Inside Blue Tue 13 Mar 2018
Eden Hazard recently played his 200th Premier League game for the Blues, but which overseas stars would make it into a Chelsea side picked purely on most appearances?
The Belgian joined an elite group of 10 to bring up a double century of matches for the club in the Premier League, a list which includes five other non-English players.
For the purposes of this Overseas XI, we are sticking to former Blues only, which rules out Hazard, along with Cesar Azpilicueta (189 Premier League appearances) and Willian (159). While that trio would undoubtedly strengthen our selection, we think we’ve still put together a pretty strong team.
In goal we’ve got Petr Cech, who tops the way in terms of most Chelsea appearances by an overseas player. He made it to 333 in the Premier League during 11 years with the club, during which time he won the title four times and set the division record for most clean sheets.
The defence is solid as a rock, as you would expect given the fact it contains a man who had that very nickname bestowed upon him. Marcel Desailly (158), a former Blues captain and World Cup winner, marshals a back three which sees him flanked by Branislav Ivanovic (261) and William Gallas (159).
Iva, of course, would also carry a goal threat, having netted 22 in the English top flight, which is second among Serbian players behind only a striker – Savo Milosevic. And Gallas was a key part of the Blues defence which conceded a miserly 15 Premier League goals on our way to winning the title in 2004/05.
Anchoring our midfield is African duo Michael Essien (168) and John Mikel Obi (249). It’ll be easier said than done keeping the Ghanaian there; for someone who didn’t score often, that he twice won the club’s Goal of the Season award tells you everything you need to know about the quality of his ball striking.
The Nigerian, meanwhile, came to Chelsea in 2006 with a reputation as a No10 with an eye for a pass, but he proved adept as a midfield pivot thanks to his ability to snuff out danger through his reading of the game and calmness in possession.
We wouldn’t be short on energy from the flanks, with Ramires (159) on one side and Salomon Kalou (156) on the other. The latter regularly contributed from the bench, scoring 15 times for the club as a substitute, while Rami shared Essien’s habit for a worldie, netting two Goal of the Season award-winning goals himself.
Our front three oozes class, with Gianfranco Zola (229) playing just behind Didier Drogba (254) and Eidur Gudjohnsen (186). Between them they boast 227 Premier League goals and we’d fancy their chances of unlocking even the stingiest of defences.
Zola was universally loved as a footballer during his time with the Blues and he became the first Chelsea man to win the Football Writers’ Player of the Year award, which he lifted in 1997.
Drogba, meanwhile, is the only African player to pass the 100-goal mark in the Premier League and he twice won the Golden Boot award in the English top flight. That’s before we begin to mention the rest of his achievements...
As for Gudjohnsen; well, he was almost a mix between the two, blessed with a velvet touch and a keen eye for goal. His partnership with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, which was almost telepathic at times, was a joy to behold.