Chelsea are well renowned for splashing the cash in the transfer window, but this summer’s only acquisition so far comes in the form of a free agent.

It was confirmed yesterday that Marcus Bettinelli had joined the Blues on a two-year deal following the expiration of his Fulham contract.

Although it wasn’t the most groundbreaking announcement of the year, the Stamford Bridge faithful will hope the ball is now rolling for others to follow in Bettinelli’s footsteps.

Who knows, the goalkeeper might prove to be an excellent addition, like several of Chelsea’s penniless recruits over time.

Here is a list of the Blues’ top ten free-agent acquisitions in the Premier League era, ranked on their impact upon the South West London side.

Michael Ballack

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
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Arguably one of the finest pieces of business in the English top flight’s modern history, Michael Ballack joined Chelsea in 2006 at a cost of zero pounds (excluding wages).

Having just won the double with Bayern Munich and finished third at the World Cup with Germany, the midfielder played a major role in the Blues burst of trophy success.

He played 167 times across a period which included winning the league, three FA Cups, a League Cup, and a Champions League runner-up medal.

Ruud Gullit

Ruud Gullit of Chelsea
Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport

Some rank Ruud Gullit’s arrival in the capital as the greatest free-of-charge signing since the division was formed in 1992.

Mainly based on the Dutchman’s legacy forged in his homeland and Italy.

Gullit finished second to Eric Cantona for the Footballer of the Year award in his debut season, before he took charge of Chelsea as a player-manager.

The former Ballon d’Or winner led the Blues to their first major trophy for well over two decades, lifting the FA Cup in 1997.    

Gianluca Vialli

Gianluca Vialli
Mandatory Credit: Gary M Prior/Allsport

Part of Gullit’s overhaul was to bring Gianluca Vialli over from Juventus in 1996.

Unfortunately, the pair couldn’t see eye-to-eye, and eventually, Vialli would take over as player-coach in his second season.

His appointment caused a smattering of silverware, including the FA Cup, the Cup Winners’ Cup, the League Cup, and the UEFA Super Cup.

Thiago Silva

Manchester City v Chelsea FC - UEFA Champions League Final

(Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Although Frank Lampard faced criticism towards the tail end of his reign, he certainly got this particular recruitment right.

Thiago Silva sailed across the channel to join Chelsea from Paris Saint-Germain, where he had claimed every domestic title imaginable, twice or thrice over.

But the Brazilian had a Champions League-shaped hole in his trophy cabinet.


The 36-year-old finally got his hands on the coveted prize, only before he featured in an FA Cup final and helped the Blues finish fourth in the league.

Gus Poyet

Gustavo Poyet of Chelsea
Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport

Gus Poyet could have affirmed his status as a Stamford Bridge hero, had he not moved to Tottenham Hotspur in 2001.

However, let’s remember the great times he had in a blue jersey across a four-year spell.

Poyet played a pivotal part in Chelsea’s triumphs towards the end of the millennium, scoring the winner in the UEFA Super Cup final.  

Didier Drogba

Chelsea v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League
(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Who could forget Didier Drogba’s second homecoming in 2014?

Although the legendary striker’s role was largely to understudy Diego Costa, he brought experience to Jose Mourinho’s dressing room.

Not to mention scoring the odd goal along the way.

Mario Melchiot

Mario Melchiot
Mandatory Credit: Ben Radford /Allsport

Perhaps the Blues most underrated costless employee, Mario Melchiot was a solid addition to the side for five years.

Fans will remember his strike against Manchester United in the Community Shield best, just after the one he netted away to United in the previous campaign.   

Willy Caballero

Leicester City v Chelsea - The Emirates FA Cup Quarter Final
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Willy Caballero is no longer part of the Chelsea family, after he was released last month, yet his cult status will always live on.

Brought in originally to support Kepa Arrizabalaga, he actually briefly took the no.1 spot under Lampard.

He started the 2020 FA Cup final and was also substituted on for Kepa in the League Cup showpiece the year before.  

Mark Schwarzer

Chelsea v FC Steaua Bucuresti - UEFA Champions League
(Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Mark Schwarzer’s brief stint as a Blue brought some happy moments.

The Australian was between the sticks for Chelsea’s infamous ‘Steven Gerrard slip’ victory at Anfield.

He also played in a Champions League semi-final versus Atletico Madrid, keeping a clean sheet in both games.

Samuel Eto’o

Chelsea v Manchester United - Premier League
(Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Simply having Samuel Eto’o at the club in the first place is good enough for this list.

He scored a respectable 12 times in 35 outings. Memorably, three of those came against Manchester United in one match.

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