Gerrard, Lampard, Drogba, Salah: Liverpool and Chelsea's greatest ever players ranked

  • Kobe Tong
Chelsea's Terry and Liverpool's Gerrard.

Chelsea and Liverpool are set to slug it out for FA Cup glory under the Wembley arch on Saturday.

With the reigning European champions locking horns with Jurgen Klopp’s quadruple-chasers, the conclusion of world football’s oldest cup competition is especially thrilling in 2022 for pitting two huge sides up against each other.

Not only are Chelsea and Liverpool two of the strongest sides in Europe right now, but they boast some of the largest trophy cabinets in the history of the English game with an extra spot cleared out for the 2021/22 FA Cup.

Chelsea vs Liverpool

With Thomas Tuchel and Jurgen Klopp having an innumerable amount of world-class players at their finger tips, only time will tell whether the silverware will be lifted by the Reds or Blues at the home of football.

However, while we eagerly anticipate two of England’s sporting juggernauts battling it out for silverware, we thought that it would be rude not to look back at the decorated histories of these footballing institutions.

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FA Cup trophy

Which club have won the most FA Cups?

To do so, we have decided to put Chelsea and Liverpool up to the test via the medium of their greatest ever players: ranking the standout legends to pull on the famous blue and red jerseys.

After all, you might know who you prefer out of Alisson Becker and Edouard Mendy or Fabinho and N’Golo Kante, but who gets the nod when it’s Steven Gerrard vs Frank Lampard or Virgil van Dijk vs John Terry?

Is the title race over? (Football Terrace)

The greats of Chelsea and Liverpool

Well, park that thought for a second because we’re going to set the scene for debate using our trusty medium of Tiermaker to rank Chelsea and Liverpool’s greats into categories ranging from ‘GOAT’ to ‘Lucky to be here’.

However, with so many icons having taken to the pitch at Stamford Bridge and Anfield over the years, we’ve turned to the fans themselves to decide which legends will be rated in our list.

That’s where we’ve turned to Ranker.com and its interactive lists on the greatest Chelsea and Liverpool players of all time with over 90,000 fans having voted in each poll to make their opinions clear.

From there, we’ve taken the top 25 finishers in each list and ranked them into our categories through the opinion of yours truly, calling upon everything from statistics, silverware and fan perception to make the decisions.

Tuchel and Klopp greet each other.
Soccer Football – Premier League – Liverpool v Chelsea – Anfield, Liverpool, Britain – August 28, 2021 Liverpool manager Juergen Klopp shakes hands with Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel after the match REUTERS/Peter Powell EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club /league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Ranking Chelsea and Liverpool’s greatest players

Other opinions are available, so be sure to let us know yours across our social channels and you can get stuck into our ranking of the greatest Chelsea and Liverpool players in history ahead of the FA Cup final below:

Lucky to be here

Ruud Gullit, Reece James and Kai Havertz

Look, all the respect in the world to two incredibly talented footballers and it’s hardly an insult to finish below countless legendary players, but fan votes inevitably throw up a few rogue shouts.

Gullit might be one of the finest players in the history of the men’s game, but to rank him amongst Chelsea’s greats when he only made 63 appearances and won a single FA Cup with the club is overstating things massively.

However, far more egregious than the overexcitement about Gullit is the decision to vote James and Havertz into Chelsea’s 25 greatest ever players. Come on, people, it might happen one day, but let’s calm down for now.

Chelsea's James and Havertz.
Soccer Football – Premier League – Brighton & Hove Albion v Chelsea – The American Express Community Stadium, Brighton, Britain – September 14, 2020. Chelsea’s Reece James celebrates scoring their second goal with Kai Havertz. Pool via REUTERS/Peter Cziborra EDITORIAL USE ONLY. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or ‘live’ services. Online in-match use limited to 75 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. Please contact your account representative for further details.

Fans’ favourite

Cesc Fabregas, Michael Essien, Michael Ballack, Eidur Gudjohnsen, Joe Cole, Fernando Torres and Thiago Silva

You know those players that you simply love at your football club even if you’re acutely aware that they’re not quite good enough to be a bona fide legend? Yes, well, that’s exactly what this tier sets out to achieve.

And who knows, maybe the bar is set a little lower for Chelsea players, but the saturation of more modern players who got the Stamford Bridge faithful on their feet without threatening to become an icon was just too strong.

Essien, Fabregas and Ballack all boast formidable trophy cabinets from their time in west London to go with their quality, bringing a smorgasbord of passing class and defensive mettle to Blues midfields over the years.

Similarly, Gudjohnsen and Cole might never have statues built in their name, but Blues supporters are all-too aware of the technical brilliance and unsung qualities that they brought to league-winning campaigns.

Maybe we’ve been generous to Silva considering that he’s less than two seasons into his Chelsea career, but his astonishing trophy haul across those 18 months could well see him leave as a modern great one day.

As for the sole Liverpool entry, few players sum up the phrase ‘fans’ favourite’ better than Torres because it says everything about the joy he brought to Anfield that his Chelsea move has barely dampened his reputation at the club.

Torres scores for Liverpool.
Football – Liverpool v Bolton Wanderers Barclays Premier League – Anfield – 10/11 – 1/1/11 Fernando Torres celebrates after scoring the first goal for Liverpool Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Andrew Boyers Livepic NO ONLINE/INTERNET USE WITHOUT A LICENCE FROM THE FOOTBALL DATA CO LTD. FOR LICENCE ENQUIRIES PLEASE TELEPHONE +44 (0) 207 864 9000.

An icon of their era

Bob Paisley, Sadio Mane, Jimmy Greaves, Ricardo Carvalho, Roberto Firmino, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Andrew Robertson, Ashley Cole, Xabi Alonso, Marcel Desailly, Steve McManaman, Peter Beardsley, Branislav Ivanovic, Ronnie Whelan, Steve McMahon and Claude Makelele

There’s quality everywhere you look here, but despite each and every one of these players being rightfully heralded for their achievements, we wouldn’t go as far as to say that their greatness transcended their era.

For example, Cole might be one of the greatest left-backs of the 2000s, but it’s easy to forget that he only actually won one Premier League title at Chelsea with many of his finest achievements coming at Arsenal.

While Greaves is one of the deadliest finishers in English football history, his trophy-less Chelsea spell alone, albeit one that reaped 132 goals, is still too overshadowed by his superior Tottenham Hotspur feats.

Robertson and Ivanovic are and were both the standout players in their position for a sustained period of time, but by no fault of their own, pale in comparison to some of the defensive legends still to come.

Paisley would be in the ‘GOAT’ tier if this was based on his managerial career as opposed to time as a player, while McManaman’s generational talent at Anfield is sagged by winning just two domestic cups.

We need to see a little more from Mane and Firmino before they qualify for the hotly-competitive ‘all-time legend’ tier and the superb output of Desailly, Carvalho and Makelele wilts when framed within Chelsea’s entire history.

Similarly, although we’d be barmy not to acknowledge McMahon, Beardsley and Whelan’s formidable legacies at Anfield, they simply weren’t the standout stars of Liverpool’s golden era nevertheless.

Then, finally, Hasselbaink and Alonso can perhaps feel slightly hard done by because their top-class performances for the Blues and Reds were undoubtedly undercut by playing in tumultuous eras for the clubs.

Hasselbaink celebrates for Chelsea.
Football – FA Barclaycard Premiership – Chelsea v Wolverhampton Wanderers – 27/3/04 Chelsea’s Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink celebrates 1 of his 3 goals Mandatory Credit : Action Images / Paul Harding

All-time legend

Cesar Azpilicueta, John Barnes, Graeme Souness, Eden Hazard, Mohamed Salah, Gianfranco Zola, Kevin Keegan, Mark Lawrenson, Petr Cech, Virgil van Dijk, Robbie Fowler, N’Golo Kante, Steve Heighway, Alisson Becker, Tommy Smith and Terry McDermott

Now we’re into the territory of players who had such an enduring legacy in either red or blue that their achievements go beyond the era that they occupied into wider, historical levels of greatness.

So, where better to start than Azpilicueta, who now boasts the unprecedented status of being the only Blues player to lift every single major honour, as Chelsea’s second Champions League-winning captain?

Then, let’s progress into players who would arguably be at the very, very top of the rankings if it was based on footballing ability alone with Barnes, Salah, Hazard and Zola bringing unquantifiable joy to Kopites and Blues fans.

Van Dijk, meanwhile, strolls into this lofty category for not only his team achievements as a Premier League and Champions League winner, but historic individual feats as a Ballon d’Or contender.

Similarly, the quintet of Heighway, Smith, McDermott, Lawrenson and Souness mix trophy cabinets weighed in tonnes with indisputable status as five of Liverpool’s standout players in the most decorated era of its history.

And while you might think that we’ve jumped the gun by garlanding Alisson as an all-time great, the simple fact of the matter is that he’s only a Ray Clemence away from already being Liverpool’s goalkeeping GOAT.

Fowler’s generation-defining talent can simply be measured by his nickname of ‘God’ and Keegan will forever be discussed in the Kop for his scintillating displays that set him up for back-to-back Ballon d’Or wins.

Kante won every major trophy you could dream of while redefining his position at the Bridge and Cech could probably argue for an upgrade for his Munich heroics and record-breaking total of Premier League clean sheets.

Chelsea's Kante with the Champions League trophy.
Soccer Football – European Super Cup – Chelsea v Villarreal – Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland – August 11, 2021 Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante walking onto the pitch with a trophy Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff

Build him a statue

Peter Osgood, Kenny Dalglish, Frank Lampard, Alan Hansen, Didier Drogba and Ian Rush

Shy of being called the greatest Liverpool and Chelsea players of all time in our top tier, these are the legends who left such an imprint on the club that they deserve to be immortalised in bronze outside Anfield or the Bridge.

So, bearing that in mind, Osgood was always going to make the cut having literally already secured a statue, but Chelsea’s greatest ever player of the pre-Roman Abramovich era was destined for this category regardless.

Meanwhile, Dalglish’s greatness at Anfield speaks for itself with a second-place Ballon d’Or finish and hat-trick of European Cup wins in his prime underlining just how peerless he was for the Reds.

And although Hansen can’t quite match ‘King Kenny’, he’s nevertheless one of Liverpool’s all-time greats as a member of the PFA Team of the Century with eight league titles, six domestic cups and three European Cups.

Then, speaking of silverware, Drogba was never going to finish any lower than this having almost single-handedly inspired Chelsea to Champions League glory and countless other titles as their greatest ever centre forward.

And last but by no means least, Lampard and Rush were absolute shoo-ins for statue status as Chelsea and Liverpool’s all-time top goalscorers as well as truly world-beating players and serial trophy winners.

Rush scores for Liverpool.
WIMBLEDON V LIVERPOOL 28/2/95 PIC-TONY O’BRIEN/ACTION IMAGES IAN RUSH CELEBRATES LIVERPOOL’S 2nd GOAL

GOAT

John Terry and Steven Gerrard

Don’t worry, we wouldn’t be so harsh as to not include a GOAT for each club with Terry and Gerrard standing out as our picks for the greatest ever players to have represented Chelsea and Liverpool.

Terry, for us, is the undisputed number one at Stamford Bridge having captained the club to every single league title that they’ve won in his lifetime with no skipper having ever lifted more Premier League trophies.

Marry that to five FA Cup triumphs, three League Cup wins, Champions League glory, more than 700 appearances and his status as one of the greatest defenders of the modern era to see exactly why Terry comes out on top.

As for Gerrard, he might not be the most decorated player in Liverpool history, not by a long shot, but nobody comes close to his pound-for-pound achievements on Merseyside by often winning huge games single-handedly.

From having an FA Cup final named after him to inspiring the timeless comeback in Istanbul, Gerrard galvanised Liverpool sides that might never have won anything if it wasn’t for his chest-pumping leadership from the front.

And that’s more than enough to secure his place as our Liverpool GOAT.

Terry and Gerrard do battle.
Football – Liverpool v Chelsea UEFA Champions League Semi Final First Leg – Anfield, Liverpool, England – 22/4/08 Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard and Chelsea’s John Terry (L) in action Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Carl Recine Livepic

What do you think?

Controversy. Controversy everywhere.

Look, there are so many brilliant players to have represented Chelsea and Liverpool over the years that selecting the most legendary legends and iconic icons of them all was an incredibly difficult task.

No doubt many of you will consider Dalglish to be Liverpool’s GOAT just as much as many of you will be livid that Cole hasn’t been placed any higher – and power to you if that’s the case.

Football just wouldn’t be anywhere near as exciting if it wasn’t for the friendly debates that get chins wagging in every pub around the country, especially when it’s before one of the biggest games of the season.

Chelsea and Liverpool face off.
Soccer Football – Carabao Cup Final – Chelsea v Liverpool – Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – February 27, 2022 Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku in action with Liverpool’s Ibrahima Konate REUTERS/David Klein

So, strike up the conversation, get the debates flowing because Chelsea vs Liverpool promises to be an almighty slugfest between footballing institutions who have been graced by all of the spine-tingling players listed above.

We’ll just have to wait and see which of them will be freeing up an extra space in their respective trophy cabinets that, frankly, could probably do with their own mortgages. It’s going to be fascinating.

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