It’s that time of the week again where we continue our countdown of Chelsea’s greatest ever players and this week we break into the top 35. The 5 in question today are some Chelsea greats from way back when and some are modern favourites including the latest player to leave the club.
35. Michael Ballack
The big German midfielder already had a large reputation in world football before his move to the Premier League but his credibility was there for all to see in a Chelsea shirt. Despite interest from Real Madrid, Manchester United and the two Milan clubs, Ballack moved to Premier League champions Chelsea in the summer of 2006. His authority in midfield, as well as his goals, made him a hugely important player as the Blues fought toe-to-toe with a powerful Manchester United side and his most memorable game came against the Red Devils in 2008. As the two giants battled it out for the Premier League title, Ballack scored a brace against United at Stamford Bridge to blow the title race wide open. His penalty and header secured a 2-1 win over Ferguson’s side in the absence of Frank Lampard, who had just lost his mother. Ballack didn’t get his hands on the title in that season but he did two years later in his final year in West London.
34. Joe Cole
Another stalwart of Jose Mourinho’s first spell in charge was Paddington-born Joe Cole. Chelsea signed Cole from West Ham in 2003 in one of Roman Abramovich’s first signings and then-manager, Claudio Ranieri, saw him as a long-term replacement for Gianfranco Zola. The youngster lived up to the hype in the first few years at the club winning silverware left, right and centre. That phrase can also be applied to his position in the Chelsea team where, as a versatile attacking player, he became a real asset to the side. He was named Chelsea Player of the Year in 2008, scoring 10 and assisting another 8, and wore the captain’s armband at times during the following seasons. Injury hampered his chance of getting even higher in this list but his 40 goals in over 280 games in Chelsea blue will be remembered for a long time to come. What will have been forgotten is that he was the man who was replaced by Nicolas Anelka in the 2008 Champions League Final so he might’ve got his hands on that medal if things had gone differently.
33. Gus Poyet
A great goalscoring midfielder that cost absolutely nothing. The Uruguayan signed from Real Zaragoza in 1997 and went on to become a cult hero at Stamford Bridge. Despite a serious injury early on in his Chelsea career, Poyet bounced back to play almost 150 times for the Blues and boasted an impressive goal per game ratio of around 1 in 3. He was a scorer of important goals as well which included the winner in the 1998 Cup Winners’ Cup Final against Real Madrid, two FA Cup semi-final goals against Newcastle and a crucial header against Leeds in the Premier League. He was twice Chelsea’s second highest scorer for the season and, from midfield, that’s quite an achievement – just ask Frank Lampard. Poyet left Chelsea in 2001 having won two domestic and two European trophies over the turn of the century.
32. John Hollins
One for the older Chelsea fans this one. If you haven’t heard of him, John Hollins is on this list for being one of the most consistent and important players in Chelsea history. Hollins racked almost 600 appearances during his 12-year spell in the 1960s and 70s and played his first Chelsea game at the age of just 17. He could play in midfield and defence and his stamina and fitness were the main reason why his appearance figure was so high. Along with that, he scored 69 times for Chelsea and also provided the crucial assist in Chelsea’s first ever FA Cup triumph in 1970 against Leeds. His medal collection also included League Cup and a Cup Winners’ Cup triumphs and 2 Chelsea Player of the Year awards. He returned to the club in 1983 for one more season and helped the team gain promotion back to the first division. After retiring that year, he continued at Chelsea as the manager for 2 more years. A terrific servant.
31. Diego Costa
This man guaranteed goals and the odd fight. Known for his temperamental character and deadly finishing, Diego Costa’s goals were instrumental as Chelsea won 2 Premier League titles in 3 years. The Brazilian turned Spaniard’s main asset was his physicality and movement, forming a profitable partnership with Cesc Fabregas during his time at the club and under 3 managers in 3 seasons, Costa scored a goal every 2 games for the Blues, totalling 60 in just 3 years and was a real leader for the team. Spats with Jose Mourinho, Antonio Conte and many Arsenal players contributed to his unpopular reputation among fans in England but he was adored by the Chelsea faithful. The Guv’ner was a cult hero during his time at Stamford Bridge and recognised that, despite his temper problems, he was an invaluable member of the side. He bagged an equaliser in his final appearance for Chelsea in the FA Cup Final before his unceremonious exit to Atletico Madrid.