Chelsea’s last 10 signings before Abramovich and how they fared

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Frank Lampard for Chelsea, London, Stamford Bridge, May 2004.

Chelsea’s signings under Roman Abramovich have dominated the sports pages of British newspapers since his arrival in June 2003.

Claudio Ranieri spent big time, to the point where the amount Chelsea spent is still among the highest a single club has ever splashed out in one window – even 19 years on.

They signed 13 players. Damien Duff was the most expensive at £17million, but Hernan Crespo, Claude Makelele, Adrian Mutu, Juan Sebastian Veron, and Scott Parker all arrived for at least £10million each.

Even before adjusting for inflation the £100million+ they spent is eye-watering, if not unusual today. But to put it in context, that’s the same as spending over £600million in one window today.

Chelsea haven’t shied away from buying players since, but what about those players who joined the club before Abramovich pumped money into the club?

Here are the last 10 senior signings Chelsea made in the pre-Abramovich era, from oldest right up to the last one made before the takeover.

Winston Bogarde

To put it bluntly, Dutchman Bogarde did not have a good time of it at Stamford Bridge. Or maybe he did, depending on how you view it.

That’s because his four seasons saw him play… just 12 games, and this wasn’t even because he was injured.

Bogarde had signed on a free from Barcelona, but Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli had no idea it was even happening until it was done and his replacement Ranieri didn’t want Bogarde either.

They tried selling him but couldn’t as he had been given a huge wage no one would match and he refused to leave, content with raking in the cash instead.

He happily ran down his contract until he retired, hundreds of thousands of pounds better off thanks to the Blues.

Slavisa Jokanovic

When Ranieri became Chelsea manager, who would you have predicted he signed first? An exciting striker? A steadfast centre-back maybe?

Ah, you’re forgetting that Ranieri is an old school Italian coach and that means it was only ever going to be one sort of player; a pretty boring defensive midfielder.

Jokanovic joined Chelsea in October 2000, back when you could sign players mid-season, and he ended up not really doing much at the Blues and left in the summer of 2002.

He enjoyed it though. That’s nice.

Slavisa Jokanovic, Chelsea

READ: Slavisa Jokanovic: I wasn’t at my best at Chelsea, but I enjoyed it

Jesper Gronkjaer

“Now this is more like it Ranieri; an exciting Danish winger, now the most expensive player in Danish history and someone we can… oh, he’s injured.”

Those words were almost certainly spoken in about 40% of the pubs in West London after Gronkjaer signed for over £7million in October 2000, only to get injured almost immediately and not play until January.

He was okay when he was fit, but should arguably be seen as the single most important player in Chelsea’s modern history.

His Man of the Match performance against Liverpool at the end of the 2002-03 season saw him score the “billion-pound goal” that qualified Chelsea for the Champions League at the expense of the Reds, paving the way for Abramovich to buy Chelsea rather than Liverpool.

Someone should really have built a statue to him.

QUIZ: Can you name Chelsea’s last Xl before Abramovich took over?

Mark Bosnich

Not the best one this.

Signed on a free from United in January 2001, he made only a handful of appearances due to fitness while earning almost £50,000 a week… until he was sacked for failing a drugs test.

Described by Sir Alex Ferguson as a “terrible professional,” the Australian is the only player Ferguson signed twice as United manager.

The prequel to Adrian Mutu, although Chelsea will be thankful they didn’t have to fight a decade long legal case over it.

William Gallas

Chelsea was Gallas’ first port of call in his mission to piss off absolutely everyone in London.

Arriving in March 2001 he had a good spell at Chelsea… until he refused to sign a new contract and demanded a move to Arsenal in 2006, going so far as to threaten to score own goals if he wasn’t allowed his move.

Okay then, he must have had a real love for the Gunner and, like at Chelsea, he had a great stint in North London… until he signed on a free for Spurs in 2010.

Was this the revenge Spurs longed for after the Sol Cambell fiasco? Not really. But at least Gallas had successfully pissed everyone off.

Emmanuel Petit

Petit joined Chelsea from Barcelona in the summer of 2001 and he had two good seasons with the Blues until injuries in his final season saw him decide to retire.

But earlier in his career at Arsenal he was different gravy, and in hindsight he wishes he had never joined Chelsea.

Arsenal's Emmanuel Petit celebrates his 2nd and his sides third goal during their FA Cup 3rd Round match at Preston North End's Deepdale ground, 04 January 1999

READ: Emmanuel Petit on Arsenal, Wenger & his regret he didn’t join Man Utd

Boudewijn Zenden

You don’t really want to know about Zenden’s so-so two seasons at Chelsea.

What you really want to know is that he was a Judo black belt at 14, a three-time champion in his home county and has been a vegetarian since he was 19 and way before your mate made you do Veganuary that one time.

Oh, and for some reason Rafa Benitez chose him as his assistant manager when he was at Chelsea. Must have really felt like he needed the extra protection.

Frank Lampard

Yeah, a pretty poor signing all things considered. West Ham had the wool over Chelsea’s eyes; £11million was a bargain.

Filipe Oliviera

Yeah, this was a weird one.

Signed from FC Porto in September 2002 where he had been a youth player, Oliviera was thrust into the Chelsea first team and made his debut the following October.

Their scouts must have got something massively wrong. He didn’t impress at the Bridge and was given the ultimate punishment; a one month loan to Preston in December 2004. The poor man.

He was unsurprisingly released when his contract expired.

Enrique de Lucas

Only the second signing Chelsea made in the summer of 2002, ‘Quique’ spent just one season at Chelsea where, like so many on this list, he was just fine.

But why, when he spent just one year in England, did he come out of retirement in 2015 to play for the comedically named Biiggleswade United?

That’s right. after retiring in 2014, Quique was clearly so moved by the prospect of the South of England’s United Counties League that he became desperate to head back to England and put his boots back on.

Was it the kind-of picturesque River Ivel the City sits on? How about the Gold Anglo-Saxon coin found their in 2001? You can tell both those facts come from Wikipedia because frankly we’d never heard of the place until now.

Sometimes, people just do things; sometimes, retired Spanish footballers move to Biggleswade.

By Patrick Ryan


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