Over in Lille, the self-styled trooper was reminiscing. Salomon Kalou chose to pass over the Premier League title he had claimed at Chelsea, not to mention the four FA Cups and a League Cup. He opted against lingering on the European Cup final lost to Manchester United in Moscow in 2008 and recalled, instead, a winning goal at Benfica in a Champions League quarter-final and that last, glittering occasion he pulled on the London club's kit at the Allianz Arena in May last year.
"People thought I never played, or only had a little role, but over six years I played in all the big games," said the Ivorian. "I was there whenever the team needed me, against Barcelona in the semis, United and Bayern in the finals, and was one of those they leaned on. I was more like a foot soldier, and people don't recognise the foot soldiers so much. In hindsight, when people talk about that team and the trophies we won, they remember the important goals I scored and appreciate me more. Now, when I see Chelsea fans, they say: 'You helped us win the Champions League. You were one of those in Munich who made history.'"
Kalou's may so often have been the cameo performance, whether from the start (147 times) or off the bench (107) to be employed anywhere across the front line, but seven Chelsea managers appreciated his value, and 60 goals, before his release in the summer of 2012. Those fans who hassle him for photographs on their smart phones now recognise his worth as a reliable cog in a successful team. The 28-year-old is more integral these days, the central figure leading the line for Lille as they attempt to infiltrate the money-flushed duopoly enjoyed by Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco at the top of Ligue 1. Les Dogues play the Monegasques at the sparkling Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Sunday. If Lille win that game against Claudio Ranieri's team they could be top.
That contest reflects a role reversal. Recruited by Chelsea from Feyenoord for around £9m in 2006, Kalou had joined a club whose lavish spending had reshaped the landscape of English football. The mind-boggling transfer fees paid out by PSG, owned by the Qatar Investment Authority, and Monaco, bankrolled by the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev, have done the same in France leaving Kalou, even as a high-profile arrival, as one of the relative have-nots seeking to defy a sheer weight of financial might. Lille's opponents on Sunday spent £140m in the summer on the likes of Radamel Falcao, João Moutinho, James Rodríguez and Geoffrey Kondogbia.
They could do so offering tax-free salaries. The French league has since ordered the club to relocate their headquarters, and tax base, to France but Monaco are pursuing the matter in the courts for administrative law with a resolution expected next February. For now, the tax breaks continue to fuel resentment within Ligue 1. "But it happens elsewhere, too," said Kalou. "If you go to Spain, Real Madrid can buy any player they want. Can Valencia do this? I don't think so. These days, in lots of leagues, there is a team who feel they can take players from anyone around them because they have the money to do so.
"In England you have Chelsea ... actually, you have the Big Four who can sign any player they want. You cannot say that's not fair. It's just part of modern football. In the end, the proof is on the pitch. We will respect Monaco: they have the players, they have the budget, they have everything it takes to become champions so it's a challenge for us. But when you play against a side with so much power, you can only demand you give everything. When teams came up against Chelsea, it was their final, the game of their season. If you have 11 players who want to work together, playing against 11 of the best players in the world who don't want to play together, you still have a good chance of winning."
The politics do not end there. As it stands, Kalou could be a striker on strike for the last weekend of fixtures in November as Ligue 1 clubs, rather incongruously including Monaco, protest against the French president François Hollande's 75% supertax on companies who pay individual employees salaries exceeding 1m Euros (£850,000). PSG have 21 players in that bracket. The top two divisions believe the measures would prompt an exodus of talent, with the Lille president, Michel Seydoux, one of six owners to accompany the league's leading officials in talks with the government on Thursday afternoon in search of a compromise.
"The situation is what it is," said Kalou, who has averaged a goal every other game since moving to France. "The clubs are fighting for their survival because they think this will damage them. It will hurt them. They feel it's right to protect themselves. But, as footballers, we have to concentrate on what we do on the pitch. I don't think we should be involved in things like this but I hope there is a resolution. That's what everyone hopes, and there is time, because we want to be out there playing and letting everyone watch the game.
"The level of the league is going up. Top players are coming, to two clubs for big money, I know, but that raises the standard of everyone else. Everybody wants to stand toe to toe with those players. If you play against the best, you want to become one of the best. And we, at Lille, have the right blend of young players and older heads. We give the young players responsibility to show what they can do, so they feel key to the team, and it's working. We play in the one of the most beautiful stadiums in Europe, it's a new era at the club, a new beginning, but PSG and Monaco have actually helped raise the level of the whole league. They could challenge the best in the Premier League, for sure."
Which thrust attention back to England and those six years at Chelsea. Kalou has only been back to Stamford Bridge once since leaving London, to watch the west London derby lost ignominiously to Queens Park Rangers at the turn of the year. That was one of the low points in Rafael Benítez's tempestuous spell in interim charge. José Mourinho, who signed Kalou in 2006, is now back at the helm with early signs promising for his second coming. "He can do pretty much anything," said the forward. "He has the players, he has the club, he has the supporters behind him. Everything is in place. I have no doubt he can have more than the same impact there this time.
"I had the chance to work with so many different managers there, all with different approaches. I remember what José said to us in the dressing room, inspiring us, making us want to fight for him. Everywhere he's been, the players have wanted to die for him. That is his skill. To have all your players fighting for you, all with the same goal, that is so important. As a manager, you can't ask more than that."
René Girard, who inspired Montpellier to an unlikely Ligue 1 title ahead of PSG back in 2012, is having a similar effect at Lille.
Yet, from afar, Kalou has been intrigued by Chelsea's progress. He has watched Fernando Torres, a £50m player who had effectively knocked him further down the pecking order for a central striking role, finally offer up the searing form that had been anticipated of him, even if his former team-mate always saw that coming. Eventually. "It was a matter a time. Always. People want instant results, so they don't give players time to settle or adapt, or even be at their best, and Nando also had a problem with injuries.
"But, even last year, I saw a new direction and he was the one who gave the Europa League to Chelsea, the one who scored every important goal for the club. He was brilliant. People want him to be the Fernando who was at Liverpool, but he's not at Liverpool: he's at Chelsea now. At Chelsea it was not about one player. Everyone had a part to play. People were disappointed when it didn't happen from the start, but now people are enjoying what he is doing for the club.
"I've thought about how people considered me there. When you come to Chelsea as a young player, it's sometimes difficult. People don't realise you're suddenly there alongside great, established players. You have less opportunity to show what you can do because you're always under pressure to justify yourself every time you're picked. I was competing with (Nicolas) Anelka, (Didier) Drogba, (Andriy) Shevchenko, top strikers who expected to play. Sometimes people don't realise just how difficult it was even to get on the pitch, let alone score important goals for the club.
"But I'm glad I went through that because it helped me to become a different person, a better player. And I appreciated all those titles. That night in Munich was one of the best of my life, and when you create history with a group of people, that affection never goes. We created history there, our story was amazing. That is there to stay."
Kalou's target at present is to win silverware with Lille to maintain a record of trophies at every club he has represented. After that, he is eager to experience life in the Premier League once again. If and when it happens, he will return as more than a mere foot soldier.