The 10 best Chelsea players of all time

Chelsea’s most successful era is the present one, but they’ve had some fantastic players on their books throughout the club’s history.

10. Jimmy Greaves

Greaves may only have spent four years as a Chelsea player, but he did enough in that time to earn a spot in the top 10. The future World Cup winner, who scored an astonishing 122 goals in his final season for the Blues’ youth team, immediately became an important player for the senior side after making his debut in August 1957.

Greaves went on to score 22 goals that campaign, before hitting 37 in all competitions in 1958/59 and 30 in 1959/60. His best year at Chelsea was his final one, though, when 43 strikes in 43 matches brought about an ill-fated move to Milan.

9. Peter Bonetti

Bonetti’s Chelsea adventure began in the1950s, when his mother wrote to manager Ted Drake to request a place for her son in the youth ranks. Drake obliged, making a decision for which the Blues were grateful for years to come.

The goalkeeper played 613 games between the sticks in his first spell at the club, before joining NASL side St. Louis Stars in 1975. He wasn’t gone for long, though, returning to Chelsea a matter of months later to add a further 117 appearances to his tally. Bonetti left for good in 1979, by which time he had won two promotions, a League Cup, an FA Cup and a Cup Winners’ Cup with the Londoners.

8. Bobby Tambling

A centre-forward who represented the club between 1959 and 1970, Tambling is Chelsea’s record league goalscorer with 164 strikes in 302 outings. He netted 202 times in all competitions, but had just a single League Cup winner’s medal to show for his time at Stamford Bridge as far as silverware is concerned.

Tambling has a suite named after him at Chelsea’s home stadium, while Blues fans voted him into their all-time XI in 2005, when the club was celebrating its centenary.

7. Gianfranco Zola

Had Zola been born 10 years later, he could have won the lot with Chelsea. As it was, the diminutive Italian had to settle for a League Cup, a Cup Winners’ Cup and a pair of FA Cups – not a bad haul by any means, but one lacking in the top prizes that his talent deserved.

Widely regarded as one of the nicest men in football, Zola was also brilliant to watch. Labelled a “wizard” by compatriot Claudio Ranieri, one of the three managers the forward had at Stamford Bridge, Zola scored one of the most memorable goals in the club’s recent history when he backheeled the ball home against Norwich in 2002. In total, the former Napoli man netted 80 times in a Chelsea shirt.

6. Ron Harris

With 795 competitive appearances to his name, Harris remains Chelsea’s all-time appearance-maker 37 years on from his retirement. A one-club man, the defender earned the nickname “Chopper” for his tough tackling and aggressive style of play, which made him one of the least popular opponents for English First Division strikers to face.

Harris won the FA Cup, League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup at Chelsea, and also claimed a runners-up medal in each of the two domestic competitions.

5. Petr Cech

The second goalkeeper to make the list, Cech made 235 fewer appearances than Peter Bonetti but won considerably more at Stamford Bridge. The current Arsenal shot-stopper arrived in west London shortly after Jose Mourinho in 2004 (although the deal was arranged a few months before) and went on to become a key part of Chelsea’s Premier League winning teams in 2004/05 and 2005/06.

Cech added another two championship crowns to his honours list before departing for the Blues’ London rivals in 2015, while he also won four FA Cups, three League Cups, the Champions League and the Europa League at his first English club.

4. Didier Drogba

Only three Chelsea players have put the ball in net on more occasions than Drogba, who beat opposition goalkeepers 164 times while plying his trade for the five-time Premier League champions. The Ivorian was involved in four of those successes, as well as triumphs in the FA Cup (four), League Cup (three) and Champions League.

His most memorable moment came in the final of Europe’s foremost club competition in 2012, when Drogba converted the penalty that won the trophy for the Blues against Bayern Munich. 

3. Peter Osgood

Osgood was nicknamed the ‘King of Stamford Bridge’, which says it all about his lofty standing within the Chelsea community. The striker debuted for the Blues as a 17-year-old in 1964, converting both goals in a 2-0 triumph over Workington in what was a sign of things to come.

Osgood notched 150 goals during his time as a Chelsea player, including a brace in the victorious two-legged Cup Winners’ Cup final against Real Madrid in 1971. The west Londoners earned their spot in that tournament by virtue of their success in the FA Cup the previous year; Osgood scored in every round of England’s foremost cup competition that season, a feat matched by only eight other players in history.

2. Frank Lampard

There are not many clubs whose record scorer is a midfielder, but such was Lampard’s knack for timing his runs into the penalty area that he overtook Bobby Tambling at the top of the charts in 2013, ultimately finishing on 211 goals before departing for Manchester City the following year.

Signed from West Ham for £11m in 2001, Lampard went on to win three Premier League crowns, four FA Cups, two FA Cups, one Europa League and a Champions League on the other side of London. He was incredibly consistent throughout his time with the Blues, so much so that he made more than 30 appearances in all 13 of his seasons at Stamford Bridge.

1. John Terry

The face of Chelsea’s recent success, Terry deserves to be known as the club’s greatest player of all time. As well as being arguably the best centre-half in Premier League history, the Blues’ No.26 was a natural-born leader who helped inspire Chelsea to five league titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, a Europa League and a Champions League during his near-two decades as a senior player at Stamford Bridge.

Indisputably a controversial figure off the field, there can be no denying Terry’s quality and influence on it. 

By Greg Lea

Greg Lea is a freelance football writer for FourFourTwo, The Blizzard and various others. Follow his Twitter account @GregLeaFootball for anything and everything related to soccer and more.