Chelsea

5 Players Whose Careers Went Backwards After Leaving Chelsea

Garry HayesFeatured ColumnistMarch 26, 2016

5 Players Whose Careers Went Backwards After Leaving Chelsea

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    Mark Thompson/Getty Images

    We've seen Chelsea make and break the careers of many players throughout the club's century and more of existence.

    From Roy Bentley becoming a league-winning striker in 1955, Fernando Torres' reputation meant little as he was made a £50 million mistake in 2011.

    There are many more examples, such as Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, whose names were made on the back of their exploits at Stamford Bridge. Adrian Mutu, Gabrielle Ambrosetti and Juan Cuadrado are just a few whose reputations went the other way.

    But if those players—and more—were made or broken at Chelsea, what of those who thought they would be better off by leaving the club?

    There seems to be an endless list of talented individuals who, for one reason or another, felt a move away from Stamford Bridge would improve their careers.

    As this slideshow demonstrates for five of them, it's not always the case.

Damien Duff

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    Damien Duff was an exceptional player. Part of a wing wizard double act with Arjen Robben who tore defences to pieces during the 2004/05 campaign, the Irishman was a major reason for Chelsea romping home to the Premier League title in Jose Mourinho's first season.

    Duff possessed enough craft to bamboozle players, but it was also his pace out wide that stretched teams and made Chelsea's attack so lethal.

    Injuries curtailed his season the following year, with Duff in and out of the Chelsea team in 2005/06. That led to him wanting to leave the Blues as he searched for guaranteed first-team football.

    As Duff revealed in a recent interview for Graham Hunter's The Big Interview podcast, Mourinho asked Duff to remain in the squad.

    "If you're fit, you will play in my team," Mourinho said to Duff. Not sure whether to trust his manager given the other big names at Stamford Bridge, Duff's sentiments were simple. "Good luck, I'm outta here," was the player's reply.

    He left for Newcastle United, which, by Duff's own admission, was a three-year nightmare. After that he moved back to west London with Fulham before stints with Melbourne City and Shamrock Rovers.

    Duff retired from playing last year. While he enjoyed a fine career in football, he never scaled the same heights as when he was a Chelsea player and winning league titles.

    A player of his talents could have achieved so much more than he did.

     

Joe Cole

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    In fairness to Joe Cole, his career was already on a downward spiral before he departed Stamford Bridge. When he left to join Liverpool in 2010, however, it was the final nail in the coffin of his time as an elite player.

    Like Damien Duff in our previous slide, Cole was the sort of player who got fans out of their seats. He was a magician with the ball at his feet, making things happen in the final third.

    Cole's goal against Manchester United in the 2006 title decider at Stamford Bridge summed up his ability as he skipped through the United back line with ease before finishing off his solo run with a wonderful strike.

    He would go on to be named Chelsea's Player of the Year in 2008, but a knee injury suffered against Southend United in the FA Cup the following season all but ended his time in west London.

    Cole recovered to feature in 2009/10, but it was clear he wasn't the same player. The same tricks he pulled off before weren't possible, and he lost his ability to accelerate past opponents.

    At Liverpool, he was sent off on his Premier League debut. It was a sign of how things would go for Cole on Merseyside, with him shipped out on loan to Ligue 1 side Lille the following season after a disappointing year with Liverpool.

    He left Anfield in 2013 for former club West Ham United. He couldn't establish himself back at Upton Park either and later joined strugglers Aston Villa. With first-team opportunities few and far between, Cole has dropped down the divisions and currently plies his trade at League 1 Coventry City.

    The seven years he spent at Stamford Bridge were by far the highlight of Cole's career.

Samuele Dalla Bona

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    NICOLAS ASFOURI/Getty Images

    The story of Samuele Dalla Bona's rise and fall should be taught to any young footballer coming through in the modern era for his is a tale of inflated belief and poor decisions.

    Chelsea had signed Dalla Bona from Atalanta when he was just 17 years old, nurturing him into a player with the potential to become a fine midfielder.

    Within a year, he was making his Stamford Bridge debut and soon enough became a regular under Claudio Ranieri as the Italian boss added fresh legs to Chelsea's ageing midfield.

    Still only 20 years old, Dalla Bona turned down a contract extension offered to him by Chelsea in 2001 and was later snapped up by AC Milan.

    The important thing to note is that Chelsea were far from becoming the club we've seen mature in the past decade. The Blues were still building something—of course, it was all accelerated by Roman Abramovich—and didn't boast the sort of stars they do now. Dalla Bona was looking an essential part of it, with the midfield being built around him and Frank Lampard.

    Dalla Bona was still making his name in football and joined a Milan side with the likes of Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo in midfield. He wasn't capable of competing with them, which meant playing time was limited.

    In total, Dalla Bona made just four Serie A appearances for Milan in his four years with the club. He was seen mostly on loan with Bologna, Lecce and Sampdoria.

    When he was released by Milan in 2006—still only 25—he joined Napoli as a squad player and more loan moves followed.

    He eventually dropped down the leagues in Italy and was last seen in 2012 playing for Mantova.

Jody Morris

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    Now a coach at Chelsea with the club's youth teams, Jody Morris must be kicking himself for leaving the Blues when he did.

    Morris was a few youth teams older than John Terry, so when he emerged from the club's academy, he was the big hope of the day. Diminutive, with a cheeky chappy persona, he was being billed as the next Dennis Wise and a potential future club captain.

    Problems off the pitch held Morris back, though, and he eventually decided to leave the club over a contract dispute. Offered a new five-year deal in 2003, he opted to join Leeds United instead.

    Leeds were beginning to crumble after the vast spending of the Peter Ridsdale era put them on the brink of financial ruin, and with the chaos surrounding him, Morris lasted just one season at Elland Road.

    From there, he joined Rotherham for a season, moving back to London with Millwall. After three years at the Den, Morris moved north of the border with St. Johnstone and eventually finished his career at Bristol City in 2013.

    Morris left Chelsea just as the Abramovich influence was to send the club into the stratosphere. Given his talents as a player, the feeling is he could have contributed in that time and achieved so much more.

    As it is, he never again played in the Premier League after leaving Leeds in 2004, scrapping around the lower leagues in an attempt to rebuild his career.

Juan Mata

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    Juan Mata left a club winning things for one that used to when he joined Manchester United from Chelsea in January 2014.

    He had little choice in the matter. Marginalised by Jose Mourinho, it was either move to Old Trafford and play regularly or continue to waste away on the bench with Chelsea.

    The period of transition that's ongoing at United post-Sir Alex Ferguson hasn't helped Mata, though. In his first two seasons as a Chelsea player, there was a clear position for him in the No. 10 role, where he excelled. Mata was named Chelsea's Player of the Year for two years running and was excellent.

    At United, it's been different. He's been forced to play out of position, and that has required him to perform in a different way to what his skills dictate. In turn, that's damaged his overall form.

    From being the fulcrum of Chelsea's side before Mourinho's return, Mata has suffered significantly. He is being asked to fit in around other, more high-profile players at United and hasn't been able to adapt.

    He is nowhere close to being as effective as he was in a Chelsea shirt, which is a crying shame as he should be revered as one of the greats of his generation. Instead, Mata is being wasted.

     

    Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes

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