Roman Abramovich’s arrival at Chelsea in 2003 is often heralded as one of the defining moments of the Premier League era.
The Blues had just finished fourth in the Premier League after beating Liverpool 2-1 in a winner-takes-all game to secure Champions League qualification, with Jesper Gronkjaer and Marcel Desailly scoring the crucial goals.
Chelsea were in a financial mess at the time, but soon after Abramovich completed his takeover they went from paupers to princes and made an immediate impact on the transfer market, bringing a host of expensive additions to Stamford Bridge.
In the years since that landmark, Chelsea have established themselves as one of the biggest clubs in Europe, shelling out hundreds of millions of pounds on new recruits, including plenty of strikers.
Some proved to be excellent value for money but others were certainly not worth the investment. Here is Squawka’s ranking of every (recognised) striker who has been on the Chelsea books since the Abramovich takeover.
25. Mateja Kezman
Two players joined Chelsea from PSV Eindhoven in 2004, one was a rip-roaring success, the other was not. Arjen Robben was brilliant, Kezman, on the other hand, was useless.
The Serbian scored seven goals in 41 games for the club before leaving for Atletico Madrid after just one season. He was never able to recapture his PSV form and embarked on a nomadic career that ended in China in 2012.
24. Claudio Pizarro
Chelsea’s business in the 2007 summer transfer window was strange to say the least, as their lavish spending was replaced by a more conservative approach.
Steve Sidwell, Tal Ben Haim and Pizarro all arrived for free transfers that summer and all left pretty soon after. Pizarro managed a paltry two league goals in two seasons with the Blues before returning to Werder Bremen in 2009.
23. Patrick Bamford
The 2014/15 Championship Player of the Year failed to play a single game for Chelsea‘s first team after joining from Nottingham Forest in 2012 but showed plenty of promise during loan spells at MK Dons and Middlesbrough.
His progress stalled badly during his last few years in west London, but the Blues still managed to turn a tidy profit on him, offloading him for £8m to Boro in January 2017 – where he would spend 18 months before joining current club Leeds United, banging in the goals in the Premier League.
22. Lucas Piazon
Piazon was one of the most highly-rated young forwards in Brazil when Chelsea signed him from Sao Paulo in 2011. Unfortunately, he has struggled to live up to his billing since.
Loan moves to Malaga, Vitesse, Frankfurt, and Reading yielded mixed results and he spent the 2017/18 campaign in and out of the Fulham team. The Brazilian was a shock inclusion in Chelsea‘s 25-man Premier League squad for the 2018/19 season but failed to make a breakthrough under Maurizio Sarri. Now 27, Piazon has finally left Chelsea, joining Braga on a permanent deal in January and has previously been critical of the Blues’ loan system.
“I’m tired of playing here and there, I need a place where I can feel at home. I want to know that in July I will return to the same place, to the same house,” he said in 2019.
“I’d have a good season on loan, but I’d come back and was soon loaned again. There was no point in going out on loan, playing well, coming back, not being used and being loaned again.
“There comes a time in your career that makes no sense anymore. By the way, I said exactly that three years ago and it didn’t go so well at Chelsea, it generated some discomfort.
“I can’t just blame Chelsea, because I also accepted all that. But of course, there came a time when I thought that being loaned again would no longer be necessary, I had to go on with my life.”
21. Franco Di Santo
A surprise signing from Chilean outfit Audax Italiano in 2008, Di Santo was handed the No.9 shirt at the start of the 2009-10 season but featured just eight times in the league for the Blues before joining Wigan permanently in 2010.
The Argentine target man has never been the most prolific of strikers, but he has three international caps to his name and after plying his trade for Schalke 04 and Rayo Vallecano, he’s now with San Lorenzo in his native Argentina.
20. Alexandre Pato
It took Alexandre Pato months to make his Chelsea debut after signing on a six-month loan but he capped his Premier League debut against Aston Villa with a goal. In total, the Brazilian made only two appearances in the top-flight.
He is now at Orlando City following a spell in his native Brazil with Sao Paulo after turning out for Chinese Super League club Tianjin Quanjian.
19. Radamel Falcao
Falcao famously put Chelsea to the sword by scoring a brilliant hat-trick for Atletico Madrid in the 2012 European Super Cup and it was perhaps that performance that persuaded the club to sign him three years later – albeit only on loan.
Injury problems restricted the Colombian to just 12 outings for the Blues in which he scored one goal. He bounced back emphatically for Monaco, though, captaining the side to the Ligue 1 title in 2017 before joining Galatasaray.
18. Adrian Mutu
Another who was one of the first signings of the Abramovich era in 2003, expectations were high for the talented Romanian after a big-money switch from Parma.
Mutu made a fairly promising start to his career in England, but it was his off-field shenanigans that ensured his time at the club would end badly. After being found guilty of taking cocaine, Mutu was sacked in 2004 and an ugly legal battle ensued in the years after.
17. Romelu Lukaku
Given his form for Everton, Manchester United and Inter Milan it seems as though Chelsea made a big mistake in letting the powerful Belgian depart permanently in 2014.
Due to his size and style of play, Lukaku was tipped to be Drogba’s long-term replacement. Weirdly, he was rarely afforded an opportunity to prove himself in that role.
He failed to score in 15 games for Chelsea but has been a regular provider of goals since leaving, now banging them in at Inter Milan after a tough spell with Manchester United. And he might be on his way back to Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea reportedly tabling a bid for the Belgian striker who would be open to a return to the club he supported as a boy.
16. Loic Remy
Signed in the same summer as Diego Costa, Loic Remy was never likely to become a first-team regular for the Blues. When called upon, though, Remy impressed scoring nine goals in 27 appearances during his debut season before going off the boil the following year.
A loan move to Crystal Palace was a disaster, he’d subsequently join Las Palmas, where he bagged eight goals across 12 league outings before relocating to Lille in the summer of 2018.
15. Daniel Sturridge
In a bid to boost their home-grown player quota for the Champions League, Chelsea secured the signing of Daniel Sturridge from Manchester City in 2009, at a time when he was considered one of the most exciting young English talents.
Under Andre Villas-Boas, Sturridge was a regular (albeit out on the wing) but he lost his place under Roberto Di Matteo. He still managed a respectable 15 league goals and won the Champions League, mind.
He went on to join Liverpool but left for Trabzonspor last summer – where his contract was terminated earlier in the year.
14. Andriy Shevchenko
There was a time when Andriy Shevchenko was considered the deadliest striker in Europe following a goal and trophy-laden spell with Milan. Unfortunately for Chelsea, his best days were long gone by the time he pitched up in west London in 2006.
A £30m present to Jose Mourinho that he blatantly did not want, Shevchenko resembled a square peg in a round hole for the club, scoring just nine league goals in 49 games before returning to Milan in 2008.
13. Michy Batshuayi
Signed for big money from Marseille, Michy Batshuayi made a great start to his Chelsea career scoring a winning goal and providing a winning assist in his opening two league games for the club.
He struggled to make much of an impression in the ensuing months but was on hand to score Chelsea‘s title-winning goal against West Brom in 2017, before bagging a brace on the final day of the season against Sunderland. However, the Belgian marksman would enjoy much of the following campaign on loan at Borussia Dortmund before joining Valencia on a temporary basis at the start of the 2018/19 campaign.
After another two loans at Crystal Palace, Batshuayi is back at Chelsea but his future looks away from the club.
12. Alvaro Morata
Chelsea‘s club-record signing at the time, Alvaro Morata became the 22nd first-team striker signed in the Abramovich era and he made a flying start to his new life.
At one point he sat atop of the goalscoring charts alongside Sergio Aguero and Lukaku, showing pace, strength and incredible ability in the air.
A highlight was notching up the second-quickest Premier League hat-trick in Chelsea’s history (after just eight games), though injury problems and the signing of Olivier Giroud would see his place in the side thrown into doubt.
His confidence plummeted and he was sent away on-loan to Atletico Madrid in an 18-month deal, with the club eventually taking the option to buy.
11. Demba Ba
With Chelsea still coming to terms with Drogba’s departure the previous summer and with Torres struggling for goals, the Blues snapped up Demba Ba in January 2013 following his goalscoring exploits for Newcastle United.
He was almost exclusively used as a substitute during his time at the club, but he did score that memorable goal at Anfield after Steven Gerrard’s slip in 2014, which all but ended the Reds‘ title hopes. Big brownie points in the eyes of Chelsea fans for that one.
10. Samuel Eto’o
By the time Chelsea signed Samuel Eto’o the Cameroonian striker was coming towards the end of his illustrious career, something that Mourinho (his manager at the time) alluded to when he questioned the striker’s real age while on French TV.
The two clashed over that incident with Eto’o celebrating a goal in the manner of a pensioner, but he still struck 12 goals in 35 games before leaving for Everton in 2014.
9. Timo Werner
The most recent Chelsea striker signing, there was a lot of hope and expectation for Timo Werner to hit the ground running upon his arrival to Stamford Bridge last summer. But in truth, the German has struggled in front of goal for the Blues so far, netting 12 times in 52 games across all competitions.
However, he did also record 11 assists across all competitions (more than any other player at the club in 2020/21) and finished the season with the most direct goal involvements, six ahead of second-placed Mason Mount.
8. Tammy Abraham
Having come through the club’s academy, Tammy Abraham spent three seasons out on loan before eventually getting his chance in the first-team and he has made the most of the opportunities so far. Although the English striker comes under a lot of undeserved criticism from his club’s own fans, and fell out of favour towards the end of last season under Thomas Tuchel, Abraham has still managed to score 30 goals in 82 games for Chelsea including 21 in the Premier League.
His future may be in doubt, but Abraham’s quality and potential cannot be denied.
7. Olivier Giroud
By January 2018, Chelsea were struggling in front of goal and with the club still fighting on three fronts come transfer deadline day, Giroud was brought in to beef up their striking prospects – though it did result in Batshuayi leaving on loan.
In three-and-a-half years at the club, Giroud played 119 times for Chelsea cross all competitions, scoring 39 times including 11 in the Europa League en route to the final success in 2019. And the Frenchman bowed out on an even bigger high, finishing the 2020/21 Champions League campaign as Chelsea’s top scorer, netting six goals including four in one game against Sevilla as the Blues went all the way to win the competition for the second time.
6. Fernando Torres
It’s a shame, but things just never really worked out for Fernando Torres at Chelsea following his record-breaking £50m move from Liverpool in 2011. He only managed 20 goals in 110 Premier League appearances, before securing a move back to his native Atletico Madrid via AC Milan in 2015.
Nevertheless, his goal against Barcelona in the Camp Nou on the run to the 2012 Champions League final was a great moment and undoubtedly the high point of his time at Stamford Bridge alongside scoring in the 2013 Europa League final.
5. Salomon Kalou
He didn’t quite have the same impact as his Ivorian compatriot Drogba for the Blues, but Salomon Kalou was nevertheless an important squad player between 2006 and 2012.
The Ivorian predominantly played as a wide attacker for the club but was handed a central striking place on a few occasions. He managed 36 league goals before departing for Lille and then Hertha Berlin, where he enjoyed solid success.
4. Hernan Crespo
The signing of Hernan Crespo in 2003 was a statement that Chelsea meant business and were looking to establish themselves as a European force as quickly as possible.
The Argentine’s five-year stay at the club was interrupted by loan moves to AC Milan and Inter, but he managed 20 goals in 49 Premier League appearances and offered a great alternative up front to Drogba, not to mention some clutch goals.
3. Nicolas Anelka
There wasn’t an awful lot made of Nicolas Anelka’s move from Bolton to Chelsea in January 2008, and he made a pretty average start to his Blues career by scoring just once in 14 league appearances and missing the crucial penalty against Man United in the Champions League final.
However, he recovered to become a key player as the Blues lifted the league and cup double in 2009/10 under Carlo Ancelotti. He also picked up the Premier League Golden Boot in the 2008/09 season.
2. Diego Costa
Chelsea struggled to replace Drogba when he initially departed in 2012 and it wasn’t until Mourinho snapped up Diego Costa from Atletico Madrid two years later that they found a striker capable of bullying opposition defenders with his combative style of play and mercurial temperament.
Costa struck 20 Premier League goals in 26 games as Chelsea won the title in 2014/15 and would bag 20 in 35 two seasons later, another championship-winning campaign, before returning to Madrid after a big bust-up with Conte.
1. Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba will go down in history as one of Chelsea’s best ever players following an outstanding career at Stamford Bridge. After signing from Marseille in 2004, Drogba scored 164 goals in all competitions for the Blues and won 12 major honours during his two spells at the club.
He will always be remembered for his equalising goal and the decisive penalty kick in the Champions League final triumph over Bayern Munich in 2012.
‘The King of Stamford Bridge’ finally hung up his boots in November 2018 after seeing out his days in America with Phoenix Rising. You get the feeling that he may have another chapter to write at Chelsea, whether that be as a coach or in an off-field role.
Chelsea’s best strikers under Roman Abramovich
|21st||Franco Di Santo|