In the Premier League era, there have been very few teams that have enjoyed prolonged success like Chelsea has. The Blues were always a top half side in the early days of the reformed English top flight but Roman Abramovich’s purchase of the club catapulted to the very top. It’s why Chelsea have lifted the Premier League trophy five times – making them the third best side ever in this current era. Much of the success is thanks to the mix of world-class stars and home-grown talents that have strutted their stuff at Stamford Bridge over the past few years. But who would make it into Chelsea’s top Premier League XI?
GK: Petr Cech
One of the first signings to emerge in the Abramovich era, Petr Cech proved to be one of the best. Joining from Rennes in 2004. Cech’s fearless nature mixed with lightning quick reactions established him as one of the top keepers in the world. It was during his 11-year stay with the club that Cech won four league titles with the club where he played a big part in it too. With 228 clean sheets for the club, Cech is The Blues’ all-time record holder and his 3 Premier League Golden Glove awards in 2004, 2010 and 2014 underline his endearing popularity in South London.
RB: Cesar Azpilicueta
Cezar Azpilicueta has emerged to become one of Chelsea’s long-standing servants of the modern game. The Spaniard’s versatility to play anywhere in the backline has made him popular with whoever has ran the club over his decade with the club. Strong in the air, quick and an excellent passer, Azpilicueta is never outmatched in any department. It’s why he has featured in 2 title winning squads for Chelsea in 2015 and 2017. His consistent efforts have won lots of plaudits from teammates and fans where he was named 2013/14 Players’ Player of the Year. A dedicated servant to the cause.
LB: Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole’s move to Chelsea from Arsenal was controversial but you can’t argue with his overall success. Cole’s willingness to drive forward as well as track back was unmatched by anyone in the game giving Chelsea an added boos in all areas. This, alongside his excellent defensive abilities, made him a popular figure at Stamford Bridge. Part of the squad that won the 2009/10 Premier League title, Cole also claimed two club Players’ Player of the Year awards in 2009 and 2011 underlining how well he was rated by colleagues at the club. It was a fitting reward for a player who often caused debars whenever he was on the pitch.
CB: John Terry
No player has risen through the ranks at Chelsea quite like John Terry. Having risen through the club’s academy, Terry made his club debut in 1998 and never looked back. His command of the backline, excellent aerial abilities and never-say-die attitude helped him develop into one of the best defenders in Premier League history. Donning the captain’s armband for much of his time at Stamford bridge, Terry led Chelsea to all five of their Premier League title’s between 2005 and 2017. His efforts earned him 2xPlayer of the Year awards in 2001 and 2006 and he has been included in no less than 4 Premier League Team of the Year squads. Throw in a nomination for the PFA Team of the Century in 2007 and it underlines Terry as one of the best English defenders to emerge in any era.
CB: Marcel Desailly
If you needed a defender who was calm and composed in any situation, then Marcel Desailly was the player you needed. His calm demeanour was a stark contrast to his physical strength when defending and ability to make clean tackles in any situation. It was this reason why he was so popular when he joined the club in 1998 and remained their for the next six seasons. During his time in the Premier League, Desailly was included in the Team of the Decade in 2004 celebrating the first 10 years of the revamped top flight and proved why he was so sought after for much of his career.
CM: Claude Makelele
If anyone laid the blueprint for being a defensive midfielder, it would’ve been Claude Makelele. With a strong presence on the ball and an excellent passer, Makelele could dictate the tempo of a game and link all areas of the team with minimal fuss. He was part of the Chelsea squad that won back-to-back league titles in 2005 and 2006 and helped the team make the leap to title contenders. It was a reason why he was named the 2006 Players’ Player of the Year and nominated for the FifPro World XI in 2005. A legend that has since inspired an entire generation of stars.
CM: Michael Essien
If there was ever a player who never gave up, it would be Michael Essien. The Ghanaian midfielder could be found everywhere on the pitch and was tireless throughout the entire 90 minutes week after week. He also had a wickedly powerful shot as well that could also catch opponents unaware time and time again. It was these attributes that helped Essien win two Premier League winners medals and also named the club Player of the Year in 2007. A workhorse who never gave up from the start until the final whistle blew.
CM: Frank Lampard
If there was a midfielder who had a taste for goals, it was Frank Lampard. Known for his surging runs, Lampard could also be found lurking in the box to pick up the pieces should a striker miss a chance. His coolness under pressure also made him perfect for penalties where he would hardly ever miss from 12 yards. His thirst for creative play helped him be an integral part of 3 Premier League title wins with The Blues where he scored 147 times for the club. This total helped Lampard become Chelsea’s leading all-time scorer with 2011 goals over an 11 year period. It was these reasons why Lampard won three Player of the Year awards with Chelsea and win Premier League Player of the Season in 2005. It seemed like a no-brainer then for Lampard to be inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2021 and cement his place as one of the best midfielders in recent memory.
FW: Gianfranco Zola
Gianfranco Zola was very much a trendsetter in the Premier League. Best known for pacy runs and creative feet, the Italian winger showed that pace could outmatch size in attack. Zola’s best return came in the 2002/03 season where notched 14 goals showcasing how his style suited the modern game we know today. It was why he earned 2xPlayer of the Year awards in 1999 and 2003. He was also added into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2006 headlining his innovative style before it became the standard we know today.
FW: Eden Hazard
Eden hazard always had one thing on his mind when he got the ball: find a direct route to goal. It’s why Hazard could produce just as amazing crosses as he could driving runs or remarkable finishes. This form made the Belgian attacker a huge part of a Chelsea squad that 2015 and 2017. It was the 2016-17 title-winning season where Hazard unleashed his best form scoring 16 goals in 36 games and earning one of 4 Player of the Year awards. This, alongside the 2015 Premier League Player of the Year Award and 3 Belgian Player of the Year awards underlines his consistent brilliance that he showed in England for almost an entire decade.
FW: Didier Drogba
There was no striker that was a complete package quite like Didier Drogba. The Ivorian goal monster had everything: strength, stamina, speed and a flamboyance to match his brilliance. Drogba was unstoppable on his day and could be seen scoring simple tap-ins, mind-boggling shots from distance as well as easily slamming home penalties and free-kicks. Part of 4 Premier League winning teams, Drogba’s best form came in Chelsea 2009/10 title winning season where he scored 29 goals in 32 games to help The Blues win their third title. In a run where he scored 100 goals in the league for Chelsea, Drogba earned 2xPremier League Golden Boot awards underlining his impact on the side. With a 2022 induction into the Premier League Hall of Fame, Drogba remains one of the best players to ever put on a Chelsea shirt in the Premier League.