Nine games into this EPL season and there have been a few surprises. Looking at the top quarter of the table, most people will definitely take notice of the tenacity of West Ham and Leicester City. No one likely expects those two teams to stick around those positions but it does show the increasing unpredictability of the EPL. The top three spots are held by the usual suspects of Manchester City, Arsenal and Manchester United. In order to find another familiar Top 4 club you have to track all the way down to 10th place where Liverpool sit. If you’re looking for something a little more shocking look below them and you’ll find last year’s League Champions Chelsea rooted in 11th position, ten points off the leaders and only five points out of relegation.
Indeed, if you even remotely follow the EPL season you know discussions of Chelsea’s poor showings have been topping sites around the web. With only 11 out of 27 possible points and a Goals-Against figure of -3, this is not the Chelsea of last season. Yet it is. The London club have the same manager, most of the same players and yet so far seem to be a shadow of their former selves. While media and fans point to a tired looking Jose Mourinho or underperforming stars like Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas and Branislav Ivanovic, it would be a bold person to bet on the Stamford Bridge outfit to not recover from this early season slide.
That said, it could be worse as this following list of Chelsea players demonstrates. Players like Hazard, Fabregas and Ivanovic are definitely going through a bad spell but it’s unlikely we’ll look back on them in several years and say they were Chelsea failures. The players listed ahead are a different story. These footballers were/are all skilled but just never cut it during their time in London. Perhaps they failed to live up to expectations, reputation and potential – or perhaps they were just plain bad. For the most part, fans or management weren’t sorry to see these players head for the exit. Each of the following players holds a special place in Chelsea FC history – namely as a bad signing.
15 Yossi Benayoun
When you get loaned out to your rivals, there’s not really much more to be said. This is what happened to Yossi Benayoun in 2011 when Chelsea allowed him to go on loan to London rivals Arsenal. The Israeli international wasn’t a bad player. His time at West Ham United and then Liverpool had shown that Benayoun was versatile. When he wasn’t notching up one of his 26 total league goals he was adding quite a few assists. The move to Chelsea put a major damper on this production rate, however, and he managed only a goal and an assist as he struggled to fit into the team and its plans. A series of loan moves later and Benayoun was out the door and eventually back playing in Israel.
14 Asier del Horno
This Spanish defender wasn’t a terrible defender but he also wasn’t very good either – at least by Chelsea’s standards. Del Horno was signed in 2005 for a fee of £8.4 million from Spanish side Athletic Bilbao. Over his one season with Chelsea, most fans can’t remember very much about him because he was never really a stand-out player. Well, there was that one time he got a red card for a ridiculous challenge on Lionel Messi in the Champions League. We guess that acts as a cherry on an otherwise bland sundae. It appeared to be enough for the Blues as they shipped him off to Valencia the following season.
13 Khalid Boulahrouz
Nicknamed ‘The Cannibal,’ Khalid Boulahrouz was snapped up by Chelsea in 2006. The Blues no doubt hoped that Boulahrouz would live up to the name and devour any attackers who came near him. They were all let down. Injuries and a complete lack of pace for the EPL meant this much hyped signing fell down the order at Stamford Bridge. Even when he was fit, Jose Mourinho opted to play Michael Essien in defence over his Dutch ‘cannibal.’ Sure he put in some good performances but fans will remember that red card that contributed to a 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium in 2007 and sent the title to Old Trafford.
12 Yuri Zhirkov
A versatile player, Yuri Zhirkov was a very promising, albeit expensive, signing when he made the move from CSKA Moscow to Chelsea in 2009. Zhirkov could play left-wing and left-back and as his time in Moscow demonstrated, he could also contribute a decent number of goals and assists. The £14.7 million signing seemed like a good bit of business. He had a number of very good appearances but he never really fit in with the team. No one was going to replace Ashley Cole at LB during that period and Zhirkov’s inconsistent play mixed with injury meant it really was a miracle he lasted two full seasons in London.
11 Robert Fleck
In 1992, Chelsea signed Robert Fleck from Norwich City for a then club record fee of just over £2 million. By signing the Scottish striker, the Blues believed they had their hands on a goal scoring machine. At Norwich, Fleck had done extremely well and scored 66 goals in all competitions in just over 180 appearances. This rate did not transfer to his time at Chelsea, unfortunately. With only four goals in 48 total appearances, Fleck was a flop and spent some time out on loan before being shipped back to Norwich in 1995. He is best remembered by the Chelsea faithful thanks to a chant about him to the tune of Yellow Submarine.
10 Mateja Kezman
Anyone who followed Dutch side PSV Eindhoven in the early 2000s believed that Mateja Kezman was destined for a big money move and a successful career. After all, 105 league goals in 123 appearances is a clear indicator of a player’s ability, right? Chelsea thought so and in 2004 moved to sign the striker for just over £5 million. The Serbian striker ended up being a giant flop who spent only one season in London before getting shipped off to Spain. Sure he was part of a League and League Cup winning team, but Kezman never came remotely close to replicating the form he demonstrated in Holland. Nor did he come close to meeting the expectations of the club and its fans with just 7 goals in 40 total appearances.
9 Slavisa Jokanovic
This Serbian midfielder was Claudio Ranieri’s first signing at Chelsea. Slavisa Jokanovic was a defensive midfielder who had enjoyed a very successful 1999/2000 season by winning La Liga with Deportivo La Coruna. Technically, he was a highly rated midfielder who was supposed to provide a major boost to the Blues. After 53 appearances for the club, Jokanovic was released by Chelsea to the relief of the fans. Those who supported the Blues during this period will remember him as one of the worst players to ever put on the shirt. He was too slow for the EPL and never adjusted over his brief stay.
8 Claudio Pizarro
From 1999 to 2007, Claudio Pizarro was one of the best strikers in the Bundesliga, averaging a goal every other game for the likes of Werder Bremen and Bayern Munich. The Peruvian was consistent in front of goal and this is what attracted Chelsea in 2007. On the one hand, Pizarro’s time at Chelsea was influenced by the departure of Jose Mourinho and signing of striker Nicolas Anelka. That said, you could say he never made the most of his chances and proved to be an underwhelming signing. Just two goals in over 20 league appearances comes nowhere near what he did regularly did on a football pitch – both before and after his stint in London.
7 Shaun Wright-Phillips
It’s the same in any sport. Every year we hear about the next great player coming through the ranks; a player who will turn into the next big thing. Teams usually line up and make massive offers in order to get this player. At Manchester City, Shaun Wright-Phillips made a name for himself as a fast and exciting young player with a lot of potential. In 2005, Chelsea moved in and bought the winger. There’s no doubt his speed troubled opponents, but he never really had an end product to match. The goals never really came and even in terms of assists fans were left expecting a lot more considering his potential. In the end, Wright-Phillips was returned to sender as he traded in Chelsea blue for the sky blue of his original club Manchester City in 2008.
6 Chris Sutton
This player wasn’t necessarily a terrible player because of lack of skill and passion. No, Chris Sutton will be remembered as an awful Chelsea player because he never fit into the team’s style of play. No one would have guessed the English striker would flop so badly playing alongside the likes of Gianfranco Zola. After all, at Blackburn Sutton had flourished beside Alan Shearer and did quite well even after he left. The 1999/2000 season demonstrated, however, that Sutton wasn’t a sure thing. With just three goals in all competitions, management opted to cut their losses and shipped him off to Celtic after one season. In Scotland, Sutton showed that his Chelsea experience was just a blip as he returned to his scoring ways.
5 Adrian Mutu
In all likelihood, if Adrian Mutu had made better off-field life choices there is every reason to believe he would have gone on to be a very good Chelsea signing. Between 2000 and 2003, the Romanian attacker demonstrated an abundance of skill with the likes of Verona and Parma in Serie A. Chelsea, with their new sugar-daddy Roman Abramovich, swooped in for the forward’s signature in 2003. Early indications were that Mutu was a great signing with several early goals in his first few games. Then it all went south. Goals and overall performance dropped off significantly. Early in 2004, Mutu failed a drug test when he tested positive for cocaine. His contract was terminated and Chelsea began legal proceedings which ended with the player required to pay $19 million to his former club.
4 Juan Sebastian Veron
We’re not too sure what Chelsea’s management team was doing when they decided to sign Juan Sebastian Veron from Manchester United in 2003 (the same year they signed Mutu). Nonetheless, Roman Abramovich decided that £15.05 million was a steal and signed The Little Witch up. While Sir Alex Ferguson laughed his way to the bank, Chelsea fans discovered that Veron needed far more than a change in scenery to get back on track. Deadly in Italy, Veron never adjusted to the Premier League and was a very expensive flop. With only 14 total appearances for the Blues, Veron spent the rest of his Chelsea contract out on loan where he didn’t fare much better.
3 Andriy Shevchenko
When Chelsea signed Ukrainian striker Andriy Shevchenko from AC Milan in 2006 for a then record of £30 million, everyone took notice. Shevchenko was a world star and was one the deadliest strikers in Europe. At Milan, he notched 175 goals over seven years in all competitions. Opposition defenses were likely worried about his imminent arrival and Chelsea fans relished the upcoming season. How things changed. Shevchenko’s two full years at Chelsea were definitely below average. He never looked comfortable and he never terrorized teams like he did in Serie A. His inconsistent performances and failure to come anywhere near the expectations and price-tag put upon him land him firmly in the top tier of worst Chelsea signings.
2 Fernando Torres
Like Andriy Shevchenko, the player we find holding the runner-up position isn’t necessarily a bad player, but never came anywhere near the potential he demonstrated at other clubs, the expectations of the fans and management and the price-tag put upon them. When Chelsea signed Fernando Torres from Liverpool in January 2011, everyone thought the Blues were getting an absolute gem. At Liverpool, El Nino destroyed opposition defenses and scored a pile of goals. His three and a half years at Stamford Bridge were a different story. Sure, during his time there Chelsea enjoyed great domestic and European success – but Torres just never fit in and never looked like the world-beater we all saw on Merseyside. He enjoyed a few good moments but 20 goals in 110 league appearances is a far cry from what the fans expected.
1 Winston Bogarde
This one definitely falls under the category of ‘What on Earth were Chelsea thinking?’ In 2000, Chelsea signed Winston Bogarde on a free transfer from Barcelona. The fact Barcelona were willing to let the Dutch defender go for free didn’t strike anyone as odd. The fact Chelsea were willing to pay Bogarde £40,000 a week and only play him a handful of times was. The London outfit quickly realized they had a lemon on their hands and worked to get rid of Bogarde and his ridiculous four-year contract. The defender knew he had a sweet deal and was willing to sit on the sidelines and play for the reserves over a period where he only appeared a total of 11 times for the first team. Motivated solely by money, Bogarde had no real drive to compete for a first team position and ended up with no offers once his Chelsea contract ended in 2004.