By: Rebant Palit
Chelsea FC, one of the ‘Big 6’ of English football have had a host of great players put on the blue jersey, especially since the investment by Roman Abramovich. They’ve established themselves among the elite clubs in Europe and are one of the most successful teams over the past two decades. Choosing their best players is a lot tougher than one might think considering the different styles the team has played with given Chelsea’s almost yearly managerial changes and how every player contributed something different to the success of the club.
However, considering their personal impact and the success they’ve brought to the club, here is my all-time best XI for Chelsea FC.
GK: Petr Cech
This one requires no explanation if you know anything about the Premier League over the last two decades. Arriving from Rennes for £7 million in 2004, Petr Cech went on to not only become Chelsea’s greatest goalkeeper, but one of the best in the Premier League’s history. Amassing a total of 494 appearances for the West London team, he was a mainstay at the club until 2014, when Thibaut Courtois took over the starting gig at Chelsea. He holds the record for most clean sheets in the Premier League’s history with 202 (with 40 of them during his time at Arsenal), a staggering 45.6 per cent clean sheet percentage. He’s also won the Premier League four Premier League titles, four FA cups, three League Cups, one Champions League and one Europa League title. He also suffered a broken skull at one point in his career, which led him to wear the trademark helmet. Also, even at 38, he’s probably still better than Kepa.
RB: Branislav Ivanovic
When you think of tough, solid players, you really don’t have to look further than Branislav Ivanovic. Signing for around £10 million in 2008, Ivanovic has played for nine different managers during his time at Chelsea. Having played at centre back initially, he established himself as a defensive powerhouse at the right back slot who contributed wonderfully going forward too. Scoring some very important goals in his career, such as the winner during the Europa League final in 2013. Overall, he made 377 appearances for the club and contributed to three Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup, one Champions League and one Europa League.
CB: John Terry
You can’t mention a Chelsea team without John Terry. The captain of the West London outfit for 13 years of his 19 years at the club. One of few players to come out of the Chelsea academy, Terry is now considered one of the greatest defenders of his generation, let alone at Chelsea. The definition of a leader, he commanded the Chelsea defence for almost two decades and led the club through the most successful era in their history. He was the integral unit in defence for the 2004-05 season where Chelsea only conceded 15 goals throughout the entire Premier League season on their way to finishing first. He has been the best defender in Chelsea’s history by a landslide, with a total of 717 appearances, winning the five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, one Champions League and one Europa League. He also won the PFA Players’ Player of the Year in 2005, the award for the best player in English football for the season. Chelsea haven’t been able to find another leader like John Terry since him leaving, and probably never will.
CB: Ricardo Carvalho
Ricardo Carvalho is probably the most underappreciated player for Chelsea. He added intelligence to the team through being able to read the game perfectly. His tackling ability was great and well-timed and was instrumental in providing Chelsea with one of the most reliable defences in the Premier League. His partnership with John Terry formed the best centre back duo Chelsea has ever had and provided a much-needed speed in defence. Carvalho was hampered with regular injuries but was always a reliable unit when healthy. He helped the London club win three Premier League titles, an FA Cup and two League Cup trophies during his six-year stint.
LB: Ashley Cole
Absolutely adored in one part of London and absolutely derided in another, Ashley Cole was one of the best left-backs to ever play in the Premier League. He established himself at Arsenal, before making a controversial move to Chelsea in the summer of 2006. His play allowed the attack to flourish due to his comfort with the ball at his feet, being defensively consistent and reliable going forward. Contributing to multiple trophies such as a Premier League, four FA Cups, one League Cup, a Champions League title and a Europa League title, Ashley Cole was one of the best signings for Ambramovich in a very under-appreciated position.
CDM: Claude Makelele
The French defensive midfielder was the perfect holding midfielder in the Premier League during his time at the club. His tackling ability was a gift and allowed players like Frank Lampard to play further up the field knowing Makelele was there to protect the defence behind him. He was able to expertly read the game and was one of the most consistent members of Jose Mourinho’s squad. Makelele was part of the squad that won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2004-05 and 2005-06 and also won an FA Cup and two League Cup titles during his time at Chelsea.
CM: Frank Lampard
Super Frank is the greatest player Chelsea has ever had. He was instrumental in every aspect of the game for Chelsea’s success. A constant for every manager he played under, he mastered the minefield for Chelsea for 13 years. Lampard holds the record for most goals scored for Chelsea with 211 goals in 648 appearances. He is one of only nine players to have over 150 Premier League goals and led the league in assists provided three times. Lampard is one of the greatest players of his generation and ranks among the most decorated as well, with three Premier League titles, four FA Cup trophies, three League Cup titles and one Champions League and Europa League title. Frank Lampard will forever be considered royalty in football and hopefully Chelsea don’t give up on him in his managerial position.
CM: Michael Essien
Another player who joined the team when Jose Mourinho was in charge, Essien bossed the midfield with Lampard. Joining as the most expensive signing for Chelsea at the time, he quickly proved his worth. He added the much needed physicality in the squad at Chelsea with his tough tackling and work-rate. He also possessed the ability of striking the ball from distance, with his goal against Barcelona in the Champions League (a game that had the most shameful refereeing) being a prime example. Essien was part of the team that won two Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, three League Cup titles and a Champions League trophy in his eight years at Stamford Bridge.
LW: Eden Hazard
Disregard his current stint at Real Madrid. Eden Hazard, if healthy, is one of the most dangerous attackers in the world. He proved this in quick fashion when he joined Chelsea in the summer of 2012. Dazzling dribbling, speed and visionary passing, Hazard was one of the most creative players to play for Chelsea. Hazard provided the individual ability to make something out of nothing, squirming past defenders to find space and a great finishing ability, Hazard carried the Chelsea team throughout their success in the last decade. Individual goals against Arsenal and Liverpool show exactly what made Hazard one the greatest threats to defenders in the Premier League. Hazard won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, a League Cup and two Europa League titles, with a classic performance in the final of the latter Europa League against Arsenal, in what was his final appearance in the blue shirt. Eden Hazard scored 110 goals in 352 appearances, with 85 in the Premier League and creating more chances (595) than anyone in the Premier League since his debut.
RW: Gianfranco Zola
Another player with great creativity, Gianfranco Zola played for Chelsea from 1996 till 2003. While not technically a winger, excelling more in the attacking midfielder and second striker positions, his ability to find a pass and dribble past defenders was revered in the Premier League. His small stature gave him greater control and speed, which made him a handful for defenders. His creativity was second-to-none and his work-rate made him one of the greatest players to play in the top division in England. Zola was also a set-piece specialist, with his bending free-kicks and corners extremely hard to deal with. Unfortunately, Zola missed out on Chelsea’s success in the Premier League, with his accolades including two FA cup titles, a League Cup title along with a UEFA Cup Winners (now the Europa League) title and a UEFA Super Cup in his 311 appearances for the club.
ST: Didier Drogba
The ultimate big-game player. Nine goals in 10 finals appearances is an astonishing statistic, proving the reliability of Didier Drogba. Initially looked at as a risky signing, when Chelsea had the opportunity to bring Ronaldinho to Stamford Bridge, Jose Mourinho made the call to invest in Drogba instead. The risk definitely paid off as Drogba became one of the greatest players to take the field in the Premier League, scoring 164 goals in 381 total appearances for Chelsea, solidifying himself as the best striker to put on the Blues shirt. He was at the club 8 years in his initial stint, winning three Premier League titles and two League Cup titles, three FA Cups and most importantly, the Champions League title in 2012, before returning in 2014 to win another Premier League and League Cup title.