It’s been almost 10 years since Didier Drogba packed up his shooting boots and left Chelsea for the Chinese Super League. In the decade since, the Blues have attempted many times to replace the Ivorian goal machine, including a return for Drogba himself. For the most part, it has not gone well.
When Alex Sewell first attempted this ranking in January last year, perhaps only two out of 12 could be qualified as a success. The £97million signing of Romelu Lukaku last summer was supposed to be when Chelsea finally got it right. But the Belgium hit-man’s return to Stamford Bridge has only served to prove Ole Gunnar Solskjaer right.
We’ve added Lukaku – and Kai Havertz since he now seems to serve as a striker – to that initial dozen. It doesn’t reflect well on the club’s record signing…
14) Alexandre Pato
I used to buy Alex Pato on FIFA 12 manager mode. I’d take Ipswich out of the Championship (those were the days), spend a couple of seasons in the Premier League, then put in a £35million bid for the mercurial Brazilian. He served me well – he had a good understanding with Grant Leadbitter – but he was so, so awful when he played for Chelsea.
Signed from Corinthians on loan for the duration of the 2015/16 season, Pato made only two appearances for Chelsea, scoring one goal.
I would say it was a total waste of a year for everyone involved, but that would be ignoring the fact that it produced the greatest fan-cam tribute video made about a player that I have ever seen.
Three minutes of the forward giving the ball away over ever-increasingly jarring EDM is genuinely worth the watch for just how hilariously sh*t it is…
But yes, apart from that, it’s a no from me: 14th.
13) Radamel Falcao
The 2015/16 season was not a year of successful loans for Chelsea. Alongside Pato came El Tigre on a season-long arrangement from Monaco.
Having been shipped out to Manchester United the previous season and spending a pretty innocuous time there (four goals in 26 appearances), it felt like the obvious thing to bring him down to Stamford Bridge, satiate his extortionate wage demands and see if his luck would turn. It did not.
One goal in 10 appearances for Chelsea leaves him 13th on my list. Unlucky, Radamel – maybe it’s a South American thing…
12) Mohamed Salah
It’s not a South American thing.
Mohamed Salah is arguably the best worst footballer in the world right now, but it’s all about being in the right place at the right time.
Chelsea in 2014 was neither. Two goals in 19 appearances saw him shipped off to Fiorentina, then Roma. Where Salah began to make Jose Mourinho look a bit silly. But there was no suggestion in his performances at Chelsea that Salah would go on to be the goal machine he has become at Liverpool.
11) Romelu Lukaku
Salah could reasonably claim he wasn’t given a fair crack of the whip at Chelsea. Lukaku, though he would probably try, absolutely cannot.
The £97.5million Chelsea paid for Lukaku should have been a guarantee of goals. He couldn’t stop scoring for Inter Milan, where he took great delight in ramming Solskjaer’s assessment of his qualities back down his former manager’s throat.
But at Chelsea, Lukaku has reverted to the Man Utd iteration when Thomas Tuchel really needed the Inter version. Tuchel is not one for hiding his feelings and his patience for the big-money centre-forward has evidently evaporated. It was already waning before THAT interview. The fact that 43 players have scored more Premier League goals than the division’s most expensive striker tells its own story.
10) Alvaro Morata
Alvaro Morata cost £60million. Which seems like a bargain when compared to Lukaku. But the Spain striker endured a similar spell to the Belgian: a bright start before he quickly began eyeing the exit door, all the while looking increasingly forlorn until he could escape.
And £60million for someone who got booked for diving in an FA Cup third-round replay against Norwich and then sent off a minute later for dissent is still £60million wasted. At least it would have been if Atletico weren’t so daft as to give them their money back.
9) Gonzalo Higuain
Really very good at other clubs but ultimately failed at the Bridge? Hang on… I’m starting to see a pattern here.
What is it about myopic, ill-thought-out signings, based on the ever-changing philosophies and tactics adopted by a conveyor belt of managers fired and hired at the drop of a hat by a Russian oligarch that somehow inhibits the long-term growth of a club?
Couldn’t possibly tell you.
8) Timo Werner
It was reasonably assumed that Lukaku’s arrival would be bad news for Werner. The Germany striker’s opportunities have certainly been more limited but at least Lukaku has borne the brunt of the criticism that Werner was copping last season.
And with good reason. Six goals in 35 Premier League appearances was a p*ss-poor return for almost £50million. Werner showed glimpses – occasionally he still does – but more often than not he seems on a different wavelength to his teammates. So many of his runs simply aren’t compatible with the service he is being offered.
Werner has had to accept a more bit-part role in his second season while being shunted across the front line. Which at least showcases more versatility than Lukaku is capable of.
7) Loic Remy
Another talented forward whose time at the club slips into insignificance.
Not a failure but certainly not a success, Remy felt like someone always on the verge of being really good. All the same, seventh in a list of 14 seems unjustifiably high. He was certainly no Didier. He was barely even a Michy.
6) Michy Batshuayi
Batshuayi’s time at Chelsea has played out in fits and starts since the Belgian forward signed from Marseille in summer of 2016.
He’s only played a handful of games for the Blues since 2018 following a spree of season-long loan moves, but his goal at West Brom to clinch the title for the Blues in May 2017 has secured his place near the top of the list. Somehow secured a contract extension last summer before being shipped out for a fifth loan spell as a Blue.
5) Samuel Eto’o
He’d lost most of his pace that made him so electrifying at Barcelona and Inter Milan by the time he came to Chelsea, but nine goals in 21 appearances during the 2013/14 season isn’t a bad return.
4) Demba Ba
Like Batshuayi, Ba’s career at Chelsea will be remembered for one specific moment: that goal against Liverpool.
As a staunch Gerrard-over-Lampardian I find it hard to watch that slip and subsequent finish even now, but still, Ba was pretty good when he was at Chelsea.
Not as good as he was at Newcastle playing alongside Papiss Cisse, of course, and his best goal came against Chelsea at the Bridge. But it’s a rule of thumb that Chelsea players are immediately less good than they once were just after the club pays big money for them.
3) Olivier Giroud
If Olivier Giroud were quick he’d be the greatest player ever. Better than Ronaldo, better than Messi, than Maradona, Pele, better than the lot of them. Instead he’s just slow and beautiful – but that doesn’t stop him being effective.
Tall, wide, but with the first touch and skill of a man half his size, Giroud is the consummate target man. People thought his career was ailing when he headed across London to join the Blues from Arsenal, but since then he’s helped Chelsea to Champions League, FA Cup and Europa League wins and bagged a World Cup winner’s medal to boot.
Perennially underrated, Giroud is just a really good, stupefyingly-handsome footballer who keeps proving his doubters wrong.
2) Kai Havertz
This time last year, Havertz was being pinned as yet another expensive flop. But his conversion from an attacking midfielder to a centre-forward or false 9 was just beginning.
And Chelsea would have paid double the £72million they gave Bayer Leverkusen for the goal that won them the Champions League last May. Now, Havertz is Chelsea’s most threatening presence through the middle, as demonstrated during the first-leg defeat to Real Madrid, when he showed Lukaku how to bury a header.
1) Diego Costa
It takes a sh*thouse to know a sh*thouse and when Mourinho brought Costa to Chelsea during his second spell at the club, it was a partnership destined for greatness.
The tw*t’s tw*t, between 2014 and 2017 the Spaniard dived, spat and kicked his way to being the most divisive player in the Premier League. The sort of guy you hate until he’s on your side getting the opposition sent off and scoring goals.
And score goals he did – a lot of them.
His partnership with Cesc Fabregas was magical and it was this combination that helped Chelsea to a fourth Premier League title in 2015.
In the 2016/17 season, and under Antonio Conte’s management, Costa’s 20 goals again drove Chelsea towards a title.
It was ultimately the breakdown in his relationship with the Italian that was Costa’s undoing at Chelsea and in September 2017, he returned to Spain to re-join Atletico Madrid – the club from which he’d joined the Blues.
Despite only spanning three seasons, the volume of goals that Costa scored at Chelsea, the success of the club during his time there and the absence of any real rival for the title competition means he has to be their greatest forward at Stamford Bridge in the post-Drogba era.
Will Sewell and others