The best Chelsea XI of the Roman Abramovich era

Roman Abramovich has been in charge of Chelsea since 2003

The Roman Abramovich Chelsea era is seemingly over, with the Russian oligarch having been hit with sanctions by the UK Government even as he looked to sell the club.

And, however you view the Chelsea owner, there can be no doubt that he changed the Premier League landscape forever with his hefty investment in the club and even offering to forego £1.5 billion to ensure a sale.

With that in mind, 101 takes a look at the best Chelsea XI of the nearly two decades-long Abramovich era.

Petr Cech

One of the Premier League greats, Petr Cech's skullcap became an iconic image as he amassed 494 appearances for the Blues across 11 seasons for the club. Astonishingly, he managed a clean sheet in almost half of those, failing to concede in 228 games under a multitude of different managers.

It was Cech that was in goal for the famous 2004-05 season, where Chelsea conceded just 15 goals all campaign on their way to lifting the Premier League trophy, their first major trophy of the Roman Abramovich era. He went on to lift four Premier League trophies, four FA Cups and a Champions League for the Blues, as well as winning the Europa League.

An underwhelming spell at London rivals Arsenal followed, where he comically announced that he would be returning to Chelsea 48 hours before playing against them in the Europa League final. And, to cement his legacy in the hearts of Chelsea fans, he recommended current number one Edouard Mendy to the club.

Cesar Azpilicueta

It is a shame if Cesar Azpilicueta's glittering Chelsea career has to end under the cloud currently hanging over the club. The veteran Spaniard, and Tuchel's current captain has been used all across the Chelsea backline through a brilliant stint in west London.

Joining the club from Marseilles in 2012, 'Azpi' has become a fan favourite and has racked up 461 appearances for the Blues in a decade spent at Stamford Bridge. In that time, he has won every single honour available to him at club level, including the Premier League and Europa League twice.

He will go down as a Chelsea legend.

John Terry

Known fondly as 'Captain. Leader. Legend', John Terry sits third on the list of Chelsea's all-time appearance holders, having turned out on 717 occasions for the Blues. A firm fixture in the Chelsea defence even before Abramovich, it was under the Russian that the defender really made his legacy, becoming a stalwart of English football for over a decade.

Marred somewhat by his off-the-field behaviours, Terry nonetheless formed the backbone of this Chelsea side under manager after manager, and his commitment to the Stamford Bridge faithful cannot be doubted.

Five Premier League trophies, four FA Cups in this period and a Champions League honour speak for itself as to his legacy.

Ricardo Carvalho

One of the unsung heroes of Chelsea's sides under Abramovich, Carvalho formed a formidable defensive partnership with John Terry for six years between 2004 and 2010, racking up a hefty 210 appearances for the Blues in that time.

A three-time Premier League and three-time FA Cup winner with the Stamford Bridge side, Carvalho fully deserves a spot on this list.

Ashley Cole

The best English fullback for a decade, Ashley Cole swapped North London for West London when he joined Chelsea from Arsenal, earning him the nickname 'Cashley' from his former fanbase.

However, looking at the respective trophy hauls, it was clearly the right decision (sorry Arsenal fans), with 338 appearances for the Blues yielding a Premier League title, four FA Cups and a Champions League medal.

He is also in the vaunted '100 club' for England, having racked up 107 Three Lions appearances, and it seems unlikely he has any regrets over how his career panned out.

Claude Makelele

A man so good that an entire midfield role has been named after him, his importance to Real Madrid was hugely understated by those outside of management.

Indeed, when he left, Galactico Zinedine Zidane is reported to have asked "Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?"

And it was that engine that proved crucial to Chelsea during his five years at the club. His ability not just to screen the defence, but also to drive forward with the ball, was a decisive factor to Chelsea's back to back Premier League wins in the 04/05 and 05/06 season.

Let go for free in 2008, Makelele nonetheless played a major role in Chelsea's early success, and his prized capture set the bar high in terms of the club's ambition to spend big on ready made superstars.

Frank Lampard

In the same legendary bracket as John Terry, Lampard remains the highest-scoring midfielder in Premier League history, and by quite some distance. The Chelsea hero found the back of the net 211 times for the Blues in a career in which he lifted three Premier Leagues, four FA Cups and a Champions League trophy following his move from West Ham in 2001, two years before Abramovich took control.

A mixed spell in charge of the club between 2019 and 2021 ended with him leaving the club in ninth place at the time of his sacking, but his name still rings around Stamford Bridge. A fitting tribute to a club legend.

N'Golo Kante

Man-of-the-match in both legs of the semi-final against Real Madrid in the Champions League on the way to Chelsea's second top European Cup, Kante was one of the best pieces of businesses of the Abramovich era.

Coming off a title-winning season with Leicester City, the Frenchman slotted straight into Chelsea's side as they lifted the Premier League in 2017, and has gone on to cement his legacy as one of the best midfielders in the history of the game in the years since.

Not the flashiest player on the list, any football fan will tell you just how effective he is in the Blues engine room.

Eden Hazard

From an understated man to one who is undeniably a footballing genius, Eden Hazard was one of the best players in the Premier League for almost all of the time he spent with Chelsea.

Mesmeric on the ball and hard to stop when he put his head down, the Belgian produced 110 goals and 92 assists in his 352 appearances for the Blues before being sold to Real Madrid for £103.5 million in the summer of 2019, netting Chelsea a massive profit on their initial £30 million investment.

Eden Hazard

Such is his stature at the club that, even after a disastrous spell with Madrid, plenty of Chelsea fans would still want him back working his magic at the Bridge should the opportunity present itself.

Didier Drogba

The ultimate big-game player. Drogba's goalscoring record in itself was not particularly impressive (Darren Bent, for instance, managed more Premier League goals), but the Ivorian scored plenty of big goals as Chelsea won trophy after trophy with his spearheading their attack.

Drogba scored 10 goals in 10 finals on his way to lifting 10 trophies in Chelsea blue, and given the club's forward woes in the years since, had to be in the XI.

Arjen Robben

Dutch maestro Arjen Robben only spent three seasons with the club, but his contribution to the club that Chelsea are today cannot be understated.

Joining from PSV Eindhoven in 2004, Chelsea fought off competition from Manchester United for his signature, and the Dutch winger repaid the faith with 19 goals and 22 assists in 106 appearances in all competitions.

It was a tough final spot, with the likes of Joe Cole and Juan Mata also honourable mentions, but signing Robben finally announced Chelsea as a club attractive to young players at the highest level, rather than simply the club with the deepest pockets.

Who did we miss?

Read more:

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Ben Browning

Ben Browning

Football writer and analyst. Long-time writer of all things Arsenal and avid watcher of European football. Happy to discuss all things football over on Twitter.

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