Chelsea has been home to some of the division’s finest forwards in the Premier League era, with a number of great goalscorers having banged in the goals in a blue shirt.
Given the depth of forward talent to have passed through west London across the past three decades, selecting our five favourites was a difficult task. Some stellar names have missed out on this shortlist, as we rank the best Chelsea forwards of the Premier League period.
Ranking the best Chelsea forwards of the Premier League era:
5. Eidur Gudjohnsen
Eidur Gudjohnsen’s arrival pre-dated the club’s transformative takeover by Roman Abramovich, but the Icelandic international remained an integral figure in the early successes of the Blues’ new era.
Gudjohnsen had signed for Chelsea after impressing at second-tier Bolton Wanderers and after a first season spent as an impact player, broke into the team on a regular basis in 2001/02. He formed an excellent understanding with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink as the duo combined for 52 goals in all competitions.
— Premier League (@premierleague) January 29, 2020
He reached 10+ goals in four of his six Premier League seasons at Chelsea, with Gudjohnsen offering a fine foil for several strikers in a withdrawn role off an out-and-out number nine. Gudjohnsen won back-to-back Premier League titles under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, featuring in all but one game during the club’s drought-breaking first success in 2004/05.
He moved on to sign for Barcelona in an £8m deal in 2006 and won a La Liga, Copa del Rey and Champions League treble with the Spaniards in 2008/09.
4. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink formed the other half of a formidable front pairing alongside Gudjohnsen, with the thunder-thighed hitman among the Premier League’s best during his time in blue.
Hasselbaink had won a Premier League Golden Boot during a prolific spell at Leeds, before returning to the division at Chelsea in a £15m club record deal, via Atletico Madrid. His first season in west London saw Hasselbaink win a second Golden Boot after scoring 23 league goals to finish clear of Marcus Stewart, Thierry Henry and Mark Viduka.
The Dutch international formed a reputation for spectacular strikes of thudding power, and had a successful spell at Middlesbrough in which he helped the club to the UEFA Cup final after leaving Stamford Bridge.
Hasselbaink scored 87 goals in 177 appearances for Chelsea and is one of just three players – alongside Alan Shearer and Robin van Persie – to lead the Premier League for goals at two different clubs.
3. Diego Costa
Jose Mourinho’s best teams were often centred around a lone forward capable of troubling defences singlehandedly. In search for a new focal point, Mourinho signed Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid to spearhead his second spell as Chelsea manager.
Costa was an instant hit after arriving in west London in a £32m deal and scored 20 league goals as Chelsea were crowned Premier League champions in 2014/15. The Spanish striker was a snarling presence as Chelsea’s frontman, ruffling the feathers of Premier League centre-backs with insatiable work-rate, strength and a sprinkling of underhand tactics.
Costa remained a key cog as Antonio Conte took charge of the Blues and won a second Premier League title in 2016/17. He scored 59 goals in 120 appearances for Chelsea, achieving the gold-standard for strikers with a one in two return. Of the seven players to score 50+ goals for Chelsea in the Premier League, no player can better his goal-per-game ratio.
2. Gianfranco Zola
For a generation of Chelsea fans there has been no player better in a blue shirt than Gianfranco Zola. Even given the influx of talent that has arrived at Chelsea since the early 2000s, the magical moments Zola produced mean he remains in the conversation of the club’s greatest.
Zola signed for Chelsea from Parma and made an immediate impact in English football, becoming the first player to win the FWA Footballer of the Year award after arriving mid-season in 1996/97.
Zola was the star name in a team who competed well in cup competition during the pre-Roman Abramovich era, starring as Chelsea won two FA Cups, the League Cup, the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, the UEFA Super Cup, and the Community Shield.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) November 8, 2016
The Italian icon was voted as Chelsea’s greatest ever player after leaving west London in 2003, having produced some magic moments in a career that brought 80 goals in 312 games for the Blues.
That status is now challenged after the most successful period in Chelsea’s history, but the mesmerising football Zola produced means his place in the club’s folklore is indelible.
1. Didier Drogba
The man for the big occasion and a forward with more decisive moments than any other player in Chelsea history.
Drogba was the forward threat who became a force of nature at Chelsea, overcoming a mixed start in the Premier League to leave a legacy at Stamford Bridge. He scored 164 goals across two spells in west London and twice won the Premier League Golden Boot, but it is the importance – rather than volume – of his goals that makes Drogba’s case as Chelsea’s best difficult to argue.
The Ivorian scored 10 goals in 10 cup finals for Chelsea, including four winners to snatch silverware for his side. Among them was a dramatic equaliser in the 2012 Champions League final, before converting the decisive kick in the shootout against Bayern Munich as Chelsea were crowned European champions for the first time.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) March 16, 2019
He combined wonderful technique with hulking strength, with Drogba capable of bullying the best centre-backs in the division when at his best. His ability as a one-man forward line in part led to tactical change in the Premier League. Chelsea were among the first to revert to a three-man midfield, safe in the knowledge that Drogba could do it on his own and, often, when it mattered most.