Ranking every centre-back to play for Chelsea since John Terry left

Think of Chelsea and centre-backs and the mind inevitably conjures up images of John Terry. Their captain, leader and legend, he was a figurehead for the club in every sense throughout their most decorated era. 

Replacing him was never going to be an easy task. Befitting their status as one of England’s most successful clubs, Chelsea have had many top-quality centre-backs play at Stamford Bridge since he left in 2017. But, like an ex you can never quite get over, they’re just not John Terry.

Here, we’ve attempted the surprisingly difficult task of ranking Chelsea’s starting centre-backs since his departure from worst to best.

12. Marc Guehi

Guehi rose up through the Chelsea ranks and made his club debut in a League Cup match against Grimsby Town in September 2019.

He then played in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United in the same competition but that proved to be his last appearance for the Blues. 

After spending 18 months on loan at Swansea City, the centre-back completed an £18mllion move to Crystal Palace and has since gone from strength to strength.

Given his lack of Chelsea appearances, we can’t rank Guehi anywhere other than last here. But Chelsea are probably regretting their decision to let him go.

Roma striker Tammy Abraham celebrates after their UEFA Conference League victory over Feyenoord at Arena Kombetare, Tirana, Albania, May 2022.

READ: An incredible XI of academy players Chelsea have sold since 2006

11. Ethan Ampadu

At 21, Ampadu still has time on his side and could rise up this list if he’s given some first-team opportunities at Stamford Bridge.

However, considering he has only made 12 appearances for the club to date, the Wales international can have no complaints about his placing on this list.

Also, the fact that Ampadu has shaved his distinctive hair counts against him – standing out from the crowd should be both saluted and encouraged, especially as Marouane Fellaini is no longer around to tug on his locks.

10. Malang Sarr

Sarr joined Chelsea on a free transfer in the summer of 2020 but was immediately sent out on loan to Primeira Liga outfit Porto.

The defender then became a useful back-up option for Thomas Tuchel’s side in 2021-22, making 21 appearances in all competitions.

“When we needed him, relied on him, he was reliable and he was there,” Tuchel said after the semi-final of the League Cup against Spurs. “Very good. He knows his role very clear.

“He appreciates to be in the team and when is necessary he steps up and shows he can be a strong teammate and player.”

9. Fikayo Tomori

After starring under Frank Lampard and winning the Derby County Player of the Year award in 2018-19, Tomori followed the manager back to Chelsea.

The centre-back made 22 first-team appearances in 2019-20 and even scored the club’s goal of the season during a 5-2 win at Wolves.

But the England international was deemed surplus to requirements by Tuchel and joined AC Milan, where he has since become a Serie A winner.

Alongside Guehi, this one has to go in the regrets pile.

8. Trevoh Chalobah

The younger brother of Nathaniel Chalobah, Trevoh spent time on loan at Ipswich Town, Huddersfield and Lorient before breaking into the Chelsea team in 2021-22. 

He scored against Crystal Palace on his Premier League debut and made 30 appearances in all competitions in his breakthrough campaign.

But the 23-year-old faces increased competition for places following Kalidou Koulibaly’s arrival and Chelsea’s interest in Jules Kounde. 

7. Kurt Zouma

Possessing a disarmingly charming smile usually found in a primary school photograph, Zouma joined Chelsea in January 2014 but a promising start was curtailed by a cruciate ligament injury.

The France international spent time on loan at Stoke and Everton before returning to Stamford Bridge to play a key role in the 2019-20 season, producing one tackle that was worthy of the Ballon d’Or award.

After winning five trophies and making 151 appearances at Chelsea, he left for West Ham in 2021 but the less said about his recent exploits, the better.

6. David Luiz

Where to begin with David Luiz?

The much-maligned and much-caricatured Brazilian is perhaps domestic football’s most divisive footballer, with fans debating his merits with the same passion that once fuelled the Crusades.

With his Sideshow Bob hair and penchant towards hilarious defensive howlers, it is often forgotten that Luiz was an excellent passer of the ball and had valuable leadership qualities at Chelsea.

Therefore, we are going to take the Trevor Brooking option and place him slap bang in the middle of this list.

5. Andreas Christensen

Signing for the club in 2012 when Andre Villas-Boas was in charge, it still feels somehow surprising that Christensen made more than 150 appearances for the club.

Indeed, Christensen played often during Conte’s last season and won their Young Player of the Year award, only to fall out of favour with Maurizio Sarri and Lampard.

The Denmark international recovered to feature regularly under Tuchel and played a key role in their Champions League success in 2020-21

But his Chelsea career ended on something of a sour note after he refused to play in the 2022 FA Cup final before joining Barcelona on a free transfer.

4. Thiago Silva

After spending eight years at PSG, Silva joined Chelsea as a 35-year-old free agent amid doubts from some whether he could make an impact on the Premier League.

Twenty minutes into his Premier League debut at West Bromwich Albion, some Chelsea fans could be forgiven for wishing the club had purchased the kid who sang with Dave at Glastonbury instead.

But he’s since turned things around and proved that age is just a number, acting as an authoritative and calming presence at the heart of Thomas Tuchel’s back three.

The Brazil international finally got his hands on the Champions League trophy and has also won the UEFA Super Cup and FIFA Club World Cup, where he received the Golden Ball award as the tournament’s best player.

3. Antonio Rudiger

Purchased for an initial £29million during Antonio Conte’s second-season transfer splurge, Rudiger had a difficult start to his Chelsea career.

Indeed, the Germany international became something of a scapegoat among the Stamford Bridge faithful and looked destined to leave during Lampard’s tenure.

But he was brought back into the Chelsea team following Tuchel’s arrival and then transformed into one of the best centre-backs in the world.

The 29-year-old has now joined Real Madrid on a free transfer and will be sorely missed by the Chelsea faithful.

2. Gary Cahill

It is undeniable that Cahill served Chelsea very, very well.

Having won the Champions League with the club in 2012, Cahill became a fixture in defence and has won every domestic and European honour with the club.

But, after Terry’s departure, Cahill was starting to regress from the peak of his powers and would make only nine appearances in his final season at the club before leaving himself for Crystal Palace.

It is only this that keeps the Englishman from the top spot.

1. Cesar Azpilicueta

Despite a competitive field, there was really only one choice for top spot on this list. Ironically, the recipient isn’t even a centre-back.

Azpilicueta has been at Stamford Bridge for 10 seasons now, having joined from Valencia in 2012, and he has become the first Chelsea player to win every major trophy.

The right-back, who has made over 450 appearances for the club, comes top here because of his versatility, leadership and incredible consistency.

You can have all the billions in the world, but you cannot put a price on those qualities.

More Chelsea

Where are they now? The Chelsea XI from John Terry’s full debut in 1999

Can you name the last four players to wear the numbers 1-11 at Chelsea?

The cult of Jose Mourinho at Chelsea: Hiding in laundry, pranking masseur…

Dirty Secrets: I’m not a Chelsea fan, but I’ve always quite liked them