Chelsea's best ever signings

BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 30: Frank Lampard of Chelsea celebrates during the Barclays Premiership match between West Bromwich Albion and Chelsea at the Hawthorns on October 30, 2004 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the most successful clubs in English football, Chelsea have signed plenty of incredible players throughout their history.

From early stars, to integral members of their silverware-winning sides of the 50s and 70s, right through to the glorious modern era, the Blues' transfer business has come up trumps on many an occasion.

Here at FourFourTwo, we've ranked Chelsea's finest signings of all time...

33. Paul Canoville

27 December 1983 Football League Division Two - Chelsea v Portsmouth FC - Paul Canoville celebrates a goal for Chelsea. (Photo by Mark Leech/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Signed from non-League Hillingdon Borough for £5,000 in 1981, Paul Canoville starred as Chelsea returned to the top flight by winning the 1983/84 First Division title.

The Blues' first black player, Canoville's time at Stamford Bridge was tainted by racist abuse from his own fans – although he did have most of them singing his name by the end of it thanks to his consistent displays down the left flank.

32. Dan Petrescu

Romania and Chelsea footballer Dan Petrescu leaning against a goalpost in 1998. (Photo by Tim Roney/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

After one season in English football with Sheffield Wednesday, marauding Romanian full-back Dan Petrescu joined Chelsea in the summer of 1995 – and what a great decision it proved to be.

During a five-year spell at Stamford Bridge, Petrescu racked up 207 appearances and was a mainstay of the Blues teams which won the 1996/97 FA Cup under Ruud Gullit, and the 1997/98 League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup under Gianluca Vialli.

31. Graeme Le Saux

Graeme Le Saux of Chelsea, 2000

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Jersey-born Graeme Le Saux began his career with Chelsea before leaving for Blackburn Rovers in 1993 – but the England left-back was back four years later in a £5m deal – making him the most expensive defender in English football – having helped Blackburn to the 1994/95 Premier League title.

A Second Division champion during his first Blues' spell, Le Saux's second stint at Stamford Bridge brought considerably higher-profile silverware – notably the 1997/98 League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup.

30. Paulo Ferreira

PITTSBURGH - JULY 28: Paulo Ferreira of Chelsea during Chelsea team training July 28, 2004 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A Champions League winner with Jose Mourinho's Porto in 2004, Paulo Ferreira followed his boss to Chelsea that summer – and played a key role in the Blues' first ever Premier League title triumph in 2004/05.

The Portugal right-back spent the rest of his career at Stamford Bridge, retiring in 2013 as a three-time English champion and with another Champions League winners' medal to add to his collection.

29. Peter Bonetti

Peter Bonetti of Chelsea, 1979

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The vast majority of Peter Bonetti's 729 Chelsea appearances – among the very most in the club's history – came during his first spell with the Blues, when he starred in FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup victories.

But the legendary goalkeeper, famously nicknamed The Cat for his grace and rapid reflexes, was hugely influential following his return in 1976 (after the briefest of stints Stateside with the St. Louis Stars), immediately helping a young Chelsea team earn promotion back to the top flight.

28. Eidur Gudjohnsen

Eidur Gudjohnsen

(Image credit: Getty)

Arguably Iceland's greatest player of all time, Eidur Gudjohnsen got his chance in English football with second-tier Bolton Wanderers in the late 90s – and the six-foot-one striker joined Chelsea for £4.5m in the summer of 2000.

In his second season with the Blues, Gudjohnsen formed a highly effective partnership with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink which yielded 52 goals in all competitions – and he later netted 12 times in Chelsea's maiden Premier League title success.

27. Ruud Gullit

1997: Portrait of Chelsea Player/Manager Ruud Gullit. \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the very best players in the world throughout the 80s and early 90s, Ruud Gullit ended his career at Chelsea, joining as a free agent in 1995 and going on to make 63 appearances for the Blues.

Still a superbly classy – and extraordinarily versatile – operator in his mid-30s, the dreadlocked Dutchman had a great time at Stamford Bridge, becoming player-manager ahead of the 1996/97 campaign and guiding Chelsea to victory in that season's FA Cup (marking the club's first major trophy for 26 years).

26. Ian Hutchinson

English soccer player Ian Hutchinson (1948 - 2002) of Chelsea FC, UK, 5th August 1968. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Signed from Cambridge United in 1968, striker Ian Hutchinson spent the majority of his career with Chelsea, forming a fine striker partnership with Blues legend Peter Osgood which yielded 53 goals during the 1969/70 season.

Hutchinson played a major role in Chelsea's first ever FA Cup triumph that campaign, taking the final to a replay with a late equaliser against Leeds (after being left limping by a hefty Norman Hunter challenge).

25. David Speedie

NOTTINGHAM - APRIL 12: David Speedie of Chelsea shoots at goal during the Canon League Division One match between Nottingham Forest and Chelsea held on April 12, 1986 at the City Ground in Nottingham, England. The match ended in a 0-0 draw. (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Scottish striker David Speedie helped fire Chelsea to the 1983/84 Second Division title with 13 goals across the campaign – among 64 he scored for the Blues altogether in all competitions.

A 1982 arrival from Darlington, Speedie – who excelled in the air despite his diminutive stature – linked up superbly with Chelsea icon Kerry Dixon, spending five years at Stamford Bridge.

24. Tommy Baldwin

Tommy Baldwin, Chelsea

(Image credit: Alamy)

It was said that Tommy Baldwin was nicknamed the sponge at Chelsea due to his ability to soak up pressure by holding onto the ball in midfield – but apparently, it actually stemmed from his knack for knocking back pints down the pub.

Regardless, the 1966 arrival from Arsenal goes down as one of the Blues' best ever midfielders – and he helped them to League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup in 1970 and 1971 respectively.

23. Pat Nevin

12 November 1983 - Football League Division One - Chelsea v Newcastle United - Pat Nevin of Chelsea. (Photo by Mark Leech/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Another Scottish Stamford Bridge legend, Pat Nevin joined Chelsea from Clyde in 1983 and was integral to their 1983/84 Second Division title win, soon endearing himself to fans by chipping in with plenty of goals from the wing.

Nevin ended that season as the Blues' Player of the Year, an award he would collect once again as Chelsea challenged for the First Division title for much of the 1985/86 campaign.

22. Steve Clarke

HARLINGTON, LONDON, MARCH 1996 : Chelsea player Steve Clarke at Chelsea's training ground, Harlington. (Photo by Francis Glibbery/Chelsea FC )***Local Caption *** Steve Clarke (Photo by Francis Glibbery/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of Chelsea's greatest ever right-backs, Steve Clarke amassed 421 appearances for the Blues after joining from St. Mirren in 1988, spending the final 10 years of his career at Stamford Bridge.

Signed for £422,000, Clarke – who was capped six times by Scotland – went trophyless with Chelsea until his final two seasons, when he picked up FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup winners' medals.

He later served as assistant manager to Jose Mourinho and Avram Grant.

21. Peter Sillett

30th August 1958: Wolverhampton Wanderers centre forward, Jackie Henderson, competes for the ball in the opposition goal area with Chelsea defender, Peter Sillett, and reserve goalkeeper, Robertson, at Stamford Bridge. (Photo by Edward Miller/Keystone/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Peter Sillett joins Steve Clarke among the best right-backs Chelsea have ever had, having starred in the Blues' 1954/55 First Division title-winning campaign.

Brought to Stamford Bridge from Southampton in 1953 by manager Ted Drake, Sillett spent nine years as a Chelsea player, making a total of 288 appearances and earning three England caps.

20. Cesar Azpilicueta

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - MAY 25: Cesar Azpilicueta of Chelsea acknowledges the fans after the Premier League match between Manchester United and Chelsea FC at Old Trafford on May 25, 2023 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A modern Chelsea legend, Cesar Azpilicueta captained the Blues to victory in the 2020/21 Champions League, as well as the 2018/19 Europa League and 2021 Club World Cup.

In fact, the Spain defender won every major trophy on offer during his 11-year stay at Stamford Bridge, racking up 508 appearances and earning the humorous nickname Dave (because his surname was so hard to pronounce, fans claimed).

19. Roberto Di Matteo

1996: Portrait of Roberto Di Matteo of Chelsea showing off his cap at Stamford Bridge in London. \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Before he coached Chelsea to their maiden Champions League triumph in 2011/12 (along with that season's FA Cup), Roberto Di Matteo was a hugely popular player for the Blues.

The seriously classy Italian deep-lying midfielder joined from Lazio in 1996 and spent the final six years of his career at Stamford Bridge – and he probably would have spent a fair few more there had injury not forced him to retire aged only 31.

18. Dennis Wise

4 Mar 1999: Chelsea captain Dennis Wise celebrates after scoring against Valerenga in the European Cup Winners Cup quarter-final first leg match at Stamford Bridge in London. Chelsea won 3-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Ross Kinnaird /Allsport

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of Chelsea's most decorated captains of all time, Dennis Wise wore the armband as the Blues got their hands on two FA Cups, the League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup between 1997 and 2000.

A club-record arrival when he joined from Wimbledon for £1.6m in 1990, the thoroughly tenacious England midfielder featured 445 times for the Blues and was voted Player of the Season on two occasions.

17. Jimmy Floyd Haselbaink

21 Oct 2000: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink of Chelsea scores his first goal during the FA Carling Premiership match against Coventry City played at Stamford Bridge, in London. Chelsea won the match 6-1. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Brunskill /Allsport

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Among the best centre-forwards in Europe during his prime, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink first made his mark on the Premier League at Leeds, joining Chelsea in 2000 after a prolific one-season stint in Spain with Atletico Madrid.

Having shared the 1998/99 Golden Boot with Michael Owen and Dwight Yorke, the Dutchman – who possessed great free-kick ability – won it outright in his first campaign with the Blues, notching 23 goals in successive campaigns, and forming a strong striker partnership and friendship with Eidur Gudjohnsen.

16. Ricardo Carvalho

LONDON - DECEMBER 10: Ricardo Carvalho of Chelsea gestures during the Barclays Premiership match between Chelsea and Arsenal at Stamford Bridge on December 10, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Like Portuguese compatriot Paulo Ferreira, Ricardo Carvalho followed Jose Mourinho from Porto to Chelsea as a 2003/04 Champions League winner – and he only enjoyed even more success in England.

A titan at the back as the Blues conceded just 15 goals en route to the 2004/05 Premier League title, Carvalho was among the finest centre-halves of his era and made 210 Chelsea appearances in all – also helping them to FA Cup and League Cup glory.

15. Kerry Dixon

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 25: Kerry Dixon of Chelsea during the Canon League Division One match between Arsenal and Chelsea held on August 25, 1984 at Highbury, in London, England. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by Hugh Hastings/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

With 193 goals to his name in all competitions, Kerry Dixon is one of Chelsea's all-time leading scorers – and he banged in 70 of those during his first two seasons at the club, firing the Blues to the 1983/84 Second Division title.

Signed from Reading, Dixon – who found the net four times in eight caps for England during the mid-80s – is an undisputed Chelsea legend.

14. Marcel Desailly

LONDON - NOVEMBER 30: Marcel Desailly of Chelsea celebrates scoring their second goal with the fans during the Barclaycard Premiership match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge in London on November 30, 2002. (Photo By Ben Radford/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A Champions League winner with Marseille and AC Milan in back-to-back seasons during the early 90s, Marcel Desailly had just starred in France's 1998 World Cup victory when he joined Chelsea from Milan for £4.6m.

One of the world's top defenders at the time, Desailly won the 1999/2000 FA Cup with the Blues and was club captain for most of his six-year spell at Stamford Bridge.

13. George Hilsdon

LONDON - 1908: Chelsea FC player George Hilsdon wearing the colours of England poses for a team portrait in 1908 in London, England. George Hilsdon was born in London in 1885 and signed for Chelsea from West Ham United in 1906, at the age of 19 as an inside-forward, he soon converted to leader of the attack where his powerful shooting won him the nickname "Gattling Gun George" after he had scored five goals in his first League appearance for Chelsea, against Worksop which is still a club record. His 27 goals in his first season at Stamford Bridge was instrumental in the team winning promotion to the First Division for the first time. With 8 international caps to his credit he eventually returned to West Ham after six eventful seasons and he played for the Hammers until the outbreak of World War I. At Chelsea, where his testimonial match on Easter Monday 1912 raised £180, his memory is perpetuated by the model of a footballer decorating the weather-vane, originally at the north end of the ground, now placed on the East Stand. (Photo by Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The first player to score 100 goals for Chelsea, George Hildson joined the Blues from West Ham in 1906 – and returned to the Hammers six years later after netting 108 times in 164 games.

Capped eight times by England – for whom he banged in an extraordinary 14 goals – Hilsdon fired Chelsea to promotion top the top-flight in just the club's second year as a professional outfit.

12. Charlie Cooke

Scottish footballer Charlie Cooke, the new winger for Chelsea FC, at Stamford Bridge football stadium in London, UK, 18th January 1974. (Photo by Evening Standard/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Charlie Cooke gained legendary status across two spells with Chelsea, where he tasted victory in the FA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup in successive seasons (1969/70 and 1970/71).

First signed from Dundee in 1966, the 16-cap Scotland winger left the Blues for Crystal Palace in 1972 – only to return two years later and help them to promotion from the Second Division in 1977 having been relegated from the top flight two years earlier.

11. Michael Essien

LONDON - DECEMBER 06: Mickael Essien of Chelsea looks on during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on December 6, 2005 in London, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

An all-time great of African football, Ghanaian icon Michael Essien broke Chelsea's transfer record when he completed his £24.4m move from Lyon in the summer of 2005.

And it would prove to be money exceptionally well spent by the Blues: Essien was an invaluable presence in midfield, winning the Premier League title in 2005/06 under Jose Mourinho and in 2009/10 under Carlo Ancelotti.

He didn't score that many goals – but when he did find the net, it was often spectacular (case in point: this screamer against Arsenal in 2006).

10. Arjen Robben

18/10/2006 - Champions League football, Chelsea v Barcelona, Arjen Robben celebrates a Chelsea victory. (Photo by Mark Leech/Offside via Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

One of the finest wingers of all time, Arjen Robben tied many a full-back in knots during his career – of which he spent three trophy-laden years with Jose Mourinho's Chelsea.

Brought to Stamford Bridge from PSV in the summer of 2004, the devastating Dutchman made the PFA Premier League Team of the Year as he played a pivotal part in the Blues' title-winning 2004/05 campaign – with his contribution highlighted by the fact injury restricted him to only 18 appearances.

He was it again the following season, collecting another Premier League winners' medal.

9. Ashley Cole

COVENTRY, UNITED KINGDOM - MARCH 07: Ashley Cole of Chelsea looks on during the FA Cup Sponsored by E.ON 6th round match between Coventry City and Chelsea at the Ricoh Arena on March 7, 2009 in Coventry, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

England and Chelsea's greatest left-back of all time, Ashley Cole made the cross-London switch from Arsenal to Stamford Bridge for a mere £5m in the summer of 2006.

That transfer has to go down as one of the most incredible bargains ever: Cole spent eight glorious years with the Blues, winning every major trophy available – including the Champions League in 2011/12 – and being named Chelsea's Players' Player of the Year on two occasions.

8. Gianluca Vialli

Gianluca Vialli

(Image credit: Getty)

The late Gianluca Vialli didn't need long to make himself a legend at Chelsea, immortalising himself at Stamford Bridge in the space of three years.

Once the world's most expensive player, Vialli joined the Blues from Juventus in 1996 and would retire with the West Londoners – finishing up as their player-manager.

In the latter role, the hugely gifted Italian striker – who scored 21 goals for Chelsea – was an FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup winner, during an immensely successful period around the turn of the century for the Blues.

7. Gianfranco Zola

Gianfranco Zola

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Gianluca Vialli's compatriot and contemporary, Gianfranco Zola was a pure delight to watch, spending seven wonderful years with Chelsea after joining from Parma in 1996.

Winner of the prestigious FWA Footballer of the Year award in 1997 and twice the Blues' Player of the Year, the pint-sized magician was integral to the FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners' Cup triumphs.

A scorer of truly stunning goals, Zola found the net 80 times for the Blues in all – including with this memorably audacious flick in an FA Cup clash against Norwich.

6. Claude Makelele

LONDON, ENGLAND - APRIL 30: Claude Makelele of Chelsea and Steven Gerrard of Liverpool compete for the ball during the UEFA Champions League Semi Final second leg match between Chelsea and Liverpool at the Stamford Bridge on April 30, 2008 in London, England. (Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

So exceptional at the base of Chelsea's midfield was Claude Makelele that the holding midfield role came to be known colloquially as the Makelele Role.

The Blues' 95-point, 15-goals-conceded Premier League title win of 2004/05 just wouldn't have happened without the mightily dogged Frenchman, who brought a certain glamour to one of the most unglamorous responsibilities on the pitch.

Very, very rarely on the scoresheet, memorably, on the day Chelsea received the Premier League trophy in 2005, Makelele was allowed to take a penalty against Charlton – which he saw saved, only to tuck in the rebound.

5. Petr Cech

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 01: Petr Cech of Chelsea in action during the Barclays Premiership match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park on February 1, 2006 in Birmingham, England (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

The finest goalkeeper in Chelsea's history and perhaps the best the Premier League has ever seen, Petr Cech was a world-class last line of defence for the Blues between 2004 and 2015.

Signed from Rennes for £7m, the Czech Republic legend went on to make 494 appearances for Chelsea, lifting every major honour – and continuing to perform to an elite level after recovering from the horrific head injury he sustained against Reading in 2006, resulting in him notably wearing a rugby-style headguard for the rest of his career.

4. Didier Drogba

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 28: Didier Drogba of Chelsea looks on during the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Fulham at Stamford Bridge on December 28, 2009 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

A nightmare-and-a-half for defenders, the deadly Didier Drogba became the first African player to score 100 Premier League goals, registering 164 times for Chelsea in all competitions across two spells.

During his first stint at Stamford Bridge, the iconic Ivorian scooped the Golden Boot on two occasions, with his most prolific campaign coming in 2009/10 – when he netted 29 times (and 37 in all competitions) as Carlo Ancelotti steered the Blues to the double.

After scoring an equaliser to take the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich to extra time, and then Chelsea's decisive shootout penalty, Drogba left as a free agent – only to return and add a fourth Premier League winners' medal in 2014/15.

3. Roy Bentley

Chelsea and England inside-left Roy Bentley in action at Craven Cottage, the Fulham FC ground, January 1952. (Photo by William Vanderson/Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Skipper of Chelsea's first ever top-flight title-winning team in 1954/55, Roy Bentley's name really is the stuff of legend at Stamford Bridge – and he did much more than just wear the captain's armband.

Signed from Newcastle in 1948 for £11,000, Bentley went on to rack up 152 goals for the Blues – including a career-best 22 in that glorious 1955/55 First Division campaign.

Capped 12 times by England, netting nine times, the striker was Chelsea's record goalscorer when he left for local rivals Fulham in 1956 – and he remains towards the very top of their list of all-time leading marksmen.

2. Eden Hazard

Chelsea's Belgian midfielder Eden Hazard celebrates scoring the opening goal of the English Premier League football match between Aston Villa and Chelsea at Villa Park in Birmingham, central England on February 7, 2015. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or "live" services. Online in-match use limited to 45 images, no video emulation. No use in betting, games or single club/league/player publications. (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Chelsea's finest foreign import of all time, Eden Hazard was nigh-on impossible to play against at his peak, tearing apart many a Premier League defence during his seven years at Stamford Bridge – where he established himself as one of the best players on the planet.

A 2014/15 and 2016/17 Premier League champion, the phenomenally fast, tremendously tricky Belgian scored 110 goals for Chelsea – none more notable than his outrageous solo effort against Arsenal in 2017, one of the great Premier League goals – was voted PFA Players' Player of the Year in 2015. 

1. Frank Lampard

LIVERPOOL, UNITED KINGDOM - OCTOBER 02: Frank Lampard of Chelsea celebrates the victory after the Barclays Premiership match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on October 2, 2005 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If Frank Lampard is not Chelsea's greatest player of all time (and John Terry is the only man who can really challenge him for that honour), he's certainly their best ever signing.

Picked up for £11m in the summer of 2001, Lampard went from brilliant box-to-box midfielder to an all-round attacking threat, sensationally scoring 22 Premier League goals in 2009/10 – when he won his third and final English title.

A European champion in 2011/12, the 106-cap England international left Stamford Bridge in 2014 as the Blues' record goalscorer after netting 211 times altogether in 648 appearances.

Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1