The 10 Best International Stars to Have Played for Chelsea
With Frank Lampard recently joining the 100 club for England, and an international break that—let's face it—has us all a little bit bored, now seemed as good a time as ever to look back at some of the best international stars to ever play for Chelsea.
And there have been some real stars.
Even though they have not always been Chelsea's best players, as anyone who has watched the Blues over the years knows, Stamford Bridge has never been in short supply of international talent. World Cup winners, Golden Boot holders and plenty of 100 cap winners have played in the Chelsea blue.
There are a lot of young players who will surely make their mark at the World Cup next year, but for now, let's look back through the years at the 10 best international stars to have played for Chelsea FC.
In compiling this list, here are some of the things that have been taken into consideration.
This is a list based solely on international performance, not Chelsea performance. Therefore, there are many Chelsea legends who are missing due to vast under-appreciation—or sometimes under-performance—at international level. Some notable absentees are Gianfranco Zola, Peter Osgood, Dennis Wise and many more.
Chelsea have had many good international players over the years, but because of stiff competition they have missed out. This includes players such as Gianluca Vialli, Ricardo Carvalho and Ray Wilkins.
The reason that many of these players missed out is due to special weight being given to the following two criteria: importance to their international team (i.e. being captain, top scorer, consistently picked) and especially success with that team (i.e. performance in major tournaments).
With that in mind, let's dig in.
There were many players who did not make the top 10, either because they did not play as big a role for their country as some others or because their international side failed to make it in as many international tournaments. Here are a few of those who deserve honorable mention.
With 98 caps and 62 goals to date, Drogba is not only the Ivory Coast's all-time top scorer, but he is a living legend for the African nation. His failure to make the top 10 is based solely on the fact that his Ivory Coast team has struggled to win any championships, falling twice at the final hurdle in the African Cup of Nations, in which Drogba missed crucial penalties on both occasions. They have also failed to get out of the group stages of either of the World Cups that he has played in.
John Terry won 78 caps for England, scored six goals and was the captain of the side for four years. It seems odd that a player of that caliber should miss out on a place in the top 10. However, the multiple scandals and ultimate resignation meant that Terry's England legacy is not what it could have been and doesn't quite match up to that of some of the other players who have been included in the list.
Weah played for Liberia 60 times and scored 22 goals. But Weah was cursed with a poor side. Despite Weah's performance and team funding, Liberia was never going to rise to his lofty standards and never qualified for a World Cup.
Sheva earned 111 caps and scored 48 goals for Ukraine. But despite this fantastic record, the team only managed to qualify for one World Cup and one European Championship during his international career.
Cech has 103 caps for the Czech Republic and captained the side. However, the team has been guilty of some patchy tournament play, and Cech misses out partly as a result of his high profile errors, in particular in Euro 2008 against Turkey.
10. Dan Petrescu
You might not remember Romania having a half-decent football team, but the chances are that you remember their bleach blond hair at Euro 2000.
They actually had both, and Petrescu had an outstanding international career with Romania, in which he won 95 caps, scored 12 goals and reached the quarter-finals of both the 1994 World Cup and the European Championships in 2000.
They also qualified for Euro 96 and reached the second round of the World Cup in 1998 after Petrescu scored the winning goal in their group match against England.
9. Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard has had an exceptional international career, and it is not over yet.
He has received 98 caps while at Chelsea and 101 in total. He has scored 29 international goals, been voted England Player of the Year twice, was named in the Euro 2004 team of the tournament and is England's most prolific penalty taker with nine.
He has also captained the side on multiple occasions.
He would be higher on the list if he had a better tournament record with England. Despite his impressive career, he has only played in three major tournaments for England, reaching the quarterfinals twice (Euro 2004, World Cup 2006) and second round once (World Cup 2010, in which he made 37 shots on goal without scoring).
8. Ashley Cole
Perhaps no player has been as consistent for England as Ashley Cole. The left-back has earned 105 caps, most of which have been starting roles.
He has played for England in five major tournaments, earning a place in the team of the tournament for Euro 2004. He was also voted England's Player of the Year in 2010.
His international play is a big part of what has made him the best left-back in the world.
7. Michael Ballack
With 98 caps and 42 goals, Michael Ballack was the beating heart of the German national side for years, as well as their captain.
He was named national Player of the Year three times and played in five major tournaments. Ballack's crucial performances and game-winning goals helped Germany to the 2002 World Cup final and the Euro 2008 final. They also reached the semifinals of the World Cup in 2006.
Had Germany won either of those finals, Ballack would probably be No. 1 on this list.
6. Ruud Gullit
Ruud Gullit had already established himself as a legend long before he arrived at Chelsea. With 66 caps and 17 goals for the Netherlands, he did not have quite as long an international career as some of the others on this list, but his performances were nothing short of exceptional.
Although the Netherlands under-performed in many tournaments, and even failed to qualify for some, Gullit was at the core of their national side and captained the team to a famous victory in the 1988 European Championships, the first trophy in the nation's history.
5. Jimmy Greaves
Another player who could easily have been first place on this list is Jimmy Greaves. Had he not suffered a shin injury in the first round of the 1966 World Cup, he would be.
Greaves had a remarkable return of 44 goals in 57 appearances for England, and he scored a record six hat-tricks, all in a time when England were arguably the best team in the world. Chances to play in major tournaments were not as frequent back then, but Greaves also helped England win the 1961 British Home Championship.
4. Frank Leboeuf
Having played 50 times for France, Leboeuf's crowning moment was the 1998 World Cup final.
Leboeuf demonstrated a defensive masterclass by successfully man-marking the then-best striker in the world, Ronaldo, and helping France to a famous victory.
He was also part of the squad that won the European Championship in 2000.
3. Didier Deschamps
Didier Deschamps may not have had the most distinguished career for Chelsea, only lasting one season near the end of his playing days, but he had an international career that most players could only dream of.
For more than a decade, he played in, and captained, a special French side. He helped them to win the World Cup and European Championship and earned 103 caps in his important midfield role.
2. Marcel Desailly
The 116 caps earned by Marcel Desailly do not even begin to tell the story of how important he was to the France national team for almost a decade.
Desailly was at the heart of the French defence, helping them to victory in the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European Championship and captaining them to victory in the 2001 Confederations Cup.
His appearance record has only been bested by one player.
1. Fernando Torres
It is easy to forget just how good Fernando Torres can be, but few players have an international record quite like his.
He has 106 caps and 36 goals for Spain. He has played in five major tournaments, winning one World Cup and two European Championships. He scored goals in the finals of both European Championships that Spain won. He was named in the Team of the Tournament in Euro 2008 and won the Golden Boot in 2012. He has also represented Spain in two Confederations Cup tournaments.
All of this would be enough to retire on, but Torres is still only 29.
So there it is! Obviously there will be a lot of differing opinions on this topic, so let me know in the comments what your top 10 would be.