For a number of years, Chelsea have enjoyed a strong Italian contingent. The likes of Gianfranco Zola, Roberto di Matteo, and Gianluca Vialli became fan favourites during their times at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea’s list of Italian players was added to on Transfer Deadline Day, with the signing of Torino defender Davide Zappacosta for a reported fee of £23 million plus add-ons.

This week’s Forgotten Blue is another member of the Former Italian club at Chelsea.

Samuele Dalla Bona.

As a 17-year-old, Dalla Bona was captain of the Italian Under-18s side. In October 1998, Chelsea signed the player and put him in their youth side.

In the youth and reserve sides, Dalla Bona showed why the Blues brought him to Stamford Bridge and ended the season with 16 reserve team goals. This earned him the club’s Golden Boot, as well as the Chelsea Young Player of the Year in the 1998/99 season.

The Italian made his senior debut around a year later, in a Champions League fixture against Dutch side Feyenoord. His first team opportunities were given a huge boost, following the departures of Dennis Wise and Gustavo Poyet.

55 appearances later, Dalla Bona turned down a contract extension at Stamford Bridge and expressed a desire to return to Italy. He was placed on the transfer list and forced to train with the reserves.

He moved to AC Milan in the summer of 2002 but failed to dislodge the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, and Clarence Seedorf in the midfield. Dall Bona would spend the next three years of his Milan contract out on loan at Bologna, Leece, and Sampdoria respectively.

His next move was to Napoli, but yet again, he failed to secure regular football at the club. Loan spells at Iraklis, Verona, and Atalanta couldn’t provide him with first team football either.

Dalla Bona left Napoli in 2011 and signed a one-year contract at Mantova. He made eight appearances during the 2011/12 season. This proved to be his last season in football, retiring at the age of 31.

After leaving Chelsea, the Italian’s career didn’t hit the heights that Dalla Bona would have expected. In an interview with La Gazetta dello Sport a few years ago, he said:

“If only I could turn back time, I would have stayed there forever,

“In Italy, football’s repulsive, particularly everything which goes on around it. The pressure, the mentality — I’m not made out for the Italian culture, and I also paid for this.”

With Dalla Bona ultimately admitting leaving Chelsea was his biggest regret in football, we can only wonder what his career would’ve looked like if the Italian remained in West London.