In recent years Chelsea have become notorious for their narrow midfield, having often been criticised for lacking width and out and out wingers have been a rare sight at Stamford Bridge over the last decade. The names Arjen Robben and Damien Duff will spring to mind for most when considering significant Chelsea wingers and cause many to forget the Danish international Jesper Gronkjaer, who was a popular figure amongst the Chelsea faithful during his four year stint in west London.
Gronkjaer began his career in Denmark with Aalborg Boldspilklub, making almost 100 appearances for the club. The young winger showed a great deal of promise in his time in Denmark, winning the Danish under 19 Player of the Year award in 1995. His form sparked the interest of fellow Dane Morten Olsen, who signed Gronkjaer for his Ajax side in 1998. After two successful years in Holland, having captured the club’s Player of the Year award in 2000, Gronkjaer completed a £7.5 million move to Chelsea and looked to impress in England.
Gronkjaer was an explosive winger with a style not to dissimilar to that of Arjen Robben or Aaron Lennon. His qualities consisted of his ability to beat full backs with his lightening pace and deliver deadly balls into the box. The Dane also had a considerable strike in his locker and when on form could tear apart even the most solid of defences however, his erratic form often resulted in frustrating reactions from both the Chelsea fans and manager Claudio Ranieri. Gronkjaer experienced several highs in his time in west London, including a match winning performance in a crucial final day game against Liverpool, in which Ranieri’s side clinched the final Champions League place.
The winger departed from Stamford Bridge along with Ranieri in the summer of 2004, having been considered surplus to requirements given the changes that were taking place in west London. After leaving Chelsea, Gronkjaer experienced an inconsistent few years. He had brief spells at Birmingham, Atlético Madrid and German side Stuttgart however, failed to impress at all three. The Dane has since returned to his homeland with Danish giants F.C. Copenhagen and has enjoyed a much more settled and successful end to his career. He has rediscovered his goal scoring touch with the current Danish champions and still plays a pivotal role in the club’s set up.
Gronkjaer has also been one of Denmark’s most successful international footballers of recent years and he will always be remembered as an explosive winger who could give some of the world’s best full backs a headache, yet also a player whose inconsistency prevented him from reaching the heights of European football.
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