Chelsea legends: The best Chelsea players of all time | OneFootball

Chelsea legends: The best Chelsea players of all time | OneFootball

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·18 April 2024

Chelsea legends: The best Chelsea players of all time

Article image:Chelsea legends: The best Chelsea players of all time

Chelsea are often criticised for being a club with little history in comparison to England's other giants, but that's simply not true.

While the Blues have enjoyed far greater success since Roman Abramovich took ownership of the club in 2003, they still boasted some of the country's best players prior to the Russian oligarch's arrival in the noughties.

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Chelsea won an array of trophies across the 20th century despite things having gone up a notch in recent years, and their extensive list of club legends seemingly gets longer with each passing year.

Here are the 25 best Chelsea players of all time.

25. Marcel Desailly

Desailly was a leader at the back / Ben Radford/GettyImages

The French centre-back spent six incredible years at Stamford Bridge and established himself as one of the world's best during his time in west London. The 1998 World Cup winner may have only won one major trophy in Chelsea blue - the 2000 FA Cup - but he will live long in the memory of the club's supporters for his commanding displays at the back.

24. Charlie Cooke

Cooke is a Chelsea icon / Evening Standard/GettyImages

The Scottish winger enjoyed two separate spells with Chelsea, spanning a decade in total. He won the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup with the Blues, the only trophies he ever managed in his career. The tricky attacker was one of Chelsea's chief creators during his time at Stamford Bridge, eventually finishing his career in the United States.

23. Michael Ballack

Ballack was a tough tackler in midfield / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

As far as free transfers go, there haven't been many better than Ballack in the Premier League era. The German arrived in London in 2006 and spent four trophy-laden years with the Blues towards the end of his career. Despite being in his 30s during his Chelsea days, Ballack still bossed midfields up and down the country on a weekly basis, with his crowning achievement a Premier League title in 2010.

22. Branislav Ivanovic

Ivanovic was a surprise goal threat / Mike Hewitt/GettyImages

Ivanovic wasn't expected to necessarily achieve great things at Chelsea, arriving from Lokomotiv Moscow in 2008. However, nine years later, he played his final game for the Blues, leaving as an absolute cult hero. The Serbian right-back was a surprising goal threat bombing up and down the flank, and he left everything on the Stamford Bridge turf every time he stepped foot on it.

21. Bobby Tambling

Tambling was a relentless goalscorer / Evening Standard/GettyImages

Tambling was a fantastic goal-getter for Chelsea and sits second in the club's all-time rankings. The forward scored 202 times for the Blues, only nine goals off top spot. He won a League Cup in 1965 with the Blues and even made three appearances for England during the 60s.

20. Ricardo Carvalho

Carvalho was a game-changer for Chelsea under Jose Mourinho / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

Carvalho followed Jose Mourinho to Chelsea from Porto in 2004 and he proved to be an instrumental part of the backline for the next six years before a move to Real Madrid. He won a trio of Premier League titles with the Blues and the excellent Portuguese centre-back won the 2003/04 UEFA Best Defender of the Year award for his Champions League triumph with Porto.

19. Ray Wilkins

Wilkins was adored by the Chelsea faithful / Getty Images/GettyImages

The late Wilkins began his career at Chelsea and was a fierce midfielder for the club over a six-year period prior to his move to Manchester United. He twice won the club's player of the year accolade and was a consistent performer for England as well. Wilkins returned to Chelsea as a coach during the 2000s and even took charge of the first team on occasion as a caretaker boss.

18. Cesar Azpilicueta

Azpilicueta led by example for the Blues / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Azpilicueta was a real leader at the back for Chelsea and was capable of playing across the defence for the Blues. He won the Champions League and plenty of other titles before moving to Atletico Madrid in 2023.Signed from Marseille in 2012, he would spend over a decade with Chelsea, and he was a consistent figure for the club even during the more turbulent times.

17. N'Golo Kante

Kante covered every blade of Stamford Bridge grass / Robin Jones/GettyImages

The Frenchman remains one of the greatest defensive midfielders the world has ever seen during his prime, even if he didn't last quite as long at the top level as some of Chelsea's other stars. Kante was a genuine cheat code in the engine room, doing the job of two players with little fuss. He was also an underrated talent on the ball, capable of some excellent passing and the odd foray into the opposition box.

16. Roy Bentley

Bentley played for Chelsea during the 1950s and 60s / Evening Standard/GettyImages

Bentley was a prolific forward for Chelsea shortly after the end of the Second World War, netting 150 goals for the Blues - the joint-fifth most of any player. The striker only failed to score fewer than ten goals in two of his ten seasons at Stamford Bridge, and he was renowned for his clever play style in which he would often take up unusual positions in the opposition half.

15. Ruud Gullit

The Dutchman was a major coup for the Blues / Getty Images/GettyImages

Signing Gullit was seen as a major coup for Chelsea in the 1990s, with the Dutchman moving on a free transfer in the final years of his illustrious career. He may not have been at his Milan levels, but he quickly endeared himself to Blues supporters with his excellent performances in midfield. The 1987 Ballon d'Or winner eventually became Chelsea's player-manager shortly after his arrival following the dismissal of Glenn Hoddle, winning the FA Cup with the club in 1997.

14. Claude Makelele

Makelele was a warrior in midfield / Dave WINTER/GettyImages

Securing Makelele's signature in 2003 proved to be an elite piece of business to kick off the Abramovich era, with the relentless Frenchman bossing the engine room for the Blues as they collected two Premier League titles in the four years after his arrival. Widely regarded as one of the great holding midfielders, Makelele's aggression and tenacity set the tempo for Mourinho's Blues during a successful era.

13. Jimmy Greaves

Greaves was a World Cup winner / Don Morley/GettyImages

Greaves came through the ranks at Chelsea at the start of his career, quickly establishing himself as an elite centre-forward in west London. He scored an astonishing 132 goals in just 169 appearances before ending up at rivals Tottenham following a brief stint in Milan.Despite only spending four years at Stamford Bridge, he remains a club icon.

12. Dennis Wise

Wise was blue through and through / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

The feisty midfielder lived and breathed Chelsea Football Club and spent 11 successful years with the Blues, spanning the entirety of the 1990s. He racked up 445 appearances for his boyhood club, placing him eighth in the all-time rankings.He was part of a Chelsea side that won two FA Cups prior to the Abramovich era, and his fighting spirit embodied what the club had long stood for throughout its history.

11. Kerry Dixon

Dixon was a fox in the box / Adrian Murrell/GettyImages

Dixon may have played during a difficult Chelsea era, but he still forged his name into club folklore with his non-stop goals. Only two players have scored more for the Blues than him, with 193 to his name in 420 outings. The forward will always be a club legend, even if he wasn't part of an all-conquering Chelsea side.

10. Peter Bonetti

Bonetti was known for his cat-like reflexes / Evening Standard/GettyImages

Bonetti spent 13 years with Chelsea and won plenty of silverware in west London, including the FA Cup and European Cup Winners' Cup. The nimble goalkeeper was a top stopper, even winning the World Cup with England in 1966. He has made the second most appearances of any player in the club's history, donning the Chelsea shirt on a staggering 729 occasions.

9. Eden Hazard

Hazard was a genius in west London / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/GettyImages

Who knows what might have been had Hazard had the same discipline as some of football's other greats, but the Belgian still enjoyed a remarkable career regardless. His genius won him the adoration of the Stamford Bridge crowd and he consistently got supporters on the edge of their seats with his skills, speed and mazy runs.

8. Gianfranco Zola

The Italian was a superstar at Stamford Bridge / Ben Radford/GettyImages

A player who shared certain characteristics with Hazard, namely that 'wow factor', Zola got Chelsea supporters dreaming of a better future upon his arrival in the late 1990s. The magical Italian won the hearts of the club's fans with his consistently dazzling performances, while he was always good for an absolute belter in and around the opposition penalty box.

7. Ashley Cole

Cole is the best left-back in Premier League history / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

Despite beginning his career at Arsenal, Cole quickly found a home at Stamford Bridge after his move in 2006. He is undoubtedly the greatest left-back of the Premier League era, with his trophy cabinet telling its own story. Cole won the Premier League, Champions League and four FA Cup titles with the Blues, and he was the perfect modern full-back given his brilliance in both halves.

6. Ron Harris

Harris played for Chelsea for almost two decades / Evening Standard/GettyImages

Chelsea's record appearance maker, legends don't come much bigger than Harris. 795 outings is quite a remarkable feat, with the defender spending 18 years at the club.Harris was an iconic figure at Stamford Bridge in both the second division and top tier, and Chelsea's foundations were built on his broad shoulders.

5. Petr Cech

Cech is Chelsea's greatest goalkeeper / Etsuo Hara/GettyImages

Cech was iconic for more than just his famous scrum cap, with the legendary goalkeeper proving one of the great Chelsea signings in 2004 after a move from Rennes. 11 years after his arrival at Stamford Bridge, the Czech international left with 13 major trophies, including a Champions League title and four Premier League crowns. He's one of the Premier League's greatest ever goalkeepers.

4. Peter Osgood

Osgood is an all-time Chelsea legend / Express/GettyImages

So great that he has a statue built of him outside Stamford Bridge, Osgood is another one of Chelsea's legendary centre-forwards. He managed an impressive 150 goals for the Blues and was another member of the European Cup Winners' Cup-winning side in 1971. A broken leg in 1966 even saw him used as a midfielder in the latter part of his Chelsea career, showing his versatility and football intelligence. A true leader for the Blues, he also won the FA Cup at Stamford Bridge.

3. Didier Drogba

Drogba was the man for the big occasion / Ian MacNicol/GettyImages

The man for the big occasion, Drogba was not always the most prolific forward - although he does have 164 Chelsea goals - but he was the player that the Blues would turn to when they needed an important goal. He scored a staggering nine goals in the ten cup finals he played for Chelsea, including the equaliser in the 2012 Champions League final. He even went on to score the winning penalty in the shootout later in the game.

2. Frank Lampard

Lampard is Chelsea's all-time top scorer / Shaun Botterill/GettyImages

Chelsea's all-time record goalscorer, Lampard was the definition of an all-rounder in the centre of the park. He could do a little bit of everything, but he was best known for his trademark late runs into the penalty area, hence why he accumulated a remarkable 211 goals for the Blues. While he wasn't the best Chelsea manager, he will always be regarded as one of the club's greatest players.

1. John Terry

Terry is Mr. Chelsea / Matthew Ashton/GettyImages

Captains don't come much greater than Terry. He was Mr. Chelsea for 19 years and led the club to greatness throughout his time at Stamford Bridge, winning a ridiculous amount of silverware in west London. The Cobham graduate donned Chelsea blue on 717 occasions and is among the Premier League greats. The centre-back won five Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League with the Blues. Simply astonishing.

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