The deep pockets of Roman Abramovich have lured a number of world-class players to Stamford Bridge since he arrived at the club in 2003.
Some players have performed and others certainly have not.
Here we look at an all-star XI of the best-performing Chelsea players since the Russian billionaire started injecting his cash into the club.
Some choices were definitely easier than others, who do you think deserves a spot? Have your say in the comments section!
Goalkeeper | Petr Cech
Who else? The lanky Czech keeper joined the Blues in July 2004 and has been the number one choice between the sticks at Stamford Bridge for the almost the entire reign of Abramovich.
The giant Czech Republic international goalkeeper is a brilliant all-round stopper with no significant weaknesses in his game. The 30-year-old also displayed remarkable courage returning to his best form after suffering a life-threatening blow to the head in October 2006.
Not much else needs to be said to do justice to Chelsea’s marvellous keeper, but Blues fans will be relieved that the Czech captain recovered from his sickening injury to appear capable of remaining number one at the Bridge for years to come.
Right-back | Branislav Ivanovic
The big Serbian signed for Chelsea in 2009 from Lokomotiv Moscow expected to serve as back up to the rock-solid centre-back partnership of John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, but has instead solidified his place as first-choice right back at Stamford Bridge.
Ivanovic’s forays into opposition territory have become a fearsome sight for left-backs across England and Europe. His blend of speed and power allow the Serbia international to dominate opposition players in both halves of the pitch. The muscular defender even pops up with the occasional goal for the Blues, most notably his double in the 2009 Champions League semi-final second leg against Liverpool.
The 29-year-old rarely makes costly mistakes in possession and looks equally comfortable playing in the centre of defence or on the right. Blessed with both the muscle and athleticism to nullify all kinds of attacking players, ‘Iva’ looks set to become a long-serving key player in the Chelsea back-four.
Centre-back | John Terry
Terry is one of the few certainties in the Abramovich era best XI. Joining the club as a school boy, the centre-back has become an icon of Chelsea Football Club.
The 32-year-old is renowned for his relentless commitment to both club and country. Although he was never the quickest centre-half, Terry’s physical strength, expertly timed interceptions and brave lunging blocks made up for his below-par mobility.
Chelsea fans and his teammates have immense respect Terry, and the giant ‘Captain Leader Legend’ banner paraded around Stamford Bridge symbolises his legendary status at the club. ‘Mr Chelsea’ is also a born leader, and it doesn’t take a football analyst to see that his side look more calm and determined when he is on pitch.
As his career winds down, the former England captain will certainly be a difficult man to replace.
Centre-back | Ricardo Carvalho
Possibly Chelsea’s most consistent player in his final two years at the Bridge, Carvalho formed one of the best central defensive partnerships of the modern era alongside John Terry.
Lacking the stocky build of most defenders in England, the Portuguese man played to his own strengths and earned his reputation as one the best centre-backs in Europe.
Carvalho was quick, technically adept and despite standing at 183cm, his impressive leap caused havoc in the air. However, the most crucial aspect to the 34-year-old’s game was his immaculate positional sense. The former Portugal international and positioned himself and read the game with such accuracy he didn’t need to bulk up to compete in the Premier League.
A marvellous defender oozing class and tactical intelligence, few players like Ricardo Carvalho exist nowadays as the demand for physical perfection increases in the modern game.
Left-back | Ashley Cole
Still commanding the left side of Chelsea and the England side to this day, Cole is possibly the best left back in the world, and has been for nearly a decade.
Thanks to his incredible reactions and slide tackling ability, there is no question that the athletic 32-year-old is one of the most formidable one-on-one defenders. The former Arsenal man has masterfully controlled the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi during his Chelsea career, and his absence from the Blues back four is a rare but distressing scenario.
The England international is one of those special fullbacks whose desire to bomb forward actually benefits rather than hinders his defensive duties by pushing opposing midfielders back into their own half. Although perhaps not granted as much attacking freedom these days, Cole is more than capable of piecing together flowing passing moves and swinging in a dangerous cross from the left flank.
Ryan Bertrand is the most obvious replacement for an ageing Ashley Cole, but whether or not Roman Abramovich him to be an adequate successor remains to be seen.
Holding-midfield | Claude Makelele
Who better to fill the ‘Makelele role’ than the man who defined the position himself? The Zaire-born Frenchman perfected the holding midfield role, and developed into the ideal man to sit in front of the defensive line.
Standing at only 170cm, ‘Make’ was by no means physically dominant or threatening in the air. The former Real Madrid player used his acceleration, supreme tackling ability and precise reading of the game to cut out opposition moves apart before it caused serious danger.
The 40-year-old became an essential part of the Chelsea spine thanks to his revered ability to sense and cut out danger, then look for a simple pass to one of his more creative teammates. Although a rather unimpressive description of a player, Claude Makelele was certainly the best in the world at what he did – and Chelsea are still looking for a sufficient successor.
Centre-midfield | Frank Lampard
Like him or not, many are struggling to decipher Chelsea’s ongoing reluctance to offer a true Stamford Bridge legend a new contract. ‘Super Frank’ scored his 200th goal for the Blues against former club West Ham earlier this month, and regardless how his contract saga ends, he will forever remain a Chelsea legend.
The 34-year-old is considered one of the best English midfielders of his generation, and his goal-scoring record is perhaps one of the greatest ever from the middle of the park. But Lampard is not just about goals; he is also a wonderfully creative player with an incredible passing range. For nearly a decade, the England international has been the heart of the Blues’ midfield courtesy of his determination and natural fitness.
The former West Ham youth player is blessed with unrivalled instinctive special awareness and combined with his perfectly timed runs into the penalty area, the single most important element of Lampard’s game cannot be taught.
The Blues’ vice-captain is also an influential leader and is rightly second in command behind skipper John Terry. A player of his calibre who has contributed so much towards the success of the club does not deserve to be discarded on a free transfer, and doing so will cause significant damage to the image and integrity of Chelsea Football Club – be careful Mr Abramovich.
Centre-midfield | Michael Essien
Known as ‘The Bison’ by the Chelsea faithful, the Ghanaian powerhouse has disappeared amidst a series of horrible injuries.
At his peak, Essien was virtually the ultimate box-to-box midfielder. The 30-year-old had limitless energy and offered the complete midfield package with his passing, movement, tackling and even the occasional long-range scorcher.
Currently on loan at Real Madrid, it really is tragic that Michael Essien has not looked anywhere near his best after suffering three serious knee injuries since 2006. Chelsea fans can only hope that that the Ghana international will be able to revive his damaged career and show flashes of the man he once was when he returns from Spain.
Right-attacking-midfielder | Juan Mata
The Spanish magician has been a revelation since joining the Blues from financially stricken Valencia in August 2011, paving the way for a new generation of flamboyant playmaking geniuses at The Bridge.
The 24-year-old has been Chelsea’s best player this season, regularly inventing chances out of nothing and even bagging 10 goals and 10 assists in the Premier League so far this campaign. The Spain international links up perfectly with Eden Hazard and Oscar and together the trio can pick apart virtually any defence.
The Blues faithful have not seen a playmaker of this quality since the legendary Gianfranco Zola, and the little Spaniard has every chance of reaching the same heights Zola did.
Originally deployed out wide by the ineffective André Villas-Boas, Mata struggled to demonstrate his true class. But the sacking of AVB and arrival of Roberto Di Matteo instigated a change in tactics relished by the former Valencia star, who was subsequently gifted his preferred role paying behind the striker.
Mata is unfortunate to be part of golden generation in Spanish football where other superb players prevent him from regularly shining on the international stage, however there is no doubt that the Chelsea playmaker is one of the best in the world in his position.
Left-attacking-midfielder | Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard’s debut Premier League season has certainly not been bad, but Chelsea fans probably expected more from the former Lille man.
He hasn't been as prolific during his Chelsea spell than last season at Lille,but the 22-year-old can be forgiven for failing to match his incredible performances of the last campaign because many foreign players take a season or two to become familiar with the unique demands of playing in England’s top flight.
The outstanding potential of the mercurial playmaker is undeniable, and Chelsea will be thrilled to have snapped up one of Europe’s most promising talents. The big money move is paying off, as the Belgium international appears to have seamlessly fitted into his new side, forming a menacing attacking trio alongside Juan Mata and Oscar.
It must be said Hazard has gone missing in a few games for the Blues this season, but more often than not he has been the dangerous spark in an occasionally flat Chelsea side. His pace, trickery and crafty movement is unplayable at times, and Roman Abramovich will be hoping Hazard can well and truly fill the superstar role lined up for him at Stamford Bridge.
Striker | Didier Drogba
Chelsea fans still cling to the many memories of the now departed Didier Drogba, the most significant perhaps his last as he slot home the winning penalty in the Champions League Final last May.
The powerful striker perhaps could have extended his Chelsea career for another year, but he chose to end his time at Stamford Bridge on a remarkably high note. The Ivorian was a phenomenal player, and the Blues have missed him since his exit last season.
The 35-year-old in his prime was one of, if not the best striker in the world. Blessed with a deadly blend of speed, power, cool finishing and an admirable calmness under pressure, the Ivory Coast international was simply unstoppable when he was in the mood, scoring 100 goals in eight years with the London club.
Roman Abramovich and Chelsea are still searching for a player to fill the boots of Drogba as Fernando Torres and Demba Ba continue to disappoint. Whoever is signed to replace him, Didier Drogba was a special player that will never be forgotten at Chelsea Football Club.
Who do you think is the best Chelsea transfer under the ownership of Roman Abramovich? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!
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