On 2 July 2003, Roman Abramovich bought Chelsea Football Club, for a now minuscule initial £60 million from long-term owner Ken Bates.
With all the success that he has brought to Chelsea, it’s strange to look back now and see footage of Chelsea fans so apprehensive about the takeover.
Along with transforming Chelsea from a middle of the road club to one of the biggest power-houses in European football, the Russian oligarch also transformed the transfer market; changing the environment into one where the super-rich buyer could dictate the market.
Abramovich has spent over £1 billion in transfer fees during his 14 year tenure at Stamford Bridge, with countless big name players joining Chelsea. In addition, he has overseen ten different managers, with two spells in charge for Jose Mourinho and two interim spells in charge for Guus Hiddink.
However, despite all the success and adulation Abramovich has brought to Chelsea, both he and his countless managers have let a lot of quality players leave the club.
These players have then gone on to establish themselves as full internationals for their countries, some have gone to different lands for more selfish reasons, others have become vital players for their new sides and eventually earned a big money move to another Premier League club.
So here it is a starting 11 of ex-Chelsea players who are still playing football at the highest level and could easily walk into Chelsea’s side right now.
Of course, some ex-Chelsea players failed to make the first 11 such as Asmir Begovic, Nemanja Matic, Juan Mata and Andre Schurrle, and will have to settle for a place on the bench.
Goalkeeper – Petr Cech
Bought by Arsenal for £10 million in 2015
Probably the most recognisable ex-Chelsea player in this team, Cech was at Chelsea for 11 years and a mainstay of the club’s early success.
The famous helmet wearer will go down as a Chelsea legend and his move to Arsenal in 2015 hasn’t stopped Chelsea fans for expressing their gratitude towards their former keeper.
Cech regularly receives a warm reception from Chelsea fans whenever he comes up against them.
Meanwhile Cech has proven that he can still perform at the top level for Arsenal, with the ex-Czech Republic captain finally being the answer to Arsenal’s long standing goalkeeping problem.
Right Back – Ryan Bertrand
Bought by Southampton for £10 million in 2015
Bertrand’s career at Chelsea began in 2005 when he joined as a youth player from Gillingham. Unfortunately for Bertrand his career went the way it goes for a lot of youth players at Chelsea, with loan spell after loan spell, before joining Southampton on a permanent basis in January 2015.
Since joining Southampton Bertrand has blossomed into the modern-day full back that likes to bomb forward at every opportunity, but is also a strong defender, particularly in retaining the ball.
Bertrand’s performances attracted the attention of Man City boss Pep Guardiola during the summer, highlighting the progress Bertrand has made over the past two years.
Bertrand’s England career has also exploded due to his consistent performances and he is now the first choice left back for Gareth Southgate’s men, and recently scored his first goal for his country during a World Cup qualifier. Although left footed, Bertrand slots into the right back position in this team.
Centre Half – Nathan Ake
Bought by Bournemouth for £20 million in 2017
Another player who came through Chelsea’s youth system, Ake joined Chelsea in 2011 at the age of 16. Like Bertrand, Ake was sent out on loan quite a lot by Chelsea.
Eventually during his third loan spell, this time at Bournemouth, Ake finally showed Chelsea what he was capable of, producing dominant displays for The Cherries.
Despite only making ten appearances for Bournemouth in the 16/17 season Ake was recalled by Chelsea for the second half of the season.
Unfortunately this recall didn’t mean Ake walked straight back into the Chelsea first team, and he only made five league appearances for Chelsea after his return.
Ake rejoined Bournemouth on a permanent basis during the summer, where he has played every minute for them so far this season, impressing pundits with his composure and skill on the ball.
If Ake continues on this upward trend don’t be surprised to see him back at ‘the Bridge’ one day, as Chelsea wisely added a buy back clause into his contract.
Left Back – Filipe Luis
Bought by Atlético Madrid for £11 million in 2015
Next a strange case of Chelsea buying a good full back and then realising that they already had a good full back. Filipe Luis was bought in the summer of 2014 from Atlético Madrid after being voted into the La Liga team of the year.
Luis did nothing wrong during his time at Chelsea, but was unfortunate in that Cesar Azpilicueta had already made the left back position his own.
The Brazilian international only played 15 times for Chelsea in the Premier League during his one season in England, eventually returning to Atlético Madrid one year later, where he has resumed his consistent performances for Los Rojiblancos once again.
Defensive Midfielder – Ramires
Bought by Jiangsu Suning FC for £25 million in 2016
Now to the first case of a player leaving Chelsea for money. Ramires had been a mainstay in as the box-to-box midfielder in the Chelsea side for five years, making over 200 appearances for ‘the Pensioners’, before being dropped by interim manager Guus Hiddink after the sacking of Jose Mourinho in December 2015.
As Chelsea were in disarray at the time and Ramires was unhappy at not playing, the decision was made to sell him to Chinese side Jiangsu Suning.
Ramires was the first big name Premier League player to leave England for China in the prime of his career.
Since claiming he didn’t move for the money Ramires should have had patience with his former club, as Antonio Conte would join Chelsea that summer and a player like Ramires would have fit perfectly into his plans.
Defensive Midfielder – Oriol Romeu
Bought by Southampton for £5 million in 2015
When Romeu was signed by Chelsea in 2011 it seemed like a coup, considering they had just signed a young promising player from the all mighty Barcelona, Romeu did impress during his debut season at Stamford Bridge and was on the bench as Chelsea won the Champions League in 2012.
Halfway through his second season at the club Romeu suffered a cruciate ligament injury, ruling him out for the rest of the season. Romeu would never play for Chelsea again and the next season was sent out on loan.
Romeu would go on another loan spell the following season and it was during his second loan spell at Stuttgart that Romeu impressed bosses at Southampton eventually signing for the south coast club in 2015.
Since joining Southampton, Romeu has become a constant starter and a consistent performer for The Saints as their holding midfielder.
Right Attacking Midfielder – Kevin De Bruyne
Bought by Wolfsburg for £18 million in 2014
In hindsight De Bruyne is a player that Chelsea really messed up with.
Originally signed by the club for £7 million in early 2012, he was immediately sent back out on loan to Genk for the remainder of the season, and the following year De Bruyne was then sent out on loan to Werder Bremen were he excelled and was brought back to Chelsea the following season under new manager Jose Mourinho.
A falling out with the then Chelsea boss over game time saw the Belgian being sold to Wolfsburg in January 2014. In Germany De Bruyne showed Mourinho that he was more than capable of playing week in week out, though whether the Chelsea manager was paying attention is another matter.
De Bruyne’s performances were attracting the attention of big European clubs once again. De Bruyne eventually signed for Man City in 2015 for a then club record £55 million.
Since joining City De Bruyne has become one of their most influential players and deadliest attacking threats. His importance to his current employers illustrated as recently as last weekend where his goal made the difference against his former employer.
Centre Attacking Midfielder – Oscar
Bought by Shanghai SIPG for £60 million in 2017
Another case of a player leaving Chelsea for China for a ridiculous wage.
When Oscar left Chelsea at the age of 25, with the best years of his career ahead of him, at least the Brazilian was honest enough to admit the reason he left Stamford Bridge was for the money.
Of course it is strange to see Chelsea the original ridiculous wage payers losing out to the money that is being pumped into the Chinese Super League.
The most concerning part of this transfer is the fact that Oscar is a player about to enter his prime years as a footballer, and has decided to waste them in a sub-standard league, where so far he looks like a shell of his former self, with inconsistent performances and a recent eight game ban for inciting a mass brawl during a match.
Sadly for Chelsea and all their financial power, this transfer was not one they could have stopped.
Left Attacking Midfielder – Mohamed Salah
Bought by Roma for £15 million in 2016
Originally signed by Chelsea in 2014 for £11 million, Salah had a bright start to his Chelsea career featuring in a number of games towards the tail end of his debut season.
Unfortunately for Salah he didn’t get much of a look in the following campaign and took the same route as lot of his fellow players in this team and left Chelsea on loan, this time to Fiorentina.
Salah impressed during his time Serie A, with Viola wanting to make the move permanent, however the Egyptian refused, joining Roma on loan the following season.
After another impressive season on loan Salah joined Roma on a permanent basis for a fee of £15 million. Salah scored 15 goals and chipped in with 11 assists after his move to Roma became permanent.
Salah’s impressive performances caught the eye of Liverpool who just this summer paid £36 million for the 25-year-old.
With his lightning pace and eye for goal already taking Anfield by storm, Salah is quickly becoming a fan favourite on Merseyside.
Striker – Romelu Lukaku
Bought by Everton for £30 million in 2014
Why Chelsea decided to sell Romelu Lukaku will go down as one of football’s unanswerable questions.
Signed for Chelsea in 2011 at the age of 18 the Belgian was never given a chance to excel at Chelsea, who were unwilling to nurture the raw talent that Lukaku possessed.
Lukaku was shipped out on loan to West Brom in his second season, where he scored an impressive 17 Premier League goals.
A return to Chelsea seemed to be on the cards, however Lukaku was sent out on loan to Everton where he yet again repeated his goal scoring prowess. Lukaku signed for Everton on a permanent basis in 2014.
During his time at Everton Lukaku developed into one of the most clinical strikers in England.
Chelsea fans were left cursing the sky this past summer when it was announced that Lukaku was signing for rivals Manchester United for a fee of £75 million.
Lukaku has continued his clinical scoring at Old Trafford and is quickly turning into a fan favourite, as the Chelsea faithful wonder what might have been.
Striker – Daniel Sturridge
Bought by Liverpool for £12 million in 2013
Daniel Sturridge left Chelsea in January 2013 after a rather lacklustre time in West London and it seemed like a great move for all involved.
The English youngster would get game time at Liverpool and Chelsea got a nice bit of money for a player who rarely contributed to the team.
Sturridge went on the next season to prove that he should have never been sold; with an unbelievable season scoring 21 league goals as Liverpool were unlucky to miss out on the league title.
Since that memorable season Sturridge has suffered over 11 different injuries, and has unfortunately become a meme for how regular and mundane his injuries seem to be.
With his regular spells in the physio room Liverpool have adapted their squad and playing style to minimise the impact of his absence.
However, if he can somehow stay fit and Jurgen Klopp keeps faith with him, he could once again lead the line for Liverpool.