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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.