Following Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003, Chelsea have enjoyed a period of unprecedented success – winning five Premier League trophies, five FA Cups, three League Cups, two Europa Leagues and, of course, the Champions League. While all of this has been achieved through squads of players built on talent from across the globe, here we pay tribute to the English stars who have played a part in that success.
As you’ll see, some positions are easier to pick than others. As has been the problem for the majority of the Abramovich era, the academy has been greatly underutilised – which is perhaps reflected by the fairly limited pool of English players in the senior squad over the last 17 years. But fear not, there’s more than enough talent here to pick a star-studded XI, while managing to bypass the likes of Steve Sidwell and Danny Drinkwater.
Tempting though it may have been to include Rob Green, the hero of Baku never actually played any competitive football for the Blues.
Which leads us to Ross Turnbull, a man with more Champions League medals (1) than Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal combined. Turnbull was at the club for four seasons between 2009 and 2013, during which time he battled with Henrique Hilário to be Petr Cech’s understudy. Although Turnbull wasn’t eligible to receive a Premier League winners medal in 2010, he did get two FA Cup winners medals to go with the Champions League. Not a bad trophy haul for a man who only played 19 games in total for the club…
Lenny Pidgeley – Pidgeley came through the youth-ranks at the club and was part of Mourinho’s squad for both the 2004/05 and 2005/06 seasons, memorably coming on for the final eight minutes against Charlton at Stamford Bridge in the game which saw John Terry get his hands on the club’s first Premier League trophy. Pidgeley would only play one more game for the club – away at Newcastle United on the final day of the 2005/06 season.
Right-back – Reece James
Of all the players who have graduated from Chelsea’s academy into the first team this season, Reece James is the most exciting. If you had to place a bet on only one of those young players establishing themselves as a mainstay of the Chelsea team for the next decade and beyond, your money would surely be on James.
While only 26 games into his senior career with Chelsea, his talent is unquestionable. A potential future Chelsea Captain, James possesses power, speed, and technical ability in abundance. And have you ever seen a player consistently cross a ball so deliciously?
Glen Johnson – the first signing of the Roman Abramovich era, Johnson was a Premier League and League cup winner with Chelsea, but never truly settled at the club. Made 71 appearances for the Blues before moving to Portsmouth on a permanent deal in 2007.
Centre-back – John Terry
Captain. Leader. Legend.
After making his debut for the club as a 17-year-old in 1998, Terry cemented his place as a regular in the first team only a couple of seasons later. Jose Mourinho arrived in 2004 and handed JT the captain’s armband – which he wore a staggering 580 times for Chelsea in his 717 appearances for the club.
Terry established himself as one of the best defenders in world football and became the heart and soul of Chelsea Football Club. He lifted no fewer than 16 trophies as Chelsea skipper – an astonishing record that will likely never be matched.
“John Terry is the captain of all team captains; he was born with the captain’s armband on his arm.” (Carlo Ancelotti)
Centre-back – Gary Cahill
One of the most underappreciated players in Chelsea’s recent history, Gary Cahill won it all with the Blues. Signed for a measly £7million from Bolton in 2012, Cahill made 290 appearances during his seven and a half seasons at the club, scoring an impressive 25 goals.
Always Mr. Dependable, Cahill – who was still suffering from injury at the time – performed heroically in the 2012 Champions League final on the greatest night in the club’s history. Undeniably a Chelsea legend.
Left-back – Ashley Cole
The best left-back in Chelsea’s history. The best left-back in England’s history.
Cristiano Ronaldo named Ashley Cole as his toughest ever opponent – and was anyone really surprised? At his peak, Cole was the best left-back in the world. During his time at the Blues he played 338 games, winning every trophy available. And like Cahill above, Cole was absolutely immense in that Champions League final in 2012.
Wayne Bridge – Premier League winner with the club. Scored that goal at Highbury.
Ryan Bertrand – Cemented his place in Chelsea folklore on 19th May 2012, becoming the only player to ever make their European debut in the final of the European Cup.
Disclaimer – For the sake of a balanced side, it may have been prudent to include a defensive minded midfielder such as Nathaniel Chalobah, or even Scott Parker. Instead, we’ve got a midfield packed with attacking talent.
Centre-midfield – Frank Lampard
The current Chelsea manager is our record goal scorer with 211 goals in 648 games for the club – truly ludicrous numbers for a midfield player. He scored 20+ goals in five consecutive seasons between 2005 and 2010.
Lampard wore the captain’s armband as Chelsea lifted the Champions League trophy in 2012, but surely his best moment for the Blues came in 2005, when he scored both goals at the Reebok Stadium to earn the club its first League title in 50 years.
Signed for £11million from West Ham, he will surely go down as the greatest signing in Chelsea’s history.
Centre-midfield – Ruben Loftus-Cheek
A slightly deeper lying role than RLC might be used to playing in, but that won’t bother him too much. Loftus-Cheek’s career is one that has so far been hampered by injuries, with the best hopefully still to come. Towards the end of last season, Loftus Cheek was arguably Chelsea’s best player (behind Eden Hazard), until suffering that Achilles injury in a charity game in America which kept him out for almost a year.
Chelsea fans will have all their fingers and toes crossed that Loftus-Cheek can avoid any more serious injuries in the future, and become the dominating midfield player he was destined to be.
Attacking midfield – Mason Mount
Chelsea lose a game of football? Blame Mason Mount. Chelsea might be interested in signing Declan Rice from West Ham? Blame Mason Mount. With some of the unwarranted stick Mount gets, the only surprise is that he hasn’t been held responsible for causing COVID-19 yet.
But while a small section of Chelsea fans seem to have taken issue with the 21-year-old midfielder, the rest of us can see what a star we have on our hands. Clearly trusted by Lampard, Mount has played in all 29 league games for the club this season, scoring six goals and registering five assists. In case it needs repeating – he’s 21 years old.
Perfectly suited to Lampard’s high press, Mount can adapt and play in multiple positions in a variety of systems. And just like his manager, he has an eye for goal. Like Reece James, you’d expect to see Mount starring in this team for a long time to come.
Ross Barkley – Another player who, similar to Mount, does not appear to be every Chelsea fan’s cup of tea. However, before the interruption of COVID-19, Barkley was beginning to show signs that he may finally live up to his promised potential, and could be a very useful player in Chelsea’s squad going forward.
Right wing – Daniel Sturridge
“Sturridge is a striker”, I can hear you shouting at the screen. But in actual fact, Sturridge enjoyed his best days in a Chelsea shirt on the right wing. During Andre Villas Boas’ tumultuous nine months in charge, there wasn’t too much to get excited about as a Chelsea fan – except for the performances of Sturridge, who shone during AVB’s reign, scoring 13 goals during that campaign and proving a constant threat.
Sadly for Sturridge, he was never given a chance to prove himself as a striker for the club, and moved on to Liverpool, where he scored a hatful in his preferred role up front. Still, whilst at Chelsea Sturridge did pick up an impressive trophy haul – winning the Premier League, Champions League, and two FA Cups.
Shawn Wright-Phillips – SWP’s time in SW6 was hardly a roaring success, but he was a Premier League and FA Cup winner with the club. And who could forget his wonderful brace at Upton Park in 2007?
Left wing – Joe Cole
Arguably the most gifted English footballer of the last twenty years, Joe Cole had the lot – flair, creativity, vision, confidence.
Cole was one of the first signings of the Roman revolution, and spent seven seasons at the club. During his time with the Blues, Cole won three Premier League titles, two FA Cups and a League Cup. A truly wonderful player to watch, Cole played 281 games for Chelsea, winning the club’s Player of the Year award during 2007/08.
A boyhood Chelsea fan, Cole’s best moment for the Blues came against Manchester United in 2006, scoring a wonderful effort past Edwin van der Sar in Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Manchester United, as Chelsea won back-to-back Premier League titles.
Callum Hudson-Odoi – If this list of English players is to be made again in a couple of years’ time, you’d hope that CHO would be on it. Another excellent talent from the academy, Hudson-Odoi has all the tools to become a world class player for Chelsea.
The jury may still be out on Abraham, but he’s enjoying an impressive first season as Chelsea’s number 9, with 13 league goals in 25 appearances. Abraham led the Premier League goal scoring charts for much of the early part of the season until the goals started to slightly dry up. But at only 22 years of age, Tammy’s prolificacy in front of goal is only going to get better and better.