Chelsea’s Premier League experience has been one full of highs and lows, triumphs and disasters, and wealth and bankruptcy. Football Fancast columnist Oliver Major lists his top then heroes at Stamford Bridge in the last 15 years.
10. Dan Petrescu (1995-2000)
The Romanian export, snapped up after an impressive first season in England at Sheffield Wednesday, spent five seasons at Stamford Bridge as an explosive wing back. Petrescu boasted an impressive goal scoring record, including a goal against Galatasary in the club’s first ever Champions League season, arguably his most important in Chelsea blue. There is much adoration for the little Romanian amongst the Chelsea faithful, a feeling that is clearly mutual, shown by him naming his daughter Chelsea. Fans will be dreaming of a Champions League knockout stage draw involving the blues and Petrescu’s Romanian outfit Unirea Urziceni, if not only for the chance of a reunion, but also as, on paper, it will appear very one sided.
9. Dennis Wise (1990 – 2001)
Despite beginning his career at Selhurst Park with Wimbledon, every Chelsea fan will swear that Dennis Wise bleeds Chelsea blue. He spent 11 years at the Bridge, featuring 445 times, scoring 76 goals from a midfield role that ensured he was constantly in the thick of the action. Wise captained the Chelsea sides that enjoyed a host of domestic success between 1997 and 2001, with leadership qualities that can be likened to the current club captain, John Terry. Although not necessarily the most technically gifted player in Chelsea’s Premiership era, nor the most appreciated outside of the Bridge, Wise’s loyalty and dedication to the cause will ensure he goes down in Chelsea history as one of the greats.
8. Roberto Di Matteo (1996-2002)
There are many players in world football that can be criticised for not performing in big games; Roberto Di Matteo is not one of them. The Italian midfielder arrived at the Bridge in 1996, marking the start of a Chelsea team that would be full of foreign flair and helped lead Chelsea to a stunning four major trophies in three years. Di Matteo became locked in a love affair with the old Wembley stadium, scoring 3 cup-winning goals in as many years, including the infamous 30 yard strike after 42 seconds in the 1997 FA Cup Final. A series of injuries hindered the tail end of his Chelsea career forcing an early retirement. Di Matteo was, however, given the honour of leading Chelsea out in the 2002 FA Cup Final, a sentiment that illustrated his importance to both the club and the fans.
7. Gustavo Poyet (1997 – 2001)
An attacking midfielder with a heading ability to rival any, Gus Poyet held an outstanding goal scoring record of over 1 in 3 whilst at Stamford Bridge. The Uruguayan is held in high esteem by both Chelsea and football fans alike. Noted as always playing with a smile on his face and an unrivalled passion and energy, Poyet was a scorer of spectacular goals. A scissor-kick against Sunderland, along with a match winner in The Super Cup Final against Real Madrid’s Galático’s are two of many that will stick in Chelsea fans memories for years to come.
6. Didier Drogba (2004 – Present)
The Ivorian centre forward, signed from Marseille in 2004 for £24 million may have been regarded as a gamble considering the gulf in class from French League and the Premiership, Drogba however, made the step up with ease. He boasted all the attributes of the perfect centre forward, pace, power and an eye for goal; in fact it may be argued that the only thing Didier Drogba lacks is dignity, never shying away from hitting the deck after the slightest touch. This is however testament to his ability as he eases his way into the top ten despite not always being the most popular of characters with Chelsea fans. Drogba has proved to be every central defenders worst nightmare, racking up 64 Premier League goals in 145 appearances for the Londoners, including a remarkable 33 goals in all competitions in the 2006-07 season.
5. Petr Cech (2004 – Present)
A few eyebrows were raised in the summer of 2004 when new owner Roman Abramovich opened his cheque book to splash out £7 million on the Rennes goalkeeper. Cech faced the tough task of displacing the much admired, former player of the season Carlo Cudicini as the Number 1 at the club. The Czech International was handed his debut in a crucial season opener against fellow title rivals Manchester United. Cech kept a clean sheet in the game and it would prove to be the first of many. In his debut season Cech kept a Premier League record 24 clean sheets including a spell of 1025 minutes without conceding, another record. His imposing figure between the sticks has been instrumental in Chelsea’s recent success. It is near impossible to imagine a blues fan listing their all time Chelsea XI and not handing him the Number 1 Jersey.
4. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (2000-2004)
The prolific Dutch striker had already had a productive spell with Leeds prior to joining the Blues at the turn of the century. Hasselbaink’s imposing figure, venomous right foot and astonishing goal record made him an instant success at the Bridge as collected the Premier League Golden Boot in his first full season with the club. Hasselbaink is remembered for his fruitful partnership with Eidur Gudjohnson, in which the pair had an almost telepathic relationship, hauling 54 goals between them in the 2001-02 season. The Chelsea fans appreciation for the Dutch goal machine was demonstrated when he received a standing ovation after scoring an equalising goal for Middlesbrough on his return to the bridge.
3. John Terry (1998 – Present)
John Terry is quite simply the best centre back to play for Chelsea since the formation of the Premiership, arguably ever. Terry is the embodiment of the football dream. Joining the club at the age of 14, he has worked his way through the ranks, overtaking Dennis Wise as Chelsea’s most successful captain as well as holding the armband for the national team. Aside from his outstanding defensive abilities, Terry is revered for his commitment and bravery, best illustrated by his diving header in the 2007 League Cup Final, in which he received a boot to the face from Arsenal’s Abou Diaby, being knocked unconscious as a result. Summer interest from Manchester City threatened for a premature end to his Chelsea career; however, instead it has had the opposite impact as Terry now seems destined finish his career at Stamford Bridge.
2. Gianfranco Zola (1999 – 2003)
The Italian magician snapped up from Parma is not only a cult hero amongst Chelsea fans, but is a Premiership Legend. The most technically skilled player to grace the Stamford Bridge turf, Zola existed to make fans jaws drop. He arrived at a time in which Chelsea began their rise to domestic success, playing a huge part in their 1997 FA Cup run. Zola scored the winner in the 1998 European Cup Winners Cup Final, just 21 seconds after entering the game, securing the clubs second European success in their history. The Italians Chelsea career can be epitomised with a stunning mid-air back heel against Norwich City that he later dedicated to a terminally ill child; a great man and an exceptional footballer.
1. Frank Lampard (2001 – Present)
‘Eleven million pounds for an overweight mediocre midfielder’ may have been a phrase uttered by football fans in the summer of 2001 when Frank Lampard made the switch from East to West London, however it is not one that is associated with him now. Lampard has all the qualities of a world class midfielder; power, stamina, vision, precision, the list is endless. Above all however, he is reliable and a constant presence, shown by his record 164 consecutive performances and the fact that he has not missed a penalty in over three years. Lampard is instrumental in everything that Chelsea do and is undoubtedly the greatest player to wear the Chelsea jersey in the last fifteen years.
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