John Terry admitted it would have been “too much” to face Chelsea with a Premier League rival after he signed for Championship club Aston Villa on Monday.
The 36-year-old former England and Blues captain penned a one-year deal with Steve Bruce’s Villa after ending a 22-year association with Chelsea, where he won 15 major trophies including five Premier League titles.
Terry, who also made 78 appearances for his country, had offers to remain in the top flight but did not wish to come up against his long-time employers as an opponent so chose to drop down a level instead.
“I thank them for their offers – for me it was just the mental side of playing against Chelsea was too much to get over,” he said during a press conference at Villa Park broadcast live on Sky Sports News HQ.
“I had 22 years at the football club, 22 unbelievable years. I’m very proud of that but this is a new chapter in my life and my career.
“I wish Chelsea well next season and will be watching out but my thoughts are 100 per cent here and the ambition is to get us back to the Premier League.”
Villa are targeting promotion back to the top flight after their relegation in 2016, meaning they could be in the same division as Chelsea for the 2017-18 season.
Asked about the prospect of that scenario, a smiling Terry added: “That’s the ideal situation.
“If, in a year’s time, we’re sitting here and Aston Villa are playing in the Premier League then I’ve done my job and everyone else has done theirs.
“We can cross that bridge, hopefully, when we come to it. First and foremost we’ve got a big and important year ahead of us.”
Terry also confirmed that there would be no coaching role for him at his new club, though he has ambitions to follow that career path one day and sees Villa’s staff as ideal mentors.
“It’s solely playing,” he said. “But obviously I’m looking to learn from the likes of Steve (Bruce) and (Villa’s director of football) Steve Round, who I’ve played under at England.
“There’s a lot of factors to hopefully serve me well in the future. I can’t continue playing forever but whilst I’m in good physical condition I still want to continue playing.”
Chelsea announced in April that Terry would be leaving the club at the end of the season and at that point he was unsure if he would hang up his boots for good.
However, it soon became clear that his appetite to carry on remained and he revealed it was a round of golf with Bruce in Portugal last month that swayed him to move to the midlands.
“With things going to the end at Chelsea, I put everything to the side – a lot of managers were respectful of that,” he noted.
“It was bubbling once the season finished with phone calls, text messages, and I bumped into Steve in Portugal.
“I’ve got huge respect for him as a player, as a person and as a man. The way he’s dealt with me personally and professionally has been great and a key factor in me joining.
“I’m delighted because I still want to continue playing. I’m 36, that hunger’s still there to win and fight week-in, week-out.”
Bruce revealed he first held boardroom-level talks about acquiring Terry two months ago.
And as a former defender-turned-manager, his pitch revolved around Terry’s desire to continue playing.
“The main thing was John and his will to play,” Bruce said.
“He wants to play and I just reiterated that to him – that you’re a long-time retired, you’ve still got a lot to offer.
“It’s a huge acquisition for all of us here. It sends out a message of intent.”