In the past couple of decades, Chelsea have been well known for splashing the cash on highly talented footballers but in the midst of all this spending there have been some absolute gems that have arrived at the Bridge on free deals.
In the last two weeks Chelsea have confirmed two free transfers that were both incredibly smart pieces of business. Malang Sarr and Thiago Silva join the club with Sarr expected to go out on loan and Silva expected to slot right into Frank’s first XI. Silva captained PSG in the most recent Champions League final and the 35 year old had a stellar game. Although his side lost he did keep Robert Lewandowski – who would’ve been nailed on for the Ballon D’Or if it were running as normal from scoring a goal, something that defenders have had a torrid time doing in this past season. Sarr enters Chelsea as a promising talent who had Europe’s top clubs after him only two years ago. Unfortunately for Sarr, his career hasn’t progressed the way he’d have wanted. Sarr was shifted out to left back for considerable parts of the last two seasons and that has stunted his growth as a player. Chelsea are set to loan him out to try to help unlock the player he once was. Two terrific signings, both having little risk attatched.
Here I will run through some of Chelsea’s best free transfers of yesteryear!
Samuel Eto’o is someone that all Chelsea fans wanted to see playing at Stamford Bridge. It would have preferably been during his prime years when he was undoubtedly one of the greatest strikers on the planet, but he finally joined Chelsea in 2013 in Jose’s homecoming season, and he offered up some vital contributions and memorable moments during his time with us. He scored 12 times in all competitions for Chelsea, which is a decent return for a striker at the back end of his career. He scored a wonderful goal in the 6-0 battering of Arsenal and he bagged a Premier League hat-trick against Manchester United. Another unforgettable moment was when Eto’o was called an old man in the media by Jose Mourinho and he proceeded to give us one of the greatest celebrations the Bridge has ever seen. For a free transfer, Eto’o worked out well, he contributed his fair share, and we all got to see a football legend play at our stadium.
Whatever way you look at it, Gianluca Vialli is a legend of this football club. Vialli came to Chelsea on a free deal as a European Champion with Juventus, he was a genuine superstar at the time. As a player, Vialli helped Chelsea win an FA Cup in his first season with us, however he is most fondly remembered by his days as a manager. A year after the FA Cup triumph as a player, he became the manager of this great club and guided us to success in the League Cup and European Cup Winner’s cup, which are immensely proud moments in our history. All this would not have been possible without Gianluca Vialli, undoubtedly a Chelsea legend and a magnificent free transfer.
Michael Ballack available on a free was an opportunity that no club in world football could pass up. He was one of the best footballers on the planet when he left Bayern Munich in 2006, and Chelsea managing to get him was a seriously good deal. Ballack certainly did not disappoint as a Chelsea player. 25 goals and 24 assists from 167 games was a magnificent return, but he offered much more than that. He was a leader, he was a fighter, and he was a magician. During his time with us he cemented himself in a legendary midfield trio with Lampard and Essien. Ballack will be in many Chelsea fans’ All Time XI’s, which is a testament to such a legendary football player who had some great years at Chelsea after signing on a free.
Ruud Gullit is undoubtedly Chelsea’s most notable free transfer that they’ve ever made. Gullit in his prime was arguably the greatest midfielder in the world. He won the Ballon D’Or in 1987, which confirmed that he’s one of the all time greats. Gullit signed for Chelsea in 1995 as a player, but took over as a player manager in 1996 when Hoddle took the England job. Hoddle and Gullit really gave Chelsea the foundation to become the European and domestic powerhouse we are today. Gullit signed famous Chelsea players like Gianfranco Zola and the previously mentioned Gianluca Vialli. It is a fact that without Gullit, Chelsea wouldn’t be the Chelsea that we see today. An all time great, but also a Chelsea hero.
Didier Drogba re-joined Chelsea in the summer of 2014 as a free agent . His 2014/15 campaign has gone under the radar as he really stepped up for us, even though he was slightly older and slower than the Drogba we once knew. Chelsea won the Premier League in 2014/15, and that season’s striker situation was dominated by the brilliance of Diego Costa. However, Costa would miss a sizeable chunk of the season due to injury, meaning Chelsea would call on Didier Drogba and Loic Remy to cover, and they covered excellently. Didier had a hand in us winning the league that season, but it also provided a beautiful moment for us Chelsea fans to enjoy. We got to say goodbye to him properly at Stamford Bridge. His last game for Chelsea before he returned was the small matter of the Champions League final that famous night in Munich, so he never got to properly say goodbye at home. This free transfer made that possible. A Chelsea legend who came back on a free to win another title. Typical of the man.
Do any other free agents deserve honourable mentions? Let us know in the comments below!