The highest spending side of the Premier League era is Chelsea – a fact largely down to the takeover of Roman Abramovich that transformed the west London side into perennial contenders for English football’s biggest prizes.
The billionaire businessman has invested huge sums on player recruitment in a policy that has delivered a wealth of silverware, though not all of the marquee names arriving at Chelsea have proven unequivocal success stories.
In fact, some of them have been pretty hopeless.
Here are our ratings of the impact of Chelsea’s last five record signings:
Michael Essien – £24.4m (2005)
Essien’s latter career may have been decimated by a succession of injury problems but the midfielder was a formidable force of nature at his Premier League peak, arriving from Lyon in a club record deal and quickly establishing himself as one of the division’s best.
The deal made Essien the most expensive African footballer of all-time in the summer of 2005, but he proved worth the record outlay after helping the club to the Premier League title during his debut season at Stamford Bridge.
Nicknamed the ‘Bison’ for his powerhouse all-action style, Essien was named as the African Footballer of the Year at the end of his first season in English football and proved an invaluable member of the Chelsea squad, filling in at right-back on occasion.
The Ghanian’s thunderbastard against Arsenal remains one of the Blues’ most iconic Premier League goals, a memorable contribution to a Chelsea career that delivered 256 appearances in all competitions and eight major honours.
Andriy Shevchenko – £30.8m (2006)
Rewind back to the summer of 2006 and Chelsea are sitting comfortably atop of England’s footballing pyramid, back-to-back titles having been secured under the guidance of a charismatic Jose Mourinho at the peak of his managerial powers.
Owner Abramovich was pleased with the Blues’ domestic dominance, but it was the Champions League he truly craved – enter Andriy Shevchenko.
The Ukrainian international arrived in a British transfer-record deal from AC Milan with a reputation as one of the world’s finest footballers – joining with a proven pedigree on Europe’s biggest stage and gift-wrapped as the missing piece to Mourinho’s Champions League jigsaw.
The reality, however, proved rather different.
Shevchenko netted on his debut in the Community Shield but soon struggled to adapt to the demands of English football, Mourinho failing to find a system that suited both the marquee addition and forward line centre-piece Didier Drogba.
The forward’s debut season delivered just four league goals – a huge disappointment for a player who was awarded the Ballon d’Or just two years earlier – whilst he failed to improve during a second season of struggle and rejoined AC Milan on loan after just 23 goals in 77 appearances in all competitions.
Fernando Torres – £50m (2011)
Another blockbuster move from Abramovich, the owner once again smashing the British transfer-record to secure the signing of Fernando Torres from Premier League rivals Liverpool in January 2011.
The Spanish international had developed into one of Europe’s leading forwards during a prolific three-and-a-half-year spell on Merseyside, scoring 65 goals in just 102 Premier League appearances.
Torres’ Chelsea career began poorly, however, taking a huge 903 minutes to open his account for his new side and looking a shadow of the player who had terrorised defences since first arriving in English football from Atletico Madrid.
Confidence dented he scored just six league goals during his first full season – a poor return following the club’s record investment – though did have his moments, notably in the club’s run to a maiden Champions League success.
Rarely, however, has a player ever enjoyed such a fall from grace and much more was expected than a meagre total of just 20 league goals in 110 appearances.
Torres never again recaptured the electrifying form which made him a global star at Liverpool, the Chelsea version of El Nino a poor imitation by comparison.
Alvaro Morata – £58m (2017)
What is it with Chelsea and big-money forwards?
Alvaro Morata was the latest marquee addition to the club’s forward options during the summer of 2017, arriving with a fine reputation after winning domestic titles in both Italy and Spain.
The Spanish international began brilliantly following his club-record move to Stamford Bridge, though ten league goals before Boxing Day – including a hat-trick against Stoke – proved to be a false dawn for a player who seemed to suffer from confidence issues.
Despite helping the club to FA Cup success during that first season Morata failed to win favour with the club’s supporters, scoring just five league goals in a miserable second campaign before returning to Spain with Atletico Madrid.
The forward later said he did not feel appreciated by the Blues’ fans or his Chelsea teammates, admitting to losing confidence in himself to COPE radio last year amid the fierce criticism and glare of the Premier League spotlight.
“I was playing some games in England and I had the feeling that when I got into space, my teammates looked at me and I knew they thought I wouldn’t do anything good with the ball.”
Kepa Arrizabalaga – £71.6m (2018)
Thibaut Courtois’ defection to Real Madrid saw Chelsea break the bank in an attempt to fill their vacant goalkeeping role, spending a huge £71.6m to make Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga the most expensive goalkeeper in football history.
The young goalkeeper arrived with a burgeoning reputation following a series of impressive performances in La Liga, though his career in English football has proven one of mixed fortunes thus far.
A fairly solid debut campaign that included Europa League success was tarnished by his controversial antics during the Carabao Cup final, refusing manager Maurizio Sarri’s orders to be substituted ahead of Chelsea’s penalty shoot-out defeat to Manchester City at Wembley.
The situation was described as a ‘misunderstanding’ but resulted in the Spaniard being dropped and fined, whilst his fortunes have worsened under new manager Frank Lampard during the current campaign.
A series of below-par displays from the 25-year-old – Kepa possessing the worst save percentage of all regular Premier League goalkeepers this season – has seen the shot-stopper dropped once more, with the Spain international facing an uncertain future at Stamford Bridge.