The 11th richest man in Russia changed the landscape of English football when he arrived to take over at Chelsea back in 2003. The newly named ‘Chelski’ had one clear aim; to become one of the most revered teams in Europe.
The summer of 2003 was an exciting time for Chelsea fans, with over £170 million spent in the transfer window, but this was only a sign of things to come. Time will be kind to the Abramovich regime of spending big and sacking quick, with the Blues being the second most successful team of the period – behind Manchester United.
So far, there have been numerous trophies won, including five Premier League titles, one Europa League and the Champions League trophy that the Russian craved. The 2009/10 season also saw the club complete the first FA Cup and Premier League double in their history.
Transfers have undoubtedly played a part in the force that has become Chelsea, so we’ve decided to take a look at five of the most influential:
Didier Drogba (£24 million from Marseille)
Jose Mourinho was quick to bring Didier Drogba to the club after his exploits in Ligue 1 for Marseille. The Ivorian bagged 32 goals in 55 appearances during his first and only season with the club. Not much was known of the big striker before his arrival in English football, but defenders soon found out what a fearsome opponent he was.
Drogba’s unique blend of physicality and powerful finishing ability made him almost unplayable on his day and one of the best proponents of one man strike force the English game has ever seen. In his debut season, the striker scored 16 goals as Chelsea won their first Premier League title in 50 years. The success kept coming as the striker helped the Blues to back-to-back titles with another 16 goals in the following season.
The 2009-10 season would be Drogba’s finest individual season as he finished the campaign as the division’s top goal scorer with 29 goals, as Chelsea won their third title.
The moment that will remain with Drogba forever will be his part in delivering the Champions League to Stamford Bridge. The Ivorian was instrumental in ensuring the final against Bayern Munich went to penalties as he scored a brilliant equaliser. He then scored the winning penalty in the shootout; in a moment that will be etched in Chelsea history forever.
As well as scoring 104 Premier League goals for Chelsea, Drogba won four top flights titles – one during his second spell with the club – five FA Cups and three League Cups during his time at the Bridge.
Eden Hazard (£32 million from Lille)
Another export from the French division that has brought Chelsea fans unforgettable moments. It was announced on in June 2012 that the Blues had won a hotly contested race with Manchester United to secure the signature of the Belgium international. He has gone on to win two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, one League Cup and the Europa League.
The skilful attacker has been touted as one of the finest imports that the Premier League has ever seen, as Hazard is unstoppable when he is in top form. His low centre of gravity, speed and skill allows him to glide past defenders as if they weren’t even there.
It comes as little surprise that Chelsea do well when Hazard stays injury free, and this is evidenced in the fact that his two highest scoring seasons have contributed to success for the Blues. Most recently during the 2016-17 season when Hazard scored 16 goals in 36 appearances to land Antonio Conte the Premier League title in his first season at the club.
Chelsea fans will be hoping that Hazard commits to a new long-term deal with the club; but should he leave they will be receiving a hefty profit on the £32 million they paid to bring him to Stamford Bridge.
Claude Makelele (£16 million from Real Madrid)
One of the most exciting signings of the early Abramovich era was the addition of Champions League winner Makelele. The holding midfielder is renowned for making the role of a screen in front of defence his own; with the position often called the ‘Makelele Role’. That excitement was matched with trophies, as he was instrumental in delivering the Blues first two Premier League titles.
The use of Makelele by Mourinho allowed for the attacking players like Lampard, Duff and Robben to express themselves, something the Portuguese coach often described as invaluable. In the final home game of the season in 04/05, Makelele scored his first goal for four years when he scored from a rebounded penalty.
The holding midfielder was vital again as Chelsea regained the title the following season. The Frenchman fell out of favour but was reinstated to the team when Avram Grant replaced Mourinho. Makelele’s final game for the club came in Chelsea’s unsuccessful night in Moscow when they lost to Manchester United on penalties in the 2008 Champions League final.
Petr Cech (£7 million from Rennes)
The Czech Republic international was signed by the club in 2004 and went on to be Chelsea’s number one for 10 years. Upon arriving in England for a then club record fee for a goalkeeper, little was known of the young shot-stopper. However, after an excellent first season at the club conceding a league record low of 15 goals, Cech’s credentials were no longer in any doubt.
His first two seasons at the club ended in Premier League titles. The beginning of the 2006-07 season saw Cech pick up a horrible head injury, which saw him miss three months of the season. Despite this, Cech returned to the side and helped the club to FA Cup success.
The Czech number one went on to win two further Premier League titles with the Blues. But his crowning moment came in the club’s Champions League success in 2012. Cech saved an Arjen Robben penalty deep in extra time, before going on to save two further penalties in the shootout. Now 36-years-old, Cech is the only ‘keeper in EPL history to have kept more than 200 clean sheers and is set to retire at the end of this season at Arsenal, although it will be his Chelsea days for which he will be most fondly remembered.
Ashley Cole (£5 million plus William Gallas from Arsenal)
Possibly one of the most contentious transfers in Premier League history saw Ashley Cole move from Arsenal to Chelsea in 2006, with the Stamford Bridge outfit subsequently charged for tapping up. But if you forget about all the talk surrounding the move, the addition of England’s best left back into an already great Blues team took the squad to a new level. Cole only won one Premier League title with the club, but his crowning moment was winning the Champions League during the 2011-12 season.
He scored a successful spot-kick as the Blues beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena. He is also the most decorated FA Cup winner of all time, having seven successes to his name – four of which came with Chelsea. The 107 cap England international also won the Europa League and League Cup with Chelsea.
During the 2013-14 season, the club looked to build for the future and Cole was eased out of the side, with Cesar Azpilicueta taking his spot.
Cole is now winding down his playing days with former Blues teammate Frank Lampard at Derby County, and is widely regarded as both Chelsea and the Premier League’s best left back ever.