Chelsea: Roman Abramovich’s 10 greatest signings as owner ranked ahead of Stamford Bridge departure

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Roman Abramovich is set to wave an emotional goodbye to Chelsea after sensationally announcing that the club is up for sale on Wednesday.

Abramovich, who took over at Stamford Bridge back in 2003, has put the Blues on the market due to fears he could be sanctioned by the British government amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The 55-year-old will depart with every major trophy in the bag, having recently completed the set by winning the Club World Cup and Super Cup following a second Champions League triumph last season.

A host of world-class signings have inspired him to success over the years, and ahead of his Chelsea exit Sportsmail has ranked the 10 best buys of Abramovich’s tenure.  

Roman Abramovich has made some terrific signings in his 19-year reign as Chelsea owner

10. Claude Makelele 

One of Abramovich’s first signings as Chelsea owner was Makelele, who arrived in the summer of 2003 with a lofty reputation after winning two Spanish titles and the Champions League with Real Madrid.

By the time he left Stamford Bridge five years later, the £16.8million Frenchman had made such  a lasting impression that the deep-lying midfield role he made famous in west London was named after him.

While in the ‘Makelele role’, he racked up 217 appearances for Chelsea, playing an integral part in back-to-back Premier League title wins under Jose Mourinho and also getting his hands on two League Cups and the FA Cup.

Makelele also helped the Blues reach their first Champions League final in 2008, where they suffered an agonising penalty shootout defeat by Manchester United, before leaving to bring the curtain down on his legendary career at Paris Saint-Germain. 

Claude Makelele was so good he eventually left the Blues with a position named after him

Claude Makelele was so good he eventually left the Blues with a position named after him

9.  Joe Cole

After bursting onto the scene with boyhood side West Ham and emerging as one of the country’s most talented youngsters, the tricky winger earned himself a £6.6million move to their London rivals in 2003.

In the end that fee proved a bargain for Abramovich, as Cole went on to cement a legacy as a modern-day Chelsea icon in his seven years at the Bridge.

His numbers may not have been breathtaking, registering just 40 goals and 42 assists in 281 matches, but it goes without saying that he was a pivotal member of league-winning sides under Mourinho and Carlo Ancelotti.

Cole was on hand with several important goals for both managers, including a couple of key strikes in title-race encounters with Manchester United.  

Joe Cole arrived in 2003 with a reputation as one of the best young players in English football

Joe Cole arrived in 2003 with a reputation as one of the best young players in English football

He departed seven years later with three Premier League titles and legendary status in the bag

He departed seven years later with three Premier League titles and legendary status in the bag

8.  Branislav Ivanovic

In January 2008 Abramovich forked out £10million to prise Ivanovic away from Lokomotiv Moscow in what was the most expensive transfer in Russian football history at the time.

Given he was not the biggest of names, and his arrival at the Bridge went fairly under the radar, not many would have envisaged the Serbian defender going on to become a Chelsea legend. But that’s exactly what he did.

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In nine years with the Blues, Ivanovic made 377 appearances, chipped in with 34 goals and helped them clinch three Premier League titles, as many FA Cups, the League Cup, Champions League and Europa League.

He was the hero in the latter triumph, too, heading home a stoppage-time winner to help Rafa Benitez’s side beat Benfica in the Amsterdam final. 

Branislav Ivanovic was a Chelsea stalwart for close to a decade after joining in 2008

Branislav Ivanovic was a Chelsea stalwart for close to a decade after joining in 2008

He won almost every trophy available and scored the winner in the 2013 Europa League final

He won almost every trophy available and scored the winner in the 2013 Europa League final

Ivanovic departed in 2017 after nine successful and memorable years with the Blues

Ivanovic departed in 2017 after nine successful and memorable years with the Blues

7. Ricardo Carvalho

One half of arguably the greatest centre-back pairing in Premier League history, Carvalho followed Mourinho to Chelsea in 2004 fresh from winning the Champions League together at Porto.

It didn’t take the £20million defender long to adapt to English football, as very quickly he formed a rock-solid partnership with club captain John Terry.

Alongside Terry, and with Petr Cech behind them in between the sticks, Carvalho helped the Blues concede a mere 15 goals as they cruised to the title in record fashion that season. No team has ever managed to ship in fewer.

He stayed for another five years after that, making a total of 210 appearances while winning two more league titles, as many League Cups and the FA Cup before reuniting with Mourinho at Real Madrid in 2010.

Ricardo Carvalho formed one of the best partnerships in Premier League history at Chelsea

Ricardo Carvalho formed one of the best partnerships in Premier League history at Chelsea

Alongside John Terry, Carvalho ensured Chelsea were always rock-solid at the back

Alongside John Terry, Carvalho ensured Chelsea were always rock-solid at the back

6. Cesar Azpilicueta

The Spanish defender is the only player on this list to have collected every major trophy available to him at Chelsea, four of which he captained them to.

And given Abramovich only paid £7million to sign him from Marseille in 2012, he undoubtedly goes down as one of his greatest bargains as Blues owner.

After winning two Premier League titles, the League Cup, FA Cup and Europa League in his first six years at the Bridge, Azpilicueta took on the captaincy in 2018 and led Chelsea to another Europa League triumph in 2019, before adding the Champions League, Super Cup to his trophy cabinet last year. 

He then completed the set by picking up the Club World Cup last month. 

With 461 appearances under his belt and counting, Azpilicueta has already etched his name into the Chelsea history books.  

Cesar Azpilicueta has won every major trophy available to him at Stamford Bridge

Cesar Azpilicueta has won every major trophy available to him at Stamford Bridge 

5. N’Golo Kante

Kante had just played a starring role in Leicester’s historic 2016 Premier League title success when Chelsea came calling that summer. 

Six years on the high-octane Frenchman is now regarded as one of the best midfielders on the planet, and Abramovich getting him for just £32million therefore goes down as an incredible coup.

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After capturing a second successive title in his debut season at Chelsea, Kante has gone on to add the FA Cup, Europa League, Champions League, Super Cup and Club World Cup to his collection while featuring 244 times.

There is no player as tireless and dynamic as him in world football, meaning Blues fans will be desperate for him to stay for a little while longer.

N'Golo Kante remains a key component of the Chelsea midfield six years after joining

N’Golo Kante remains a key component of the Chelsea midfield six years after joining

4. Ashley Cole 

Another masterstroke from Abramovich and Chelsea came when they nabbed Cole, the top left-back in the Premier League at the time, from bitter rivals Arsenal in 2006.

The club may have landed themselves in hot water by allegedly ‘tapping up’ the England defender before his move, yet their decision to pay £5million and send William Gallas in the opposite direction to sign him was an inspired one.

After taking some time to settle in, Cole went on to seal legendary status at the Bridge by starring in Premier League, Champions League, Europa League and League Cup victories, while also claiming four FA Cups.

At one stage of his Blues career he was widely considered the best left-back in world football, meaning Abramovich’s player-plus-cash deal was an undoubted success.

Ashley Cole's £5million move to Chelsea from Arsenal was initially a controversial one

Ashley Cole’s £5million move to Chelsea from Arsenal was initially a controversial one

But Cole, pictured here with Daniel Sturridge in 2012, eventually became a Blues legend

But Cole, pictured here with Daniel Sturridge in 2012, eventually became a Blues legend

At one stage of his career he staked a claim to being the best left-back in world football

At one stage of his career he staked a claim to being the best left-back in world football

3. Eden Hazard

Having garnered a reputation as one of the most exciting players in world football at Lille, Hazard was wanted by almost every European club worth their salt in 2012 – and to European champions Chelsea’s delight he famously revealed on Twitter that he was ‘signing for the Champions League winner’.

The rest is history.  

From the get-go in west London, the £32million stars left Blues fans on the edge of their seats, with his dazzling feet, low centre of gravity, natural strength and eye for goal quickly making him a fans’ favourite.

While producing a tally of 92 goals and 110 assists, Hazard got his hands on two Premier League titles, as many Europa Leagues, the FA Cup and League Cup before securing a £130million switch to Real Madrid in 2019. At the time of his departure, he was rightfully considered the Premier League’s most talented player.

Eden Hazard left Chelsea fans on the edge of their seats throughout his seven-year spell

Eden Hazard left Chelsea fans on the edge of their seats throughout his seven-year spell

2. Petr Cech

Abramovich paid just £7million to sign the Rennes goalkeeper back in 2004, a transfer fee which is dwarfed by the seismic impact he made in 11 years as a Chelsea player.

Cech, who now works as a technical and performance advisor at the club, hit the ground running by conceding only 13 goals in his debut season, helping Mourinho’s side let in a total of 15 and storm home to Premier League glory in the process. But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

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Over the next decade, he swept up another three titles and also won four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Europa League and the Champions League, while recording the most clean sheets in Premier League history (202).

His defining night came in their 2012 Champions League final win over Bayern Munich, when he denied Arjen Robben from the penalty spot in extra-time before saving Ivica Olic and Bastien Schweinsteiger’s efforts in the resulting shootout to help crown Chelsea as European champions for the first time in their history. £7million well spent. 

Petr Cech's £7million transfer fee is dwarfed by his seismic impact at Chelsea

Petr Cech’s £7million transfer fee is dwarfed by his seismic impact at Chelsea

The legendary goalkeeper was one of the heroes of their 2012 Champions League triumph

The legendary goalkeeper was one of the heroes of their 2012 Champions League triumph 

1. Didier Drogba 

There is no room for debate about who takes the No 1 spot. While Cech’s contribution was also vital, it is Drogba whose name is synonymous with that famous night in Munich.

The Ivorian striker, signed from Marseille for £24million in 2004, had already secured legendary status long before Chelsea’s dramatic Champions League final triumph; having overcome a difficult start at the club to develop into one of the best centre-forwards in world football.

In his first and most fondly-remembered spell at the Bridge; he bagged 157 goals in 341 appearances, won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and three League Cups before finally getting his hands on the Champions League in 2012. 

But it is Didier Drogba's name which is synonymous with that famous triumph in Munich

But it is Didier Drogba’s name which is synonymous with that famous triumph in Munich

Drogba equalised in the dying minutes of normal time and scored the winning penalty

Drogba equalised in the dying minutes of normal time and scored the winning penalty

Drogba was the hero in their final win over Bayern; first powering home a bullet header in the dying minutes of normal time, then tucking away the winning penalty in a dramatic shootout. 

After departing on that incredible high, he later returned for one more season with his beloved Blues in 2014.

Under Mourinho, who had also ventured back for his own second stint the year before, he picked up another Premier League winners’ medal while playing more of a bit-part role at the age of 35.

The Ivorian has to go down as Abramovich's greatest ever signing as Chelsea owner

The Ivorian has to go down as Abramovich’s greatest ever signing as Chelsea owner

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