Chelsea have attracted their fair share of talent both before and (mainly) after a certain Russian billionaire arrived in west London.
The Blues are one of England’s most successful clubs and can point to every trophy on offer in their ever-expanding cabinet back at Stamford Bridge. The wide-ranging plethora of talent which led the club to those glittering heights cannot be narrowed down to just one player – but the attributes which make the best of them great can be combined, at least hypothetically.
So, very much channelling the spirit of Mary Shelley, here are the bright lights of Chelsea’s recent past which embody the qualities of the club’s ultimate Premier League player.
The brain currently in the dugout spent the majority of his playing career at the epicentre of Chelsea’s most successful sides. Whether it was scoring or providing goals, Lampard could be counted upon to deliver throughout the season.
And as one of the game’s hardest working professionals, the midfielder with more a higher Premier League tally than Thierry Henry, rarely shirked his defensive duties.
Zola joined a Chelsea side in November 1996 which hadn’t finished higher than 11th for six years and left their new signing so dismayed at their facilities, he bought his own mock-defensive wall for the training ground.
Despite standing at 5’6 and wearing a size 5 boot, Zola was able to thrive in the physical Premier League given his unparalleled ability to shield the ball from opponents. He revolutionised Chelsea as the nineties gave way to the new millennium, collecting four major trophies along the way as the club became attractive enough for Roman Abramovich to invest in.
Chelsea’s number 25 earned – at times, begrudging – respect from all corners of the English top flight while Ryan Giggs claimed he is the only Premier League player Manchester United ever man-marked. The Italian magician finished as the club’s top assist provider in five of his seven seasons in west London and while it isn’t officially retired, no player has worn the 25 shirt since he left in 2003. Rightly so.
Ramires’ versatility was a key factor to his success at Chelsea. The Brazilian continued to earn his way into the side’s first-choice XI under the reign of five different managers in his six years in blue. As he tore across the pitch from the right, more centrally or in a deeper role, Ramires could boast a trophy for each manager which valued his hard and fast running.
If the body of Chelsea’s perfect footballer is that of John Terry, there is only ever going to be one place you can find it: on the line. The club’s defining captain may have lacked his plaudits off the pitch, but they were never in short supply when he stepped onto it.
For the best part of two decades, Terry marshalled Chelsea’s backline while posing a threat in the opposite area – somehow managing to find the net in each one of his 19 Premier League campaigns. As he embodied the club, it seems fitting for him to lend his own body to that of their perfect player.
Mata’s time in a Chelsea shirt may have been brief – completing only two full seasons with the club – but one of the nicest men in football made a seismic impact during his spell at the Bridge between 2011 and 2013.
The Spaniard adapted to life in London rapidly. To go alongside his debut goal against Norwich City, Mata embraced his new home in England (helped by the fact his sister was living in Brighton at the time) as Chelsea’s number ten charmed his social media followers with snaps of London’s leafy parks and his discovery of ‘good tapas in the King’s Road’.
The wonderfully talented Spaniard delivered the corner for Didier Drogba’s last-minute equaliser in the Champions League final and set up both goals in the following year’s Europa League triumph. So, despite spending less than 18 months in the capital, three of the club’s most pivotal goals were all scored from passes off Mata’s left boot.
If it was a final, pretty much any part of Didier Drogba would be worth having given his startling record on the big occasion. The two-time Premier League Golden Boot winner had the talent and aura to almost singlehandedly haul his team to success at times as he claimed no fewer than 12 trophies and fired his way to fourth on the all-time scorers list with that lethal right boot.
During his seven-year stint at Stamford Bridge, Hazard’s nimble, lightning feet utterly bewildered the defenders unfortunate to line up against the Belgian as he was able to move at terrifying speed both off the ball and in possession.
Crucially, he coupled those devastating dribbles with actual end product – during his time in the Premier League, he ranked fourth and third for goals scored and assists provided respectively.