Chelsea's All-Time XI

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistNovember 22, 2013

Chelsea's All-Time XI

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    With over 100 years of history, Chelsea teams past and present have always featured plenty of talent.

    From the club's first-ever goalkeeper William "Fatty" Foulke to current Stamford Bridge heroes Eden Hazard and Juan Mata, no matter how lean or successful the times, the Blues have often boasted players who have been stars of their generation.

    But who would make it into an All-Time XI? It's a question that, on the surface, always seems much easier to answer than it actually is.

    Do you go for tactics? Star quality alone? The romance of watching certain players in your younger days as a football fan?

    Whatever the rationale, it's always an answer that will create more debate than answers.

    So, with all that in mind, here's the Bleacher Report All-Time Chelsea XI.

GK: Petr Cech

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    The end of this season will mark Petr Cech's 10th anniversary as a Chelsea player.

    In that time he was won everything possible at the highest level of English football, including the Champions League. Last season he even added the Europa League to his impressive trophy haul as Chelsea's goalkeeper.

    The success is one thing, but the road has not always been a smooth one. He has overcome serious injury that threatened his not just his career, but also his life. Yet remains one of the finest goalkeepers to have graced the Premier League.

    Chelsea's legendary goalkeeper from the 1960s and 1970s, Peter Bonetti, is rightfully idolized in West London, but even "The Cat" would admit to Cech's superiority.

RB: David Webb

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    There aren't many right-backs who have served Chelsea quite like David Webb did throughout his Blues career.

    Current incumbent Branislav Ivanovic pushes him close, but almost 40 years on since he made his last appearance, it's Webb who stands apart.

    He wasn't just a fine defender either, scoring the winning goal in the 1970 FA Cup Final replay against Leeds United to secure the Blues' first-ever FA Cup success.

    Webb was a real warrior, and his spirit was a big part of Chelsea's success during the six years he spent in West London.

    He returned to Stamford Bridge in 1993 as caretaker manager, helping Chelsea steer clear of relegation before Glenn Hoddle was appointed full-time manager. And we all know where that has taken Chelsea since.

LB: Ashley Cole

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    Trading in Arsenal for a move across the capital city in 2006 was enough to make Ashley Cole an instant hero among Chelsea fans.

    Since that time, though, he's lived up to his billing as the world's finest left-back and has been a proud servant of the club.

    He's the most successful player to have donned the Chelsea number three, also, lifting the Premier League, FA Cup, Champions League and Europa League.

CB: Ron Harris

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    He wasn't nicknamed "Chopper" by his peers for nothing. Opponents knew when they had been in a game with Ron Harris—in fact, some of them are probably still carrying the scars from a match-up with the former Chelsea captain.

    Harris came through the youth ranks at Chelsea and went on to make 795 appearances during a 19-year career, testament to the ability he so often displayed.

    He was also the first captain to lift the FA Cup for the club.

CB: John Terry

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    Are his powers waning? It's a debate that will continue to ramble on until the time comes when John Terry calls time on his career.

    What isn't up for debate, though, is what a fine servant he has been for Chelsea. Over 580 appearances testify to that, but looking at his trophy haul makes his achievements all the more impressive.

    He was the first captain to lead Chelsea to a league title in 2005, repeating his success in 2006. In 2010, he also helped the Blues to the Premier League and FA Cup double—another feat never before achieved at Stamford Bridge.

RW: Pat Nevin

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    Pat Nevin was a silky, smooth operator on the flanks for Chelsea during his heyday in the 1980s.

    The club was struggling after the burden of years of financial instability, yo-yoing between the top-flight and Division Two. But the likes of Nevin gave fans hope better times would come.

    Nevin was a gem, proving a snip at just £95,000 from Clyde in 1983. With today's transfer fees, Chelsea would be adding a few more zeros to that figure if they were signing him now.

    He wasn't just a fine player, but also a man who stood for all the right things football should represent. When his teammate Paul Canoville received racial abuse from his own fans, Nevin spoke out when very few would.

LW: Charlie Cooke

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    Bringing a Scottish balance to Chelsea's attacking threat from midfield, Charlie Cooke complements Pat Nevin's artistry on the left.

    Cooke was a little more direct than Nevin but equally talented, and he was a major force in the 1970s.

    He had an excellent relationship with teammate Peter Osgood, one that was almost telepathic at times, which is captured perfectly in the YouTube clip above when Ossie equalised against Leeds United in the 1970 FA Cup Final replay.

    They called Cooke the "Bonnie Prince," and there was always a regal authority about the way he played his football.

CM: Frank Lampard

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    Chelsea's record goalscorer of all-time, is there much else we can add about Frank Lampard's Chelsea career to justify his selection?

    Thought not. His goalscoring stats say enough, so we'll leave it there.

RF: Gianfranco Zola

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    Chelsea's Italian magician still holds hero status in West London after a glorious seven years at Stamford Bridge.

    Gianfranco Zola helped Chelsea usher in a new era under Ruud Gullitt in the mid-1990s, signing from Parma in 1996.

    In his debut season he inspired the Blues to FA Cup victory before taking the PFA Player of the Year award.

    His influence was significant away from the pitch, too, famously passing on his football wisdom to the likes of John Terry and Frank Lampard, ensuring they would go on to join him among Chelsea's all-time greats.

LF: Peter Osgood

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    "The King of Stamford Bridge."

    There have been so many greats before and after Peter Osgood at Chelsea, but very few of them have been able to match his exploits.

    Supporters of any club in any league or country adore players they can call their own—players who have risen through the ranks to enjoy stardom.

    Osgood was one such player and his statue outside Stamford Bridge is testament to everything he means to Blues supporters.

    His scoring record may not rival that of Kerry Dixon, he just shades it on making our strike partnership given he is one of Chelsea's own rather than an adopted hero.

CF: Didier Drogba

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    His last kick of the ball in a Chelsea shirt was to score the winning penalty in the 2012 Champions League Final, winning the trophy for the Blues.

    Forget anything Didier Drogba did before that moment. That alone warrants a place in any all-time XI.

Final Line-Up

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    Pitch graphic courtesy of EPLIndex.com

    The Bleacher Report All-Time Chelsea XI line-up—a team we're confident would cut it against most others from the Blues' rivals.

    Do you agree? How would yours differ? Let us know in the comments section below.

    Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes