Chelsea: Top 20 Transfers in the Roman Abramovich Era

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistJanuary 24, 2014

Chelsea: Top 20 Transfers in the Roman Abramovich Era

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    Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is in love with Chelsea Football Club. According to The Independent he's spent over £2 billion of his considerable fortune on the west London outfit since taking over in June 2003.

    That £2 billion includes the likes of: Yuri Zhirkov (£18 million), Shaun Wright-Phillips (£21 million), Andriy Shevchenko (£30 million) and Fernando Torres (£50 million).

    Yet for all his expensive blunders, the Russian mogul has hit on some absolute gems.

    Here are the top 20 transfers of the Roman Abramovich era:

How Are They Ranked?

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    Kerstin Joensson/Associated Press

    The rankings are based on the following: Transfer fee, appearances, legacy, contribution to past glory and the player's current value to Chelsea's roster.

Honourable Mentions

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    DAVE THOMPSON/Associated Press

    The plethora of talent purchased since 2003 is staggering. There are so many players who could have made the cut; but there are only 20 slots.

    Honourable mentions: Paulo Ferreira, Damien Duff and Cesar Azpilicueta.

    Romelu Lukaku and Thibaut Courtois were highly considered, but their contribution to the club has been close to nil thus far. Should they stay in the Chelsea books, the Belgian duo are sure to rise in the rankings.

     

     

20. Gary Cahill

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £7 million (2012)

    Position(s): Centre-back

    Age at First Appearance: 25

    Nationality: English

    Previous Club: Bolton Wanderers (England)

    Appearances: 89 (Current Player)

    Goals: 9

    Gary Cahill has the potential to move up this list, as his best days in blue are ahead of him.

    Right now, he's in the shadow of a legend. Once John Terry retires or leaves the West London club, Cahill will have the chance to prove his full worth.

19. Florent Malouda

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £13.5 million (2007)

    Position(s): Winger / Attacking Midfielder

    Age at First Appearance: 27

    Nationality: French

    Position(s): Winger / Attacking Midfielder

    Appearances: 228

    Goals: 45

    Were it not for a clash with former Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas, Florent Malouda might very well have played in over 250 games for Chelsea.

    You look at what transpired with Emmanuel Adebayor and the Portuguese manager at Tottenham, and figure something similar must have happened to the French winger.

18. Nicolas Anelka

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £15 million (2008)

    Position(s): Striker / Centre-forward

    Age at First Appearance: 28

    Nationality: French

    Previous Club: Bolton Wanderers (England)

    Appearances: 182

    Goals: 59

    A player who isn't afraid to do his own thing (see 2010 World Cup or "quenelle" celebration), it's amazing Nicolas Anelka wasn't too big of a distraction while at Chelsea.

    His 2008-09 season was simply prolific.

    Nineteen goals scored in 37 Premier League matches was enough for the Golden Boot—beating Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo by one goal.

17. Michael Ballack

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    Transfer Fee: Free (2006)

    Position(s): Central Midfielder

    Age at First Appearance: 30

    Nationality: German

    Previous Club: Bayern Munich (Germany)

    Appearances: 165

    Goals: 26

    Roman Abramovich spent no money to acquire Michael Ballack; shocking considering the wealth of experience and quality the German captain brought to the Chelsea dressing room.

    Ballack's passing and free-kick prowess was only rivaled by Frank Lampard's in his time at Stamford Bridge.

    Can't you see Ballack running after the match official of the 2009 Barcelona Champions League semi-final after Samuel Eto'o handled his volley? That was great (albeit depressing, enraging) theatre.

16. Salomon Kalou

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    Michael Regan/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £9 million (2006)

    Position(s): Striker / Winger

    Age at First Appearance: 20

    Nationality: Ivorian

    Previous Club: Feyenoord (Holland)

    Appearances: 251

    Goals: 60

    Salomon Kalou was the epitome of a quality squad player in a big club.

    Never afraid to take on a defender and shoot, he was brilliant at times and frustrating at times—which explained his inability to find a permanent place in Chelsea's starting XI.

    That being said, for £9 million, he gave a helluva return.

15. Arjen Robben

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £12 million (2004)

    Position(s): Winger

    Age at First Appearance: 20

    Nationality: Dutch

    Previous Club: PSV Eindhoven (Holland)

    Appearances: 105

    Goals: 19

    The resume of Arjen Robben at Chelsea isn't earth-shattering, but not because he wasn't quality; it's because he's known the world 'round as "The Man of Glass." Like a crap Superman.

    He was never fit for the West London side, and when Real Madrid came knocking in 2007 with a record fee of £24 million for the Dutchman, Roman Abramovich made the sound business decision.

    His current form was something Stamford Bridge saw in flashes, but not on a consistent basis.

    A shame really, as Abramovich's transfer was a smart purchase—just the timing was five years off.

14. John Obi Mikel

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £16 million (2006)

    Position(s): Defensive Midfielder

    Age at First Appearance: 20

    Nationality: Nigerian

    Previous Club: Lyn (Norway)

    Appearances: 301 (Current Player)

    Goals: 4

    Never confused for a goalscorer, John Obi Mikel's defensive value to Chelsea has been supremely underestimated since his arrival in 2006.

    The Nigerian international is always providing support for his defenders, and in 301 games as a defensive buffer, his blooper real isn't half as long as some of the world's most renowned holding midfielders.

13. Joe Cole

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    Alex Livesey/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £6.6 million (2003)

    Position(s): Attacking Midfielder / Winger

    Age at First Appearance: 21

    Nationality: English

    Previous Club: West Ham United (England)

    Appearances: 280

    Goals: 39

    Injuries to Damien Duff and Arjen Robben gave Joe Cole the platform to show his stuff, and he took full advantage. Some could argue he pushed both players out.

    A crowd favourite for seven seasons in West London, the Englishman was more than value for his price tag—his 2006 and 2010 goals vs. Manchester United being his pieces "de resistance."

12. David Luiz

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £21.3 million + Nemanja Matic (2011)

    Position(s): Centre-back / Defensive Midfielder

    Age at First Appearance: 23

    Nationality: Brazilian

    Previous Club: Benfica (Portugal)

    Appearances: 129 (Current Player)

    Goals: 12

    Maddening to say the least, but blessed with bags of quality.

    It's David Luiz.

    The Brazilian international has taken Chelsea Football Club by storm with his playing style and personality. If anything his transfer has been gold dust for West London wig makers.

    Once Luiz sorts out his defensive lapses, his position on lists like these will do nothing but elevate.

11. Ramires

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £17 million (2010)

    Position(s): Central Midfielder / Winger

    Age at First Appearance: 23

    Nationality: Brazilian

    Previous Club: Benfica (Portugal)

    Appearances: 178 (Current Player)

    Goals: 26

    Ramires eats a different kind of breakfast than the rest of us. He must, because the stamina and engine the midfielder has is otherworldly.

    Blessed with the silk and steel English football requires, Chelsea were very smart to pick up his signature in 2010.

    Watch over the course of 90 minutes and you realise why Jose Mourinho can't stop playing Ramires. The only way the Brazilian won't play is because of injury or suspension. Other than that he is a sure starter for the next three years at least.

10. Branislav Ivanovic

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    Clive Mason/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £9.7 million (2008)

    Position(s): Right-back / Centre-back

    Age at First Appearance: 23

    Nationality: Serbian

    Previous Club: Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia)

    Appearances: 246 (Current Player)

    Goals: 23

    Branislav Ivanovic has been nothing short of spectacular since his arrival in 2008. His reported fee of £9.7 million was stealing in the world of Gareth Bales, Mesut Ozils and Juan Matas.

    A versatile defender, built like a tank, who can pitch in with the odd goal every once in a while; his position on this list might be a bit low?

9. Oscar

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £25 million (2012)

    Position(s): Central Attacking Midfielder

    Age at First Appearance: 20

    Nationality: Brazilian

    Previous Club: Internacional (Brazil)

    Appearances: 90 (Current Player)

    Goals: 20

    As far as futures go, Oscar's is looking spectacular.

    With Juan Mata's departure, Roman Abramovich's 2012 investment will have free reign via the blessing of manager Jose Mourinho.

    Highly gifted, hard-working and surrounded by quality—his sky's the limit.

8. Ricardo Carvalho

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    Transfer Fee: £20 million (2004)

    Position(s): Centre-back

    Age at First Appearance: 26

    Nationality: Portuguese

    Previous Club: Porto (Portugal)

    Appearances: 210

    Goals: 11

    Ricardo Carvalho's 2004-10 partnership with John Terry was the catalyst for all things positive in West London.

    The centre-back's pairing was a thorn in the side of all opposing offences, and led to the acquisition of back-to-back league titles.

    Nearing the end of his time at Chelsea age became a factor in his production levels, but when he was on his game, the other teams' striker surely wasn't.

7. Juan Mata

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    Transfer Fee: £23.5 million (2011)

    Position(s): Central Attacking Midfielder / Winger

    Age at First Appearance: 23

    Nationality: Spanish

    Previous Club: Valencia (Spain)

    Appearances: 135

    Goals: 32

    Roman Abramovich struck goal with his purchase of Juan Mata in 2011.

    The Spanish maestro was responsible for creating 91 goals in 135 games; Mata's price tag was well within reason in retrospect.

    With Jose Mourinho changing the tact on King's Road, Mata's exit to Manchester United's bittersweet—but necessary.

6. Michael Essien

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    Transfer Fee: £24.4 million (2005)

    Position(s): Central Midfielder

    Age at First Appearance: 22

    Nationality: Ghanaian

    Previous Club: Lyon (France)

    Appearances: 256

    Goals: 25

    Affectionately nicknamed "The Bison," Michael Essien was arguably the best midfielder in the Premier League for the best part of three seasons before his devastating knee injury in 2008.

    Essien's wonder strikes against Arsenal in 2006 (which kept Jose Mourinho's Stamford Bridge unbeaten streak going) and Barcelona in 2009 (which should have sent Chelsea to the Champions League final) are moments all Chelsea supporters will treasure for decades on.

    Receiving over 250 appearances from the Ghanaian will in some ways be worth it to the Chelsea owner, but the "what ifs" abound with this transfer.

5. Eden Hazard

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    Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £32 million (2012)

    Position(s): Winger / Attacking Midfielder

    Age at First Appearance: 21

    Nationality: Belgian

    Previous Club: Lille (France)

    Appearances: 91 (Current Player)

    Goals: 24

    Sure there are more qualified players for the top five of a list like this, but looking forward—Eden Hazard will rival the legends of the club if he stays long enough.

    The Belgian winger is unstoppable in his mood. Just 23 years old and under the tutelage of Jose Mourinho, Hazard will be the focal point of Chelsea's new generation of stars.

    Rated by the club at an insane amount of money, should the two parties go their separate ways Chelsea will be handsomely rewarded. If Hazard stays to ply his craft in London—Abramovich will have spent wisely indeed.

4. Claude Makelele

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    Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £16 million (2003)

    Position(s): Central Defensive Midfielder

    Age at First Appearance: 30

    Nationality: French

    Previous Club: Real Madrid

    Appearances: 217

    Goals: 2

    Winning five trophies in his five seasons at Stamford Bridge, the French anchor was stalwart in midfield.

    The eponymous "Makelele Role" ushered a new wave of defensive-minded midfielders, and while the role was in use before 2003, Chelsea were the beneficiaries of its 21st century namesake.

3. Ashley Cole

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    Transfer Fee: £5 million + William Gallas (2006)

    Position(s): Left-back

    Age at First Appearance: 25

    Nationality: English

    Previous Club: Arsenal (England)

    Appearances: 331 (Current Player)

    Goals: 7

    Signing the best player in the world at his position for £5 million (from a rival) is unheard of, but that's what happened with Ashley Cole, Chelsea and Arsenal in 2006.

    You'd think Roman Abramovich has forks worth £5 million, so shelling out that amount for a world-class defender must have been a walk in the park.

    Cole has been marshaling the world's top wingers for a decade, and even coming to the end of his decorated career, he can still shut attackers down. He's been a great investment—other than the whole air rifle thing.

2. Petr Cech

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    Transfer Fee: £7 million (2004)

    Position(s): Goalkeeper

    Age at First Appearance: 22

    Nationality: Czech

    Previous Club: Stade Rennais (France)

    Appearances: 460 (Current Player)

    Goals: 0

    Chelsea's all-time leader in clean sheets, and only costing £7 million, Petr Cech is arguably the best value for money in Chelsea's transfer history (only Frank Lampard for £12 million can contend with him).

    It's hard to imagine Chelsea's winning ways without Cech in goal. His presence, matched with John Terry in the back four, has solidified Chelsea's defense for nearly a decade.

    At 31 years old with 460 appearances not out, only time will tell if the Czech can eclipse the Blues' all-time appearance record set by the legendary Ron "Chopper" Harris (795).

1. Didier Drogba

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    Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

    Transfer Fee: £24 million (2004)

    Position(s): Striker / Center-forward

    Age at First Appearance: 26

    Nationality: Ivorian

    Previous Club: Marseille (France)

    Appearances: 338

    Goals: 155

    Was it ever even close?

    Didier Drogba is the Holy Roman Emperor's Crown Jewel of transfers.

    Nine goals in nine cup finals, the man for the big occasion, an imposing, irrepressible, talismanic presence at Stamford bridge for seven years—there was only one way to end this article.

    The only shame was his age. Purchased at 26 years old, West London saw the latter half of the Ivorian's prime. An extra three or four seasons would have seen the striker through as the greatest foreign import to the Premier League of all time, regardless of team.

    Nonetheless, there was a perfect ending to a great relationship—a rarity in sports—so it's OK.

    Life Lesson: Appreciate what you have while you've got it; because before you know it, it's in Turkey.