Chelsea’s best Premier League XI: Lampard, Drogba and top players of modern era
The Blues have become one of England’s most successful clubs thanks primarily to the many stars bought after Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003.
#1 GK: Petr Cech:
A bargain buy from Rennes at just £7 million ($9m), Cech achieved immortal status among Chelsea fans by playing a pivotal role in the club’s greatest ever triumph: the 2012 Champions League final win over Bayern Munich.
After saving one penalty from Arjen Robben in extra-time, the goalkeeper stopped another two spot-kicks in the shootout.
Alongside that historic success at the Allianz Arena, Cech won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups and the Europa League during his spell at Stamford Bridge.
Cech finished his career at Arsenal but, such is his high standing at Chelsea, he returned to the club after retiring to become the Blues’ technical and performance advisor.
#2 RB: Branislav Ivanovic:
Branislav Ivanovic endured a slow start to his Chelsea career after arriving from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2008, but once he got his chance, he never looked back.
The right-back would go onto win three Premier League titles and FA Cups, one League Cup and both the Champions League and Europa League.
After John Terry, Ivanovic is Chelsea’s highest-scoring defender and was the match-winner in the 2013 Europa League final against Benfica.
Across 377 appearances, he went from outsider to a pivotal figure in the most successful era in Chelsea’s history, as underlined by the fact that he still has a close relationship with Roman Abramovich.
#3 CB: John Terry:
As far as Chelsea fans are concerned, three words sum up John Terry: captain, leader, legend.
Arguably the club’s greatest ever player, the central defender was lauded for both the quality of his play and his will to win.
A graduate of the club’s academy, Terry was known as ‘Mr. Chelsea’ at Stamford Bridge as he was a constant in the starting line-up during the club’s golden era.
He made 717 appearances after breaking through as a teenager and went on to lift five Premier League titles as captain, as well as a Champions League, five FA Cups, three League Cups and the Europa League.
#4 CB: Ricardo Carvalho:
Ricardo Carvalho was part of the Roman revolution, arriving at Chelsea from Porto alongside Jose Mourinho, with the pair having just won a Champions League together.
The Portuguese central defender became John Terry’s perfect partner, creating perhaps the meanest defensive duo in Premier League history.
Terry’s commitment and leadership was wonderfully complemented by Carvalho’s speed and mastery of the ‘dark arts’ of defending.
Carvalho won three Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two League Cups in his six years at the club and he helped the club claim a seat at the top table of European football.
#5 LB: Ashley Cole:
Chelsea’s greatest ever left-back might also be the best the Premier League has ever seen.
After causing controversy with the nature of his exit from Arsenal, Cole justified his decision to quit the Emirates by winning the Premier League, Champions League, Europa League, League Cup and four FA Cups at Stamford Bridge.
Now retired, Cole works as an academy coach at Cobham Training Centre and is passing on his knowledge to the next generation. If that leads to Chelsea producing a left-back half as good as Cole, they will be truly fortunate.
#6 CM: Frank Lampard:
For some Chelsea supporters, it is Lampard – and not Terry – who should be classed as the club’s finest ever footballer.
Wherever one stands on the argument, there is no denying that Lampard’s rise to fan favourite at Stamford Bridge was an extraordinary one, given his arrival from West Ham in 2001 was greeted with scepticism.
However, Lampard improved immeasurably at Stamford Bridge to survive the player cull that followed the Abramovich takeover in 2003 and went on to become Chelsea’s all-time record goalscorer, with 211.
The former midfielder won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, a Champions League and a Europa League, and is now back in west London as the manager, trying to replicate the remarkable success of his playing days.
#7 CM: Claude Makelele:
The Frenchman was so good that they named a position after him in England: ‘the Makelele role’.
There is no doubt that the defensive solidity that Makelele provided in midfield helped Chelsea reach heights that they would never have previously thought possible.
Underappreciated at Real Madrid due to his unglamorous job, Makelele immediately became a beloved figure at Chelsea when he arrived in 2003 and would go onto win two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two League Cups under Mourinho.
He is now back working at Chelsea as a technical mentor in the loan department, only adding to his legendary status among Blues fans.
#8 CM: N’Golo Kante
N’Golo Kante is Chelsea’s greatest signing in the last five years, having taken his game to a whole other level after doing most of the legwork in Leicester City’s unlikely title win in 2016.
Upon winning the league with the Foxes, he was voted by his team-mates as their player of the year. The same honour was bestowed upon him by Antonio Conte’s squad the following season, after driving Chelsea to title glory.
The World Cup winner has since added an FA Cup and a Europa League to his list of honours, and remains a key part of Lampard’s new Chelsea side.
#9 RW: Gianfranco Zola:
Gianfranco Zola is the only member of Chelsea’s all-time Premier League XI who precedes the arrival of Abramovich in west London.
The Italian genius joined from Parma in 1996 as part of a cultural revolution at Stamford Bridge, during which Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli both played for and coached the club.
Zola won the Football Writers’ Association (FWA) Player of the Year award at the end of the season in which Chelsea won their first FA Cup for 27 years, in 1997.
Zola won another FA Cup, as well as a League Cup, Super Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup, during a hugely significant spell of success which played a pivotal role in Abramovich’s decision to buy Chelsea rather than London rivals Tottenham.
#10 CF: Didier Drogba:
Didier Drogba is the most iconic foreign player to ever line up for Chelsea, regarded by supporters as ‘The King of Stamford Bridge’.
Having joined from Marseille in a £24m ($31m) deal, the Ivorian soon helped Chelsea win their first title in 50 years and he went onto become the perfect target man in a counterattacking team.
He won four Premier League titles and FA Cups, while also lifting the League Cup three times. However, it is his role in the Champions League triumph of 2012 that elevated him to Chelsea royalty.
His 88th-minute equaliser against Bayern Munich forced extra-time in the final and then he stepped up to convert the winning penalty in the shootout to seal his place in Chelsea history.
Drogba may not have been the most prolific striker Stamford Bridge has ever seen but he scored goals when they were most needed, making him a Blues hero.
#11 LW: Eden Hazard:
Chelsea paid Lille £32m ($41m) for Eden Hazard in the summer of 2012 and it proved money very well spent.
As well as wowing fans all over England with his entertaining playing style, Hazard quickly became the Blues’ talisman, racking up goals and assists in equal measure during a sensational seven-year stay at Stamford Bridge.
Indeed, when he left for Real Madrid in 2019, the wonderful winger had contributed 110 goals and won six major honours to carve out a permanent place for himself in the hearts of all Chelsea fans.
Chelsea have had so many great players during the Premier League era that there isn’t even room among the substitutes for Arjen Robben, David Luiz, Paulo Ferreira, Willian and John Obi Mikel.
The reserve goalkeeping role goes to Thibaut Courtois, who proved himself a world-class shot-stopper before departing for Real Madrid.
There are also seats on the bench for defenders Gary Cahill, a key member of the 2012 Champions League-winning team, and William Gallas, who was outstanding under Mourinho, whether deployed at right-back or centre-back.
Cesar Azpilicueta: the current club captain, also deserves inclusion for his quality and consistency.
Michael Essien: meanwhile, was very unlucky to miss out on a place in midfield, as he was a dynamo during Mourinho’s first spell at the club. Juan Mata also has to be recognised for winning Player of the Year in two consecutive seasons.
Finally, Diego Costa did a fine job filling the void left by Drogba and would make for an excellent impact sub.
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