Chelsea Football Club are one of the biggest London-based football clubs and have been ever present in the Premier League since it started.
They have been crowned champions of England on 5 occasions, tasting success in 2004, 2005, 2009, 2014 and 2016, all under the ownership of Roman Abramovich from when he purchased the club in 2003.
Chelsea have also been guided by a whole host of world-class managers during this time, including Jose Mourinho (twice), Luiz Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink (twice), Carol Ancelotti, and now Mauricio Pochettino.
They’ve also seen their fair share of world-class players, both of which have come from England and overseas, and it’s the overseas players that we’re going to focus on today, by trying to rank the top 10 foreign players who have played for Chelsea.
As you can imagine this is no easy feat and there will be plenty of debate amongst all football fans about who should make this list, however, we’re confident that the players we’ve chosen would feature on most football fans’ lists, and we’ll even provide some reasons why they’ve made our list.
We’re going to start with goalkeepers and then work our way through defenders, midfielders and finishing up with the all-important forward players.
1. Petr Cech
The first name on our list goes to the hugely impressive Petr Cech who was Chelsea’s number-one goalkeeper between 2014 and 2015 and made a mind-blowing 333 appearances for the club.
At the time of signing for Chelsea in July 2004, Petr Cech was the most expensive goalkeeper in Chelsea’s history, so there was some definite pressure attached to his arrival. Cech went on to win back-to-back Premier League titles between 2004 and 2006 and also won the golden glove.
In 2005, Cech also set a new Premier League record by not conceding a goal for over 1000 minutes. During the 2005/06 season when Chelsea retained the Premier League title, Cech only conceded 22 goals across a 38-game season!
What also made Cech so impressive was his recovery from a serious head injury he obtained during a game against Reading, and even though he was sidelined he was able to return to the first team and find his fine form.
Cech also won many other accolades during his time at Chelsea, including more golden gloves and various other trophies, and it is the longevity of his impressive performances which puts his name on our list as the only goalkeeper.
2. Branislav Ivanović
OK, where to start with Ivanovic? He did not have a great start to his career at Chelsea, having to wait many months before getting an opportunity to play regular first-team football, however, when given the chance he grabbed it by the scruff of the neck and took his opportunity spectacularly.
As he progressed throughout his Chelsea career, he became one of the first names on the team sheet due to his versatility and attacking style of play, especially when he featured in the right-back position. Ivanovic even went on to become vice-captain of Chelsea which shows how valued he was at the club.
Ivanovic makes our list mainly because of his style of play and sheer determination to succeed, whether that was during a game or getting himself onto the team sheet.
He ended up making 261 appearances for Chelsea and provided a solid defensive choice for the Chelsea manager of the time. He was also instrumental in Chelsea’s 2014 and 2016 Premier League titles.
3. Marcel Desailly
The first player from the pre-2000s era to make our list is the absolute rock, Marcel Desailly.
Desailly was famous for his strength and power and was certainly not afraid to put in a hard tackle. He was aptly given the nickname of ‘the rock’ which suited him very well!
He signed for Chelsea in 1998 from AC Milan and went on to make over 150 appearances for the London club, becoming captain of the club before he left in 2004.
What also makes Desailly such an outstanding player (and why he makes this list) was due to the fact that he could play a in number of positions due to his ability to read the game.
During his time at Chelsea, Desailly only picked up one major trophy – an FA Cup win in 2000 but that doesn’t stop him from featuring on our list, because it’s not all about silverware and sometimes you can be a standout player in a team that doesn’t win many trophies.
4. Gianfranco Zola
The first forward player to make our list of the best foreign players to play for Chelsea is the legendary Gianfranco Zola.
For those of you who have seen Zola play, you’ll appreciate why he’s made our list, and for those of you who haven’t seen him play, we strongly suggest you check out his highlights reel on YouTube.
Zola made an impressive 229 appearances for Chelsea across 7 years, scoring 59 goals in the process. Whilst this isn’t the most prolific strike rate, Zola brought quality and a unique style of play that enchanted fans across the world.
Some of Zola’s goals were bordering on remarkable and the skills and trickery he brought to the field left many defenders dumbfounded and wondering where the ball had gone.
Zola also helped Chelsea secure some important titles, including the League Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and Super Cup in 1997.
5. Arjen Robben
Despite a relatively short career at Chelsea lasting just 3 seasons, Robben was so impressive at Chelsea he is regarded as one of their best-ever foreign wingers.
Robben possessed amazing speed and skills which often left opposing defenders trembling. He also possessed an incredible left foot, and because he was often deployed on the right wing, he could cut inside and fire off a shot.
Robben was instrumental to Chelsea’s mid-2000 successes and posted an impressive total of 15 goals in 67 appearances for the club before making a 2007 move to Real Madrid.
6. Eden Hazard
A more recent player in Chelsea’s history, Eden Hazard moved to Stamford Bridge from Lille in 2012.
Where to start with Eden – what makes him such a remarkable player was his ability to consistently deliver world-class performances time and time again.
Across his Chelsea career which spanned several seasons and 245 appearances, Hazard managed an amazing return of 85 goals, which for a midfielder is impressive.
But Hazard isn’t mainly remembered for his goals, it was his ability to weave through defences and excite the crowd by going on mazy runs and dribbling with either foot.
Across his Chelsea career, Hazard won many club titles such as the Premier League in the 2014/15 season, which also saw him going on to win the PFA Player of the Year award.
7. Claude Makelele
Claude Makelele was so good they ended up naming his playing position after him – the “Makalele” role.
Whilst many on this list have produced goals or clean sheets, Makelele makes the list because of his importance to the team and the fact that he did a lot of the ‘dirty work’ which allowed other players to flourish.
As you can tell from his stats, spending 5 seasons at Chelsea and 144 appearances, but only scoring twice he wasn’t one for spending a lot of time in the opponent’s box.
Makelele is regarded as one of the best-ever players in the defensive midfielder role and pretty much revolutionised the position during his career.
He was vital for Chelsea and through his ability to read the game, break up play and set up the attacking players with chances, as well as providing extra cover to the back four.
Ask any Chelsea fan who makes their top 10 foreign players list and Claude Makelele is sure to be on it.
8. Didier Drogba
How can we best describe Didier Drogba? The man was an absolute beast and there was certainly a reason why Jose Mourinho was hell-bent on bringing him to Chelsea.
Mourinho got his wish when Drogba signed in 2004 for a club record fee of £24 million and hit the ground running, helping Chelsea secure their first Premier League title in 50 years.
Across his 229 appearances for Chelsea, Drogba scored 100 goals, with his most prolific season coming in 2007/08 where he bagged 33 goals and the golden boot.
Drogba was famous for his physical stature and he also possessed a great touch, which made him excellent at holding up the ball and bringing others into play.
Frank Lampard formed an impressive partnership with him, with Lampard often timing his famous late runs into the penalty box following Drogba’s hold-up play, which would often end up with a goal.
Drogba enjoyed his time at Chelsea so much that he came back for a second spell in 2014 and was again reunited with Jose Mourinho, a manager whom he had shared so much success with during his first spell at the club.
9. Eidur Gudjohsen
We’ve picked Eidur Gudjohnsen because he was simply a remarkable goal scorer and despite suffering a number of injury setbacks, he managed a decent goal return of 54 goals in 186 appearances for Chelsea.
He also formed a formidable partnership with another player who features on this list, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, which during Eidur’s second season at Chelsea provided 52 goals across all competitions.
During his Chelsea career, Gudjohnsen helped the club win numerous pieces of silverware, including the Charity Shield in 2000, and two successive Premier League titles.
Gudjohnsen was a hugely popular figure at Stamford Bridge and although mainly used as a substitute, he never lost interest and always delivered quality on the pitch. This was enough for Barcelona who snapped him up in an £8 million pound transfer in 2006.
10. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was signed at the same time as Eidur Gudjohnsen as the first-choice Chelsea striker of the time. He did not disappoint and lived up to his goal-scorer reputation by scoring on his Chelsea debut.
During his first season he ended up winning the golden boot after scoring an impressive 23 goals in 35 appearances, and over the course of his Chelsea career he averaged a better than a goal every two-game average, which considering some of his injury problems was an impressive statistic.
Despite the arrival of other world-class strikers over the course of a few years, Hasselbaink managed the impressive feat of being Chelsea’s top goal scorer for 3 out of 4 seasons between 2000 and 2004.
Hasselbaink possessed amazing speed and shot power that couldn’t be matched by anyone else in the league at the time. He was a natural-born goal scorer and also an expert free-kick taker.
There we have it then; we have provided you with who we think are the top 10 foreign Chelsea players of all time – do you agree or disagree?
It was an almost impossible task from the outset but we feel like we’ve given some great reasons why our choices should appear on the list, but we’re always up for some friendly debate and we encourage you to tell us who we may have missed, or who we should swap.