Ranking the 11 CMs Chelsea have signed since Frank Lampard left

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Frank Lampard was indisputably a Chelsea legend – but who has been the best central midfielder signed by the Blues since he left in 2014?

Since Lampard’s departure, Chelsea have continued to rack up the trophies, but none have quite emulated the England international’s eye for goal or longevity. Despite this, a string of talented midfielders have been signed by the club with varying degrees of success.

We’ve ranked the 11 central midfielders signed by Chelsea since Lampard departed 2014, from worst to best. Note: we’ve only included players to have played for Chelsea to avoid the myriad of midfielders signed for their academy.

11. Danny Drinkwater

In the last few years alone Drinkwater has been charged with drink driving, attacked outside a Burnley nightclub, made one appearance on loan for Sean Dyche’s team, headbutted a team-mate when training for Aston Villa and sent off in an Under-23 match for starting a brawl with a 16-year-old.

Signings don’t come more disastrous than this £35million panic buy. He’s currently on loan at Reading and will finally be released by Chelsea this summer.

10. Tiemoue Bakayoko

Having established his reputation in that impressive Monaco team, Bakayoko became Chelsea’s second most expensive signing after his £40million move in 2017.

His performances sparked rumours that Antonio Conte had signed Bakayoko’s alien doppelganger instead, the nadir coming when he was sent off during a 4-1 spanking at Watford. To give him his credit, he did help Chelsea win the 2018 FA Cup final against Manchester United, playing all 90 minutes.

Loan spells with AC Milan (twice), Napoli and Monaco followed. He’s still contracted at Stamford Bridge for another year and Chelsea getting any kind of return on their investment looks increasingly unlikely.

9. Saul Niguez

Hooked at half-time on his debut against Aston Villa, Saul has struggled to recapture the form that made him such a special player in big European games for Diego Simeone’s Atletico Madrid.

Unlike Bakayako and Drinkwater, Chelsea haven’t paid a transfer fee, so no big loss really. Given how little he’s made an impact, we can’t imagine Tuchel’s Blues will be exercising a reported £30million option to buy.

One of those weird loans you’ll wonder whether it was a figment of your imagination in five years time, like Radamel Falcao or Alexandre Pato.

8. Ethan Ampadu

Capable of playing in defence and midfield, Ampadu was picked up at the age of 16 from Exeter City, for whom he made his debut at the age of 15.

The Wales international, now on loan at Serie A side Venezia after spending last term at Sheffield United, has been highly rated for a number of years. At this stage we’re questioning whether he’ll ever unlock that early potential or get a real chance at his parent club.

7. Ross Barkley

Obviously talented, some Chelsea fans react to seeing Barkley’s name on the team-sheet with the anguished cries of a man suffering from multiple kidney stones.

He’s not been a bad squad player to have around, capable of moments of individual brilliance which leave opposition defenders with the stumped air of a group struggling with a difficult pub quiz question.

At the same time, Barkley often bamboozles himself in the process – one penalty miss against Valencia, where he wrestled the ball from his team-mates only to fire over, springs instantly to mind.

It will be interesting to see what’s to come for Barkley in the coming years. That loan to Aston Villa didn’t quite work out, and he remains contracted at Stamford Bridge until 2023. It certainly doesn’t appear he still has much of a future at Chelsea.

6. Billy Gilmour

He’s only made a handful of senior appearances since joining from Rangers as a 16-year-old in 2017, but each one has led to excited whispers about Chelsea finding their own ‘Billiesta’.

Given his diminutive stature and magnetic passing ability, it’s not hard to see why Gilmour has got people very excited.

His loan at Norwich this season hasn’t gone to plan, but given what we’ve seen of him for Scotland and Chelsea, only a fool would write off the little wizard. We’d be stunned if he doesn’t have a brilliant career.

READ: Once again, Billy Gilmour has proven he is Chelsea’s very own ‘Billiesta’

5. Kai Havertz

“The smart money is still on Havertz coming good, but he’s not done much to justify being ranked any higher here,” is what we wrote the last time we published this list back in December 2020.

Weirdly, he’s still yet to come good on a consistent basis – 15 goals and 13 assists from 73 appearances isn’t a  terrible return, but it is underwhelming when you consider his £70million price tag – but he has scored Chelsea’s match-winners in the Champions League and Club World Cup finals. So who are we to judge?

4. Mateo Kovacic

Looking startlingly like Mac Miller, Kovacic has become something of a fans’ favourite at Chelsea after something of a sticky start.

Appearing likely to be dumped by the club after Sarri left for Juventus, the Croatia international instead enjoyed a renaissance in midfield and was rewarded with the Player of the Year Award in August 2020.

He’s arguably taken his game up another level since the appointment of Thomas Tuchel, too.

3. Jorginho

Jorginho is more closely associated with Sarriball than Mark Corrigan was with existential angst.

A prolific penalty taker, Jorginho’s standing at Stamford Bridge mirrored Maurizio Sarri’s during his first season – the second coming, then responsible for all the world’s ills, before settling somewhere in the middle.

He’s since proven he doesn’t need Sarri to be a really useful player, earning himself talk of Ballon d’Or chatter after winning the Champions League and Euros in the same summer. Doubters emphatically silenced.

2. Cesc Fabregas

Comes second for that assist at Burnley alone. We miss him so much.

1. N’Golo Kante

From being a one-man Duracell bunny in the Chelsea midfield to possessing a smile that could light Las Vegas for a fortnight, it’s impossible not to like Kante.

Victory over Liverpool in the League Cup would ensure that the Frenchman’s won the lot at Chelsea – something not even Lampard managed – as well as the World Cup with France, and that miracle title with Leicester. What a bloody player.


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