For most of the Premier League era – even before Roman Abramovich’s takeover in the summer of 2003 – Chelsea have become renowned for bringing some of the world’s best players to Stamford Bridge.
The Blues’ transfer revolution started all the way back in 1995 when they bought in Ruud Gullit – the 1987 Ballon d’Or winner – and since then, countless world-class talents have called Chelsea home.
However, not all of those world-class players have seen their careers peak at Chelsea. In fact, a number of them struggled at Stamford Bridge to the point where it could be argued that their careers took a downward spiral instead.
Here are 5 players whose careers dipped when they joined Chelsea.
#1 Danny Drinkwater
A product of Manchester United’s youth academy, Danny Drinkwater left Old Trafford in 2012 to join Leicester City, and you’d have been forgiven for thinking he was taking a step down at the time. However, that wasn’t the case for the midfielder at all.
After helping the Foxes gain promotion to the Premier League in the 2013-14 campaign, he was an integral part of Claudio Ranieri’s side as they pulled off the biggest miracle in Premier League history to win the league title in 2015-16.
With an excellent range of passing and a high work-rate, Drinkwater looked like one of the best midfielders in the Premier League – and so it came as no surprise when he was signed by Chelsea for a £35m fee in September 2017.
However, any ideas Drinkwater might’ve had about emulating the success of his former Leicester teammate N’Golo Kante at Chelsea were painfully wrong.
Struggling for fitness due to some niggling injuries when he arrived at Stamford Bridge, the midfielder made just 12 appearances for the Blues in his first half-season. But worse was to come. Under new boss Maurizio Sarri, Drinkwater failed to make a single appearance for Chelsea during the 2018-19 campaign.
In fact, the only time he made the news during that season was when he was charged with drink-driving following a crash in April 2019.
Loan moves in the 2019-20 season also failed to resurrect his career. Drinkwater made just 2 appearances for Burnley after injuring himself in a nightclub brawl, and his Aston Villa career was also cut short after a training ground confrontation with Jota.
Now back at Chelsea, it seems like the midfielder’s career at Stamford Bridge is basically over. It’s safe to say that his career took a major nosedive after joining the Blues.
#2 Fernando Torres
After scoring 91 goals in 244 appearances for Atletico Madrid and then 81 goals in just 142 appearances for Liverpool, Fernando Torres was understandably considered one of the best strikers in the world.
So it hardly came as a surprise when big-spending Chelsea decided to break the British transfer fee record for his signature, parting with £50m to bring him to Stamford Bridge in January 2011. Unfortunately, if then-Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti thought that ‘El Nino’ was the man to fire Chelsea to more glory, he was sadly mistaken.
It took Torres 14 matches with his new club to score a goal, and when he did find the net, it didn’t set off a major run of strikes. In fact, the goal – which came against West Ham – was his only one for the Blues in the 2011-12 campaign.
The Spaniard fared better in 2011-12, as he scored 11 goals in all competitions and helped Chelsea to the Champions League final with a strike against Barcelona. However, the season also featured a run of 24 games without a goal, and his return was still lower than any he’d managed pre-Chelsea since 2000-01, when he was just 17 years old.
Despite scoring 22 goals in 2012-13, it was clear that Torres simply wasn’t the player that he’d been at Atletico or Liverpool. His finishing ability had diminished as had his pace, both due to a mix of injuries and a lack of confidence.
A move back to Atletico in the 2014-15 season saw him recover his mojo somewhat – he scored 38 goals for his old club over 5 seasons – but there’s no disputing that his career dipped once he arrived at Chelsea.