Football Features

From Hasselbaink to Drogba: Ranking the best Chelsea strikers since 2000

By Harry Edwards

Published: 17:36, 9 August 2022

Chelsea are currently playing in the Premier League without a recognised striker but that wasn’t always the case.

Since the turn of the century, Chelsea have had a number of big name strikers in their club. Some proved to be excellent value for money but others were certainly not worth the investment, which only led to Chelsea having to sign more strikers.

It’s why, in 2022, Chelsea are once again looking for a striker even though Thomas Tuchel appears happy to play without one right now.

But just who has been the best striker for Chelsea since 2000? We’ve taken a look at the bunch, taking away those who played fewer than 10 games for the Blues (giving Patrick Bamford and Alexandre Pato a break), and come out with our ranking. We’re also focusing only on the recognised strikers, meaning Gianfranco Zola isn’t in consideration despite playing up front at times.

29. Chris Sutton

Before Fernando Torres and Andriy Shevchenko there was Chris Sutton, one of Chelsea’s biggest striking mistakes in the transfer market. After killing it at Blackburn, Chelsea spent £10 on Sutton, which was the third-highest fee paid between two English clubs at the time. Their reward for that outlay was two goals in 38 games but both of those strikes came in the first half of the 1999/2000 season. Focusing on 2000 alone, Sutton managed no goals and two yellow cards in 19 appearances for Chelsea before being sold to Celtic in the summer.

28. 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.

27. 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.

26. 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 in Europe and South America, Di Santo is now with Mexican side Club Tijuana.

25. 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 and later Rayo Vallecano.

24. 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.

23. Carlton Cole

Carlton Cole came through the academy at Chelsea but struggled to make too much of an impact on the first team — now where have we heard that before? Often a substitute option for Claudio Ranieri and later Jose Mourinho, Cole made 34 appearances for Chelsea and scored eight goals before being sold to West Ham United where he truly got his career up and running.

22. Mikael Forssell

Perhaps the first member of Chelsea’s Loan Army, Mikael Forssell spent more time away from Stamford Bridge than he did playing for the Blues particularly in the 2000s. Crystal Palace, Borussia Monchengladbach and Birmingham all received Forssell on loan, and the Finn managed nine goals in 38 matches in brief spells at Chelsea (post-2000) before leaving in 2005.

21. George Weah

If we were ranking George Weah as a striker, he’d be up there. But we’re ranking him as a Chelsea striker and he spent just half a season with the Blues. A loan signing from AC Milan in January 2000, Weah managed five goals in 15 games for Chelsea before returning to the San Siro. But he’ll always been in the hearts of Chelsea fans, especially after scoring the winner on his debut against Tottenham Hotspur as well as netting twice en route to winning the FA Cup.

20. 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.

19. Tore Andre Flo

If we were judging Tore Andre Flo on his Chelsea spell as a whole, he’d be higher, but most of his appearances came before 2000 so we’re having to push that to one side just for this ranking. Leaving Chelsea in November 2000, Flo was a reliable man to call upon from the bench but he was also dynamite when starting.

After 2000, Flo’s best moment probably came in the 3-1 win over Barcelona in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final in which he scored twice. The Norwegian also found the net in the second leg, though Chelsea would go on to lose 6-4 on aggregate.

18. 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 and formed part of their SAS attack alongside Luis Suarez, but is now a free agent after leaving Perth Glory in the summer.

17. 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.

16. Romelu Lukaku

Romelu Lukaku was supposed to be so much higher. After failing to score in 15 games for Chelsea during his first spell, Lukaku grew away from the club particularly at Inter Milan and was meant to be the missing piece of Thomas Tuchel’s puzzle. But we all know how it went.

Less than a year after becoming Chelsea’s club record signing, Lukaku is back at Inter Milan on loan, having scored just eight goals in 25 Premier League appearances and one damning Sky Italia interview.

15. 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 and then Besiktas, Batshuayi is back at Chelsea but his future looks away from the club, not given a shirt number for 2022/23.

14. 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.

13. 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.

12. 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.

11. Timo Werner

Before Lukaku, Timo Werner was meant to be the final piece of Frank Lampard’s puzzle, the solution to their goalscoring problems. There was a lot of hope and expectation for Werner to hit the ground running upon his arrival at Stamford Bridge but, in truth, the German struggled.

Overall, Werner scored 23 goals in 89 games for Chelsea across all competitions and, two years after signing, he has left the club permanently to return to RB Leipzig.

But for all the work Werner did outside of scoring, he deserves a place fairly high up.

10. 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 2020/21 under Thomas Tuchel, Abraham still managed to score 30 goals in 82 games for Chelsea including 21 in the Premier League.

9. 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.

8. 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.

7. 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.

6. 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.

5. Eidur Gudjohnsen

Eidur Gudjohnsen is part of a select group of Chelsea players who are forgiven for also representing Tottenham, and that speaks volumes of his time in west London. The Icelandic forward was part of the Chelsea squad that came before the revolution, signed by Gianluca Vialli in the final months of his time as Blues manager.

Gudjohnsen quickly built an excellent partnership with Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and he would replicate that with Didier Drogba, happy to play the supporting role which helped him pick up two Premier League winner’s medals. Overall, Gudjohnsen scored 78 goals in 261 appearances for Chelsea, but he shouldn’t be judged on goals alone, such was his selfless style of play.

4. 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.

3. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink

Chelsea weren’t Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s first club in the Premier League, that was Leeds United, but they may be the one he is most commonly associated with. The Dutchman signed for Chelsea from Atletico Madrid in 2000 and quickly became their first-choice striker, with good reason.

Across a four-year spell for Chelsea, Hasselbaink would score 87 goals in 177 games including 69 in 136 Premier League appearances. Hasselbaink was one of those players who kicked a ball as if he hated it, generated absurd amounts of power that left goalkeepers deciding whether it was worth making a save and breaking their wrist. But he also had the deftness to beautiful place curling shots into the top corner with either foot, as portrayed by a perfect hat-trick scored against Tottenham Hotspur in 2002. There weren’t many better.

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.