So, as a follow up to my Chelsea’s Greatest Ever British XI of all time I have decided to do a team of overseas Blues players from the past and present. Due to the vast array of talented foreign names which have passed through the club over the years it has made this XI hard to produce, but I have done my best to narrow it down and here are the players I opted for after much discussion with a few of my followers on Twitter:
The Czech stopper was relatively unknown by many Premier League fans when he moved to west London from Rennes as Claudio Ranieri decided he wanted him as Carlo Cudicini’s understudy. But it wasn’t long until he become an established first-team regular when the club’s #1 keeper suffered an injury in pre-season ahead of the 2004/05 Premier League campaign and new manager Jose Mourinho promoted former Rennes player to the starting line-up, a spot he held onto. Cech currently holds a record of fewest appearances to achieve 100 clean sheets (180 games) and during his debut season he held a record of 1,025 minutes without conceding a goal, but that record was eventually surpassed by Edwin van der Sar in January 2009.
Not the most popular face amongst the Stamford Bridge faithful today following his acrimonious move to Arsenal, which involved Ashley Cole coming the other way. However, although he isn’t a natural left-back and was replaced by a much better player in that position, he was an integral part of Chelsea’s back-to-back title winning sides under Mourinho and held onto his spot despite the purchase of Asier del Horno for £8m. His behaviour before leaving the club and continued petulance is questionable, but I think it’s better to remember the positives like his injury-time winner in a 2-1 victory over Tottenham during the 2005/06 Premier League season.
Voted alongside John Terry in Chelsea’s greatest ever XI and I think the 1998 World Cup winner with France played centre-back for the Blues from 1998 to the end of the 2003/04 Premier League season. Not only was it a major boost for Chelsea to acquire a talent who had won everything in the game but I also believe having Desailly at the club helped Terry to become one of the best defenders in Europe. ‘Le Rock’ only managed to win one major honour during his time in west London in the 2000 FA Cup final, but he also won the 1998 UEFA Super Cup and the 2000 Charity Shield with Chelsea. Desailly played 222 times for the the Blues, scored seven goals and earned 74 international caps whilst at Chelsea (a record which has been recently passed by Frank Lampard).
It was a hard decision for me to omit Ricardo Carvalho from this list, but I have opted for another Frenchman in the defence and not just because of his successful partnership with Desailly. The former France international was a cultured player with an impressive passing range and rather oddly for a centre half took penalties for the club. Whilst at Chelsea he scored 24 goals in 200 games, most of which were of course from the penalty spot (he only missed three times).
Known as Dan ‘Pet Rescue’ to fans had a genuine affection for the club and was a prominent fixture at the club for five years (1995-2000). During his time at the club he was pretty successful in terms of winning silverware as he added the FA Cup (1997), League Cup (1998) and the Cup Winners’ Cup (1998), UEFA Super Cup (1998) to his list of honours. Whereas the other defenders I selected in this list are known mainly for their defensive attributes Petrescu is more of an attack-minded fullback who scored a few decent goals for Chelsea, like the one against Arsenal which one the 1998 League Cup semi-final.
The former Lazio man was an integral part of Chelsea’s resurgence in the late 1990s with his accurate passing, numerous assists and was also blessed with an eye for goal. Di Matteo will mostly be remembered for his stunning opening strike against Middlesbrough in the 1997 FA Cup final, which at 42 seconds was the fastest goal in an FA Cup final until Louis Saha broke the record. It was always a shame that late in his Chelsea career he was hampered by injuries before a triple leg fracture sustained in a UEFA Cup tie eventually forced him to retire at just 31-years-old, but he will always be remembered fondly by the Blues fans for the 175 appearances he did make and the 26 goals that went along with them.
The French midfielder was so good that he had a position named after him and since his arrival in the Premier League there has been an increased importance on fielding players in the ‘Makelele role.’ Maka was somewhat underappreciated at Real Madrid, but their loss was Chelsea’s gain as the sold the Frenchman and bought in David Beckham. His former team-mate Zinedine Zidane famously said it was like putting another gold layer on a Bentley, but losing the entire engine. The former Chelsea number 4 was a key figure in Mourinho’s 433 system, so he’s a dead cert in this list.
The Bison has been missed amongst the Stamford Bridge faithful for the best part of the last two campaigns due to injury, but he still deserves to be on this list as I think he is currently the best player who is currently on the books at Chelsea. The Ghanaian is dynamic, versatile and as an all-round midfielder offers a lot in both defensive and attacking situations. He has also scored some breathtaking goals such as the long range stunner against Arsenal in December 2005 and the emphatic left-foot volley which he scored against Barcelona in the Champions League campaign in 2009. Many fans will hope he is finally over his injury problems and will be back to his best in the coming season.
Supporting Striker: Eidur Gudjohnsen
The reason I have gone for Gudjohnsen in this list is because of his sheer technical prowess, close-control and movement which made him a favourite amongst many. The Icelandic forward also managed to play regularly despite names such as Hernan Crespo, Didier Drogba and Adrian Mutu arriving at the club in 2003 when Roman Abramovich took over. In the latter stages of his Chelsea career he was deployed in a deeper role to support the forward with his touch and vision, which would be of great benefit in this XI. Gudjohnsen scored 78 goals in his 263 appearances for the Stamford Bridge club.
As he was voted as Chelsea’s greatest ever player, hailed by his manager Claudio Ranieri as magic and described by Sir Alex Ferguson as a “clever little so-and-so” it would be of no surprise to anyone that the diminutive Italian has made his way into this Chelsea XI. The former Parma man was a big hit with the fans and provided them with many memorable moments with his wizard-like skills and fantastic goals…my personal favourites being the back-heeled flick against Norwich, the “twisted blood” goal against Wimbledon and the many great free kicks. Not only was Zola adored by his own fans, he was also admired by many neutrals and is viewed as one of the Premier League’s finest foreign imports. Zola played 312 games for Chelsea and scored 80 goals.
The Ivory Coast international is Chelsea’s 7th all-time top goal scorer with 131 goals in 260 games for the club, which puts him just one goal behind Jimmy Greaves and the top scorer of any overseas player to ever play for the Blues. Drogba doesn’t just score loads of goals, he makes them too (13 Premier League assists in the last campaign) and his ability to hold up the ball is second to none. Although he can sometimes wind up the opposition fans (and in some cases his own) by his playacting, nobody can deny that even at 32 he is one of the most feared strikers in world football. The Ivorian has been crucial to the recent success the club have enjoyed, which included their back-to-back Premier League wins under Mourinho and also the clubs first ever Premier League and FA Cup double of last season under the management of Carlo Ancelotti.
That’s my selection for Chelsea’s Greatest Ever Foreign XI, who would you have in yours?