50 Greatest Chelsea Players of All Time

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistSeptember 23, 2013

50 Greatest Chelsea Players of All Time

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    The Bleacher Report inbox and Twitter feed have been overflowing this past week with Chelsea fans offering their thoughts on who should make our all-time list of the club's top 50 players.

    With the weight of expectation bestowed upon us, we've realized lists of this nature should come with a health warning after the late nights and long days we have spent mulling over who should make the cut.

    Early on we decided to set a few ground rules, which are as follows:

    • Players featured are either those we have been able to watch in the flesh or via extensive highlights footage;

    • If the above was not possible, then players with considerable stats or historic significance would also be considered;

    • To give an equal representation of players, we've split the list into each position—goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders and strikers—with our top 10 being a free for all.

    So who is in our top 50? Do you agree? Is your favourite player missing?

    Without further ado, here is the Bleacher Report 50 Greatest Chelsea Players of All Time.

    We hope you enjoy it.

Goalkeepers

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    Image courtesy of ChelseaFC.com
    Image courtesy of ChelseaFC.com

    Peter Bonetti

    Nicknamed The Cat on account of his phenomenal flexibility, Peter Bonetti is Chelsea's most-capped goalkeeper with 729 appearances to his name. He won the League Cup, FA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup during his time at Stamford Bridge from 1959-1979.

     

    Petr Cech

    Chelsea current No. 1, Cech has been Chelsea's first choice for almost a decade and made over 400 appearances. No goalkeeper has been as successful as the Czech stopper, with him collecting three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and the Champions League during his Blues career. He also has 201 clean sheets to his name.

     

    Carlo Cudicini

    Currently plying his trade in Major League Soccer with LA Galaxy, despite joining rivals Tottenham Hotspur in 2009, Carlo Cudicini remains a hero on the King's Road after his years of loyal service. The Italian joined the Blues in 1999 and quickly dislodged Ed de Goey as first choice. He spent a few seasons as No. 1, but following Petr Cech's arrival in 2004, he was forced to remain on the sidelines for the majority of his time at Stamford Bridge. He remained loyal, however, and his place as a Chelsea legend is cemented.

     

    William Foulke

    The man otherwise known as "Fatty" Foulke will live long in history for being Chelsea's first-ever goalkeeper. Standing at 6-foot-4, he appeared just as wide and was a big presence in goal in the club's early days. He arrived from Sheffield United in 1905 and spent one season at Chelsea before leaving for Bradford City. He died in May, 1916, aged 42.

     

    Eddie Niedzwiecki

    Chelsea custodian during the turbulent 1980s, Eddie Niedzwiecki was one of the shining lights in an otherwise forgettable decade for the Blues. It was a tough time for the club, with trouble on and off the pitch making for some tense moments. Niedzwiecki was a sure thing, though and made 175 appearances from 1983-88.

Defenders

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    Image courtesy of ChelseaFC.com
    Image courtesy of ChelseaFC.com

    Marcel Desailly

    Signed from AC Milan in 1998, Marcel Desailly arrived at Chelsea a World Cup winner. His signing was a game changer for the Blues and the Frenchman was a class act throughout his six years in West London. He had a profound influence on those around him, including John Terry, with his Chelsea legacy going strong today.

     

    Frank Leboeuf

    Like Marcel Desailly, Frank Leboeuf won the World Cup with France in 1998. it capped off a fine couple of seasons for the centre-back having won the FA Cup with Chelsea in 1997, followed by the League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup 12 months later. He was the first of Chelsea's true "cultured" centre-backs in the modern era and his arrival helped kick start a modern tradition.

     

    Ricardo Carvalho

    Signed from Porto in 2004, Ricardo Carvalho followed Jose Mourinho to Chelsea. With his signing came success, too, with Carvalho playing a key role in the Blues winning back-to-back titles in 2005 and 2006. He formed an excellent partnership with John Terry and three years since he left for Real Madrid, Chelsea are still searching for his replacement.

     

    Joey Jones

    Footballers were tough in the 1980s, but few came tougher than Joey Jones. The Welshman was a fierce competitor and wore his heart very much on his sleeve. It was his gutsy performances week in, week out, that endeared him to Chelsea fans and while he may not have been as naturally gifted as his peers, he more than made up for it with his passion and endeavor. A fine player.

     

    Ron Harris

    Chelsea youth product and club captain throughout his career, Ron Harris is another Blues star whose commitment to the cause never went unnoticed throughout his career. He lead the Blues to FA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup success in the 1970s and nearly 40 years since his retirement is still fondly referred to as "Chopper" by Chelsea fans on account of his committed approach.

     

    David Webb

    Scorer of the winning goal in 1970 FA Cup final replay, David Webb was also a talented defender who enjoyed a successful career with Chelsea. Not only that, he returned as manager in 1993, helping steer the club clear of relegation. It was a major turning point, with Glenn Hoddle taking over as manager, later signing Ruud Gullit before an influx of stars propelled Chelsea to where they are now.

     

    Ken Shellito

    One of England's most-talented right-backs, let alone among Chelsea's finest defenders. He was part of Tommy Docherty's young "Diamonds" team in the 1960s and was tipped for great things on the domestic scene as well as international. A knee injury cut his career short, though, but in the 123 appearances he made, he showed Chelsea fans enough of his talent to warrant a place on our list of the club's top 50 players.

     

    John Dempsey

    Despite Chelsea boasting a host of attacking talent in the 1960s and 1970s, it was defenders who marked their finest moments of what is now rightly seen as a golden era in the club's history. David Webb scored the winner in the 1970 FA Cup, while John Dempsey was on hand a year later to score the Blues' winner against Real Madrid in the Cup Winners' Cup final. It was one of just five goals he scored, but he proved much better at keeping them out at the other end, becoming essential during his nine years at Stamford Bridge.

     

    Ashley Cole

    For the best part of a decade Ashley Cole has been widely regarded as the world's finest left-back. now nearing the end of his career, his reputation is as fierce as ever and it's to his credit that many people now forget he came through the ranks at rivals Arsenal. Joining Chelsea in 2006, he has lifted every trophy possible in domestic football, also winning the Champions League and Europa League.

     

    Branislav Ivanovic

    Originally signed as a centre-back in 2008, Branislav Ivanovic has made the right-back berth his own at Chelsea. He is physical, but also offers an excellent attacking outlet, supporting the Blues going forward and grabbing his share of goals. On a personal level, his finest moment in a Chelsea shirt came in 2012-13 when he headed home the winner against Benfica in the Europa League final.

     

    Colin Pates

    A Chelsea youth product, Colin Pates made 346 appearances for the club. Rising from the club's ranks, he went on to captain the Blues and helped the club reestablish itself in the top flight during the turbulent 1980s. He was a classy defender and was years ahead of his time with his slick approach to the game.

     

    Eddie McCreadie

    Eddie McCreadie did it all at Chelsea—he won major honors and even managed the club before resigning over a dispute involving a company car. He had helped get Chelsea back to the old Division One, a league where he spent many fine years as a player terrorizing opposition attackers with his unique approach to the game that saw him take few prisoners.

Midfielders

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Pat Nevin

    As football fans we often like to imagine the value of certain players from the past if they were still playing today. Pat Nevin is one of those who would be commanding the type of transfer fee that would make chairmen baulk, but unlike some stars of today, he would be worth every penny. The Scot was a magnificent talent and not only that, supported teammate Paul Canoville by speaking out against racism in football at a time when footballers found it hard to tackle such issues.

     

    Joe Cole

    A Chelsea fan in his youth, Joe Cole was schooled at West Ham United before arriving at Stamford Bridge in 2003. After a slow start to his Blues career, he became a regular and played a major role in their success under Jose Mourinho. He was voted Player of the Year in 2008 and had it not been for a serious knee injury suffered against Southend United in the FA Cup a year later, we'd probably still be witnessing his talents at Chelsea now.

     

    Michael Ballack

    There's often talk of bargain buys, but joining Chelsea on a free transfer from Bayern Munich in 2006, Michael Ballack certainly ensured he fell into that bracket. The German had a fine reputation in European football and he enhanced it at Stamford Bridge too, winning the Premier League in 2010 as part of a fearsome midfield partnership with Frank Lampard.

     

    John Hollins

    Another of the Docherty Diamonds to make it into our list, John Hollins was an exceptional talent. he doesn't just make it into our top 50 list of Chelsea's all time players, he would probably make the starting XI, too. Hollins was that good and his appearances total of 592 reinforces that.

     

    Paul Canoville

    Similar to William "Fatty" Foulke, Chelsea's first-ever goalkeeper, Paul Canoville is a pioneer. As the first black player in Chelsea's history, he suffered racial abuse from his own fans during the 1980s. It was despicable behavior, but with Canoville sticking to his guns and riding out the storm of hatred, he helped path the way for so many black players who have since graced the Stamford Bridge turf. But let's not just remember Canoville for political reasons, he was a fine player also and often showcased his talents on the wing for Chelsea, creating some memorable moments.

     

    Ruud Gullit

    Where Chelsea are today is as much to do with Ruud Gullit's signing in 1995 as it is Roman Abramovich's vast riches. The Dutch ace was a megastar and although he was in the twilight of his career when he arrived in West London, his presence alone introduced a whole new culture at Chelsea. He took over as manager in 1996, signing a host of stars that helped bring the glory days back to the King's Road also. A fine player, an equally fine manager in his Chelsea days, too, Gullit is a proper legend.

     

    Claude Makelele

    Not many players have a position named after them—Claude Makelele has, though. Such was his impact at Chelsea, the holding midfield role is not often referred to as the "Makelele Role". He was exceptional, helping Chelsea win the Premier League in 2005 and 2006—and doing it all in a very subtle way, scheming in defensive midfield while those in front of him took the glory.

     

    Terry Venables

    A cultured midfielder before the term had even entered football's mainstream, Terry Venables was a success wherever he played. He is another star to have come through the clubs highly-successful youth system in the 1960s and was a key component in linking Chelsea's attacking play.

     

    Ray Wilkins

    Chelsea's youngest-ever captain, it was the financial situation at Stamford Bridge in the 1970s that saw the man they call "Butch" move to Manchester United. By that time he was a Blues hero, one of their own and his performances throughout his Chelsea career are still fondly remembered by those old enough to have witnessed him in action.

     

    Frank Blunstone

    Going back a little further in the Chelsea annals, Frank Blunstone helped the Blues to their first-ever title success in 1955 under the guidance of Ted Drake. He was only 21 at the time, but arriving from hometown club Crewe Alexandra a year earlier, he was a key player to the Blues. If that wasn't enough, he mixed playing for Chelsea with carrying out his National Service, which was compulsory at the time.

     

    Roberto Di Matteo

    Where to start with Roberto Di Matteo? Scorer of the fastest-ever FA Cup final goal at the old Wembley, his strike against Middlesbrough in 1997 set Chelsea on their way to lift the trophy. He then scored in the League Cup final against the same opposition a year later, before scoring the last-ever goal at Wembley before its redevelopment in the 2000 FA Cup final as Chelsea beat Aston Villa. Add to that the fact he was Chelsea manager when they lifted the Champions League for the first time in 2012 and you get the idea of why he features in this list.

     

    Clive Walker

    We've said it before, but the late 1970s and 1980s were a tough time for Chelsea fans as the club faced an uncertain future. There were various players who offered hope, however, and Clive Walker was one of them. He was a majestic talent, a scorer of incredible goals to give fans something to cheer about when not much else seemed to be going right in West London.

     

    Gustavo Poyet

    All football fans enjoy having a character on the team and Gustavo Poyet was just that for Chelsea. Only, whereas some players of Poyet's ilk may provide a little entertainment but little else, the Uruguayan was different. He came with an end product and scored some fabulous goals for the Blues including a memorable strike against Sunderland on the opening day of the season in 1999—a goal that can be viewed on YouTube.

     

    Damien Duff

    It was a close call between Arjen Robben and Damien Duff as to who would make this list, but the Irishman just shades it on account of his role in one of the finest Champions League games we will ever witness. Chelsea 4-2 Barcelona was an incredible occasion and Duff was influential, scoring for the Blues while also providing the assist for John Terry to seal the victory with his header. He spent three years at Chelsea from 2003-2006 and was magnificent in all of them.

Strikers

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    Image courtesy of ChelseaFC.com
    Image courtesy of ChelseaFC.com

    George Hilsdon

    One of the first Chelsea stars in the club's early years, George Hilsdon scored 108 goals in 164 appearances—stats that speak for themselves when it comes to his talent in front of goal. He was nicknamed "Gatling Gun" on account of the ferocity of his shots and there is a weather vane that sits on top of the East Stand at Stamford Bridge in his honor.

     

    Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

    Pre-Roman Abramovich, there aren't many strikers in the Premier League era at Chelsea who can claim to be as prolific as Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink. The Dutch ace was a danger man with a capital D and he was feared by most defenders. He enjoyed some great moments in blue, too, notably scoring a hat-trick against fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur in 2001-02. he also scored the winning goal in the first match of the Abramovich era—a 2-1 victory over Liverpool at Anfield.

     

    Gianluca Vialli

    A Champions League winner when he signed for Chelsea, Gianluca Vialli didn't even need to kick a ball before he became a Chelsea hero. The Italian signed from Juventus at a time where the Blues were under going their transformation with Ruud Gullit as manager, introducing his brand of "sexy" football. He lived up to his billing, too, scoring his share of goals before being appointed manager in 1998, winning the League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup.

     

    Tore Andre Flo

    Seen as somewhat of a super sub, Tore Andre Flo's scoring record at Chelsea was an impressive 50 goals in 94 starts. He had a knack for scoring goals at vital moments and it was his impact, often from the bench, that saw Chelsea fans accept him as one of their own. He spent four season at Chelsea, but since departing has remained a hero along the King's Road.

     

    Mark Hughes

    As strikers go, they didn't come much tougher than Mark Hughes during his playing days. He joined Chelsea in 1995 and it was no surprise the Blues were soon in the running for major honors, reaching the FA Cup semifinal in his first season before his partnership with Gianfranco Zola saw Chelsea eventually lift the title.

     

    Bobby Tambling

    The fact his scoring record of 202 lasted until 2013 shows just how great Bobby Tambling was for Chelsea. he was prolific in front of goal, but while he may have been ruthless on the pitch, he was known for being equally nice and pleasant off it. In all, Tambling made 370 appearances for the club, with his goals tally giving him an average of 0.54 per game—a fine record in any generation.

     

    Eidur Gudjohnsen

    If they're good enough, Barcelona often come poaching a club's players and that's what happened with Chelsea and Eidur Gudjohnsen in 2006. The Icelander had been at Stamford Bridge for six years, making a real name for himself having joined from Bolton Wanderers. His partnership with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink even resulted in Gianfranco Zola being relegated to the subs bench, with Gudjohnsen proving even too good for the Blues legend.

     

    Nicolas Anelka

    Signing from Bolton Wanderers in January 2008, it was perhaps a surprise to see Nicolas Anelka at Chelsea as many thought his best days were past him. But he proved himself again, scoring freely and spearheading the Blues attack in the absence of Didier Drogba who suffered with injury lay offs and at one time, malaria. Anelka was the ideal striker for Chelsea at the time and played his part as they lifted the Premier League for a third time in 2010, sealing the FA Cup double a week later.

     

    Roy Bentley

    Chelsea's first-ever captain to hold the championship trophy aloft, it was Roy Bentley who led the Blues to success in 1955. He spent eight years in West London and scored 150 goals to put him among the club's all-time goalscorers also.

10. Juan Mata

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    Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

    So he cannot make it in the Chelsea team of late, but there's no denying the impact Juan Mata has had at Chelsea since joining the club in 2011.

    The Spaniard has been named back-to-back Player of the Year and last year even picked up the Players' Player of the Year award after another fine campaign in Blue.

    Mata is exceptional, a player who makes it a joy to watch and observe football. Whatever his current predicament at Stamford Bridge, he will certainly go down as one of Chelsea's all-time greats.

9. John Terry

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    Julian Finney/Getty Images

    Chelsea's most-successful captain, it's slightly giving things away to announce John Terry is the only defender to make our top 10 of Chelsea's all-time 50 greatest players.

    It's a testament to everything the Englishman has achieved throughout his glorious career. He has been sensational since making his debut against Aston Villa in 1998, rising through the ranks to emulate so many stars before him.

    His personal life and rumors of extra-marital affairs have clouded the judgement of some, but make no mistake, Terry is one of the finest defenders England has ever produced, let alone his club.

8. Jimmy Greaves

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    Jimmy Greaves played so long ago that archive footage of the former Chelsea ace is somewhat harder to come by these days. But just look at his stats—132 goals in 169 games for the Blues.

    Those stats say it all, but if you're still not convinced, just remember he scored four goals in his last ever game for Chelsea before leaving to join AC Milan in 1961.

    Quite how Chelsea could allow him to leave remains a mystery, but with his departure Blues fans must always be thinking what might have been had he remained at Stamford Bridge a few more years when the likes of Peter Osgood and Ron Harris would have become his teammates under Tommy Docherty.

7. Charlie Cooke

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    Nicknamed the "Bonnie Prince" after the 18th century prince of the same moniker, his namesake was also known as the "Young Pretender".

    There was no pretense where Charlie Cooke was concerned, however, with the midfielder one of the stars of Chelsea's golden generation in the 1960s and 1970s.

    He created an excellent understanding with Peter Osgood during his time at Stamford Bridge and set his teammate up for memorable headed equalizer against Leeds Untied in the 1970 FA Cup final replay.

    For fans of a younger generation, he was the Eden Hazard of his day. A player with a bag full of tricks, Cooke was hard to track and despite giving defenders the run around, their fatigue come the minutes didn't mean they slept well. Cooke was a nightmare and there are plenty of his opponents still alive today who carry the mental scars of torment brought on by his talents.

6. Dennis Wise

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    Chelsea were not the glamorous prospect they are today when Dennis Wise joined from Wimbledon in 1990.

    Wise helped put the club back in the spotlight, though, captaining them to success in the FA Cup twice, the League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup.

    it's a shame then that he was largely underrated during his career. Loved and adored at Stamford Bridge, Wise's talents weren't as well celebrated as perhaps hindsight suggests they should be, with him picking up just 21 England caps.

    He left Chelsea for Leicester City in 2001, 11 years after he joined the Blues. It's been 12 years since, but many Chelsea fans have a glimmer of hope he could return one day in some capacity at the club.

5. Kerry Dixon

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    Image courtesy of ChelseaFC.com
    Image courtesy of ChelseaFC.com

    Simply a great striker—one of Chelsea's finest.

    Any Blues fan growing up in the Eighties idolized Kerry Dixon, with his goals so often helping them escape disaster or come close to glory.

    It was a time when stars were few, but the former No. 9's shone brightest.

    He came close to equalling Bobby Tambling's scoring record of 202 goals, too, hitting 193 before time eventually ran out for Dixon and he was sold to Southampton in 1992.

4. Peter Osgood

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    Getty Images/Getty Images

    Peter Osgood remains the King of Stamford Bridge for a reason. In simple terms, it's because the former No. 9 was nothing short of majestic throughout his Blues career.

    Brought in to replace Barry Bridges as a young upstart, Tommy Docherty gave Osgood 10 matches to prove himself. From that moment he never looked back and a legend was born—one of the finest of them all.

    At Stamford Bridge, just one statue of a former hero stands and it's telling to the regard with which he is still held that the statue is of Osgood, welcoming fans entering the West Stand.

    He died in 2006, but his legend lives on in West London.

3. Didier Drogba

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    For a man who made headlines from the moment he first slipped into a Chelsea shirt, there was only one way he was going to bow out of his Chelsea career and that was at the top.

    Didier Drogba did just that when he scored the decisive penalty in the Blues' penalty shoot out against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League final.

    It meant the Blues pulled off the unlikeliest of victories, but they had one man to thank for it and that was Drogba, who played like a man possessed that evening in Munich.

    The Ivorian has proved one of the Premier League's finest imports and by default, he is one of Roman Abramovich's also.

    A Premier League winner, an FA Cup winner, League winner and Champions League winner. The don't come much bigger or better than Drogba at Stamford Bridge.

2. Gianfranco Zola

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    Gary M. Prior/Getty Images

    How to describe Gianfranco Zola? It's not difficult because we have little to say, it's finding the words to do his talent justice that remains the tough part.

    The Italian arrived at Chelsea from Parma in 1996 where, under Carlo Ancelotti, he was having a difficult time playing out wide and feeling unloved.

    He joined the Blues and was suddenly rejuvenated, forming an unlikely partnership with Mark Hughes.

    Indeed, Zola's form ousted Gianluca Vialli from the starting XI, with the Blues' No. 9 forced to watch from the sidelines for much of 1996-97 following Zola's arrival.

    He was named Footballer of the Year by the English media in his first year at Stamford Bridge and he went on to become a true great of the English game and one of Chelsea's best players.

1. Frank Lampard

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    Chelsea have had plenty of I-was-there moments this past decade and Saturday May 11, 2013, is another of them.

    That was the day Frank Lampard not only scored goal 202 for Chelsea, but his second strike against Aston Villa to make it 2-1 on 88 minutes moved him onto 203, thus making him Chelsea's all-time goalscorer.

    Lampard surpassed Bobby Tambling's previous record of 202 and while it put him out in front on the scoring charts, it also confirmed his position as Chelsea's greatest player.

    It would be an impressive record for a striker, let alone a midfielder and shows the talent Chelsea No. 8 possesses.

    West Ham United thought they were doing good business when they allowed him to leave for £11 million in 2001, but how they must be kicking themselves now.

    Chelsea perhaps didn't realize it at the time, but they picked up one of the bargains of the century. Lampard has returned that investment with an astonishing trophy haul, too, which includes three Premier League titles, the Champions League and Europa League among others.

    His 12 years at Stamford Bridge have been phenomenal and ensure he stands apart from the rest as Chelsea's greatest.