Chelsea have emerged as one of the world’s biggest clubs over the last 30 years, and it is fair to say they have boasted some of the game’s best players during that period.
Having won five league titles, two Champions Leagues, seven FA Cups, four EFL Cups, two Europa Leagues, two Club World Cups and the Cup Winners’ Cup since the dawn of the Premier League in 1992, there is no doubting Chelsea’s credentials among football’s elite.
We have taken a look at the five greatest players to have represented Chelsea over the last three decades, which has undoubtedly been the most successful period in the club’s history.
5. Cesar Azpilicueta
Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta was a relatively low-key signing when he joined Chelsea for a reported £7million from Marseille during the summer of 2012. Still, he has since gone on to become one of the most decorated players in the club’s history.
During his decade at Stamford Bridge, Azpilicueta has won nine major trophies, and he became the first and so far only player to lift every major honour available to the club earlier this year when he captained them to glory at the Club World Cup.
The 32-year-old is seventh on the list of Chelsea’s all-time appearance makers, and he has plenty of time to add to his tally, as he recently penned a one-year contract extension that will keep him at the club until the summer of 2023.
4. Gianfranco Zola
There were signs that Chelsea were becoming a prominent force at the top of the English and European game long before Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003.
Star names such as Marcel Desailly, Frank Leboeuf and Gianluca Vialli had already donned the famous blue strip prior to the Russian’s arrival, but perhaps the pick of the pre-Abramovich era players was Gianfranco Zola.
The Italian forward arrived at Stamford Bridge from Parma in 1996, but by the time he left the club seven years later, he had not only scored 80 goals in 311 appearances but he was also regarded as a club legend.
Zola won six major honours during his time at Stamford Bridge, while he was also named Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year in 1997 – the first and so far only Italian to pick up that accolade.
3. Didier Drogba
If there was ever a man for the big occasion, then it was Didier Drogba, who netted 10 goals in 10 cup final appearances for Chelsea, including the equaliser and winning penalty in their 2012 Champions League final success over Bayern Munich.
Signed with a growing reputation from Marseille in 2004, Drogba lived up to his billing, becoming the first African player to reach 100 Premier League goals, while he also picked up two Golden Boots during his time in England.
As well as his cup heroics, Drogba also spearheaded Chelsea to their first four Premier League titles, the last of which came during his brief second spell with the club during the 2014-15 season.
2. John Terry
Academy product John Terry was pretty much Mr Chelsea, spending 22 years with the club before his departure in 2017, during which time he racked up 717 appearances for the Blues across all competitions – only two men have played more.
Terry was Chelsea’s leader throughout his time at Stamford Bridge, captaining the Blues to five league title successes, as well as numerous cup triumphs. The only trophy he did not win with the club was the Club World Cup.
The now 41-year-old was also a three-time winner of the UEFA Club Defender of the Year award, further underlining the esteem he was held in throughout the continent. Only one player gets above him on this list.
1. Frank Lampard
It is difficult to argue against Frank Lampard being Chelsea’s greatest player of all time, never mind just in the Premier League era.
Lampard is Chelsea’s record goalscorer, netting 211 during his 13 years with the club, a remarkable feat given he spent his entire career as a midfielder.
The 43-year-old also sits fourth on the list of Chelsea’s all-time appearance makers, while he won 13 major honours during his time at Stamford Bridge, including three Premier League titles and one Champions League.
His spell as Chelsea manager may not have been as successful (he did still guide the club to a top-four finish and an FA Cup final in his one full season in charge), but regardless of those off-field efforts, on the pitch, there has arguably never been a better player to play on the King’s Road.