing his delight that Latics proved the most persuasive of all of those clubs interested in him.

Hutchings, decided to make him the club captain following the departure of both Arjan De Zeeuw and Matt Jackson prior to his signing. His first game for the club was on 17th July 2007 whilst the club was on a pre season training camp and the opposition were Dutch Second Division outfit FC Zwolle. Latics ran out 2-0 winners. He made his Premiership debut on the opening day of the 2007/08 season, 11th August 2007, against Everton at Goodison Park, a game that Latics lost 2-1. He made 312 Premiership appearances during the season without scoring before a serious injury put an end to his season with just two games of it remaining.

The next game he played was for Holland in a European Championship group game against Romania on 17th June 2008. This ensured that he went down in history as the first Latics player to ever feature in the competition. He left the club on 4th June 2010 to join Qatar outfit Umm Salal and his Latics career reads, 96+1 Premier League games without scoring.

Amazingly in this day and age, the total cost of all Mario’s transfers was NOTHING!

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