Chelsea new recruit Olivier Giroud pinpointed a return to Champions League action as a key factor in his decision to join the West London club from Arsenal on the deadline day of the January transfer window.
The French forward was a helpless onlooker as Chelsea thrashed to a 3-0 loss to visiting Bournemouth on Wednesday night to hurt their odds of qualifying for next season’s Champions League.
Chelsea stays eight points clear of Arsenal in the fight to finish in the top four, and furthermore have Barcelona to battle in the first leg of a blockbuster Champions League last 16 ties on February 20.
“The Champions League is massive for a football player. There is nothing above it when you’re playing for a club,” said the French international, who made six of his 10 starts for Arsenal this season in the Europa League.
“There will be two nice games against Barcelona. We know their qualities and I think everybody will need to be 100 per cent to go through.”
Aubameyang’s arrival at the Emirates clear path for Giroud to leave following five-and-a-half years spell with the North-London club as he looked for more minutes on the field to further his case for inclusion in France’s World Cup squad.
Also, his physical presence is exactly what Antonio Conte looked for amid a frustrating January for the Chelsea boss with Alvaro Morata sidelined by back injury.
“The most important thing was talking with the coach. I felt like he really wanted me and he really wanted to work with me,” Giroud added.
“I wanted to sign for Chelsea and nowhere else. I really wanted to play more. I wanted to stay in the Premier League, and Chelsea for me is perfect because I can even stay in London.
“But the first reason is the sporting challenge. That has always been my first priority. Everything is here for me to be happy.”