Aubameyang next: Ranking every Chelsea No.9 of the Prem era
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang is set to become the 17th player to don Chelsea’s No.9 shirt since squad numbers were introduced to the Premier League in 1993. Remarkably few of his 16 predecessors have been successful.
The shirt has become ‘cursed’, with players tending to struggle at the club while wearing it. Before Aubameyang’s arrival from Barcelona in a deadline day transfer, no Chelsea player opted to take the No.9 shirt for Chelsea in the 2022-23 season.
Thomas Tuchel was asked why in August and replied: “It’s cursed, it’s cursed, people tell me it’s cursed. It’s not the case that we leave it open for tactical reasons, for some players in the pipeline that come in and naturally take it.
“There was not a big demand for No.9. Players sometimes want to change numbers but, surprisingly, nobody wants to touch it.
“Everybody who is longer than me in the club tells me: ‘Ah, you know, like he had the No.9 and he did not score and he had the No.9 and did also not score.’ So we now we have a moment where nobody wants to touch the No.9.”
Aubameyang has decided he can be the man to break the curse, however, so we’ve taken a look at every player that has donned the No.9 at Chelsea and ranked them for their contributions to the Blues.
16. Radamel Falcao
After an unsuccessful season on loan at Manchester United, Falcao was given another chance to prove himself to the English audience with Chelsea in 2015-16.
However, his loan was incredibly unsuccessful, and the Blues unsurprisingly turned down the chance to sign him for £38million at the end of the season.
With a wage of £140,000 per week, Falcao cost Roman Abramovich £800,000 per shot and £57,000 per touch of the ball, scoring just once in 12 appearances.
15. Franco Di Santo
Aged just 18, Di Santo made a £3.4million move from Chilean club Audax Italiano in January 2008, but he failed to score in 16 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea.
He joined Blackburn on loan for the 2009-10 campaign and was then sold to Wigan before going on to appear for Werder Bremen and Schalke in the Bundesliga.
14. Khalid Boulahrouz
The most despicable of the lot is Boulahrouz, and his ranking is 98% based on the fact that we can’t bear to see a defender wearing the No.9 shirt.
He was also extremely forgettable at Stamford Bridge, making 20 appearances in a solitary season.
13. Chris Sutton
Four years after winning the league title, Blackburn were relegated and Sutton saw himself moved on to Chelsea for a £10million fee.
The striker’s time at Stamford Bridge was a dismal one, lasting just one season and including one goal before he was moved on to Celtic the following summer.
“I went into a team with the likes of Zola, Desailly, Gus Poyet, Dennis Wise, and a really good manager in [Gianluca] Vialli, so I don’t blame anyone else,” Sutton told us.
“I started poorly, I missed chances, I lost confidence, and I feel I let Vialli down. I thought he was a really good man, and I don’t think spending £10million on me that season really helped his managerial career.”
12. Tony Cascarino
Cascarino struggled in his two seasons at Chelsea at the start of the Premier League era, scoring just eight times in 51 appearances.
The striker went on to great success in France, though, scoring 61 goals in 84 appearances for Marseille, and adding another 44 in three seasons at Nancy.
11. Steve Sidwell
Yes, that’s right, a 24-year-old Sidwell was handed the No.9 shirt when he joined Chelsea on a free transfer in 2007.
He lasted only one year, though, making 25 appearances in all competitions and scoring once before he was sold on to Aston Villa for £5million.
10. Romelu Lukaku
One £97.5million transfer. Twenty-six Premier League games. Eight goals. One loan back to Inter Milan.
We’ll hold our hands up, we thought Lukaku’s move back to Chelsea would work out. But he did not fit into Thomas Tuchel’s tactical plans and Chelsea have moved to cut their losses.
For all eternity, his second spell at Chelsea will be defined by that seven-touch game at Crystal Palace.
9. Mateja Kezman
After 129 goals in four years at PSV, Kezman joined Chelsea with a weight of expectation on his shoulders.
In one season at the club, he managed just four league goals before being shipped out to Atletico Madrid, though he still labels the move “the best thing that ever happened to me.”
“I don’t know if I made a mistake because I moved away so quickly, but the transfer to Chelsea made my dreams come true,” he said.
8. Gonzalo Higuain
Signed on loan from Juventus in January 2019, Higuain took the brave decision to take the No.9 shirt.
Chelsea were given the option to buy him permanently for €36million or extend his loan by a season for half of that. The fact the Blues did neither says it all about how successful he was.
Still, he did actually score five times in 14 games in the Premier League, which in the confines of this list is actually pretty good.
Chelsea account open! ✅
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 5, 2019
7. Alvaro Morata
Morata cost Chelsea a then club-record £60million in the summer of 2017 but rarely looked capable of justifying the fee.
The Spain international displayed quality at times, managing a not disastrous 11 goals in his first season in the Premier League, but it’s fair to say he failed to fill Diego Costa’s boots.
6. Hernan Crespo
Crespo wore the No.21 shirt in his debut season at the club but was handed the No.9 following a year away on loan at AC Milan as Jose Mourinho attempted to convince him to stay.
In total, he scored 25 goals in 73 appearances for the Blues before joining Inter on a temporary two-year deal, until his Chelsea contract expired.
— Chad ⭐⭐ (@ChelseaChadder) October 18, 2017
5. Mark Stein
Stein was signed by Glenn Hoddle in an attempt to ease his woes in attack, and he certainly did that, grabbing 14 goals in 24 games immediately after arriving from Stoke.
He left Chelsea having scored 25 times in two seasons before nine appearances without a goal in the 1995-96 campaign proved to be the end.
Notably, it was not until after his debut season that Stein was handed the dreaded No.9 shirt.
“I am pleased I was part of the journey,” Stein says of his time at Stamford Bridge.
“When I was at Chelsea the club was building gradually and then all of a sudden it became rapid. The fact I am part of that history fills me with joy.”
4. Tammy Abraham
After a number of loans away, the Chelsea academy graduate eventually got his chance – and the No.9 shirt – at Stamford Bridge when Frank Lampard became manager in 2019.
“I’m honoured to wear the No.9 at Chelsea. I spoke to the manager and he asked me if I was ready to take it. I said ‘Yeah, I’m ready’,” Abraham said at the time.
“I’m glad he offered it to me. I’ve heard all the rubbish about the No.9, but I’m here to play my game and do my best.”
The shirt certainly didn’t appear to hang heavy for Abraham as he hit the ground running with 10 goals in 12 Premier League outings at the start of the 2019-20 season.
He could never quite keep up that blistering form but scored a respectable 30 goals in 82 appearances while wearing the No.9 shirt.
After falling out of favour under Tuchel, the striker moved to Jose Mourinho’s Roma in a £34million move – but Chelsea reportedly have a £78million buy-back clause.
Having watched the striker find the back of the net on a regular basis in Italy, we wouldn’t be surprised if Chelsea are thinking about that clause.
3. Fernando Torres
After a prolonged period of interest from Abramovich, Torres eventually joined Chelsea for £50million in January 2011.
Widely regarded as a flop at the club, Torres in fact scored 45 goals in 172 appearances, which is a better record than many might realise.
More importantly, he helped Chelsea lift the Champions League trophy for the first time in their history, scoring that memorable goal against Barcelona in the semi-final of the competition before adding nine goals the following season as his side won the Europa League.
2. Gianluca Vialli
Vialli scored 40 goals in 78 appearances for Chelsea, while also taking up a player-manager role just 18 months into his time at the club.
An icon of 90s football, Vialli was well-liked at Stamford Bridge, winning the FA Cup, League Cup and the Cup Winners Cup during his time as manager at the Bridge.
He joined the club in 1996 and eventually left at the start of the 2000-01 campaign after falling out with a number of players.
1. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
Another club-record transfer, Chelsea paid Atletico Madrid £15million for Hasselbaink in 2000, but unlike most of the others on this list, the Dutchman actually justified the fee, going on to score 70 Premier League goals in 136 appearances for the Blues.
“I have great memories of my time at Chelsea,” Hasselbaink said in 2013. “I had four wonderful years there and I still go back. I was there just recently to watch them play, and I always get a great reception.
“They’re a club that I really, really love. The problem was that we didn’t win enough and that’s the regret.”