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5 most underrated Chelsea players of the 21st century

Juan Mata enjoyed a short, but productive spell at Chelsea
Juan Mata enjoyed a short, but productive spell at Chelsea.
Abhinav Anand
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Chelsea, one of the biggest clubs in the world, have not been short of trophies since Roman Abramovich's takeover.

While the club continues to be big spenders in the market, their famed academy has also contributed to the first team in recent seasons. While the likes of Frank Lampard, John Terry, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba are rightly regarded as legends of the club, various other footballers have played a role in their success.

Due to Chelsea's superclub status, certain players tend to go under the radar. However, their contributions cannot be ignored as they helped Chelsea become the club they are today. On that note, we look at the:

Top 5 most underrated footballers for Chelsea in the 21st century


#5 Florent Malouda

Florent Malouda celebrates a goal for Chelsea.
Florent Malouda celebrates a goal for Chelsea.

A goal-scoring winger who enjoyed a trophy-laden spell at Chelsea, Florent Malouda enjoyed an illustrious career at the top level.

Some stunning performances for Ligue 1 side Lyon saw Chelsea pay £17 million to sign him in 2007. The France international was a consistent presence in Chelsea's first XI and delivered some important moments during his time at the club. Malouda's contributions may have gone under the radar due to the presence of superstars like Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, but he was a crucial cog in the team's success.

The winger made 229 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea, scoring 45 goals and providing 44 assists. He won the Premier League and the Champions League with Chelsea, departing in 2013. After stints with clubs like Trabzonspor, Metz and Delhi Dynamos, the 40-year-old retired in 2018.


#4 Juan Mata

Juan Mata was one of the best attacking midfielders in the league during his time at Chelsea.
Juan Mata was one of the best attacking midfielders in the league during his time at Chelsea.

A highly creative attacking midfielder with excellent technical skills and passing ability, Juan Mata is often called "The Magician" by fans.

The Spanish international joined Chelsea from Valencia in 2011 for a fee of £24 million. Mata immediately became a key member, with his playmaking ability appreciated by Chelsea players and fans alike. He won Chelsea's Player of the Year award twice and was regarded as one of the best attacking midfielders in the Premier League during his time with the Blues.

Mata made 135 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea, scoring 32 goals and providing 58 assists. The arrival of Jose Mourinho reduced his game-time at the club, and he subsequently moved to Manchester United in January 2014 for a then club-record fee of £40 million. The 32-year-old is currently a squad player for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer's side.


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#3 Damien Duff

Damien Duff won the Premier League twice with Chelsea
Damien Duff won the Premier League twice with Chelsea

Damien Duff's wing partnership with Arjen Robben is often seen as the key to Chelsea's Premier League success in the 2004/05 season.

Duff, a left-winger, joined Chelsea from Blackburn Rovers in 2003 for a fee of £22 million. The Republic of Ireland international endured a quiet first season and the arrival of Dutch winger Arjen Robben in 2004 seemed to threaten his position at the club. However, Duff's versatility was such that he operated on the right-wing, forming an effective partnership with Robben.

An intelligent player, Duff made 125 appearances in all competitions for Chelsea, scoring 19 goals and providing 28 assists. He twice won the Premier League with Chelsea and left the club in 2006 to join Newcastle United. The 42-year-old retired in 2015.


#2 John Obi Mikel

John Obi Mikel in action for Chelsea
John Obi Mikel in action for Chelsea

One of the most underrated players to have played in the Premier League, John Obi Mikel was a quiet performer who did his job without any fuss.

His transfer to Chelsea was a controversial one, but he ultimately signed for the Blues from Lyn in 2006. The defensive midfielder's ability on the ball, as well as his intelligence and physical prowess, made him a tough player to play against.

While he was not a consistent starter for Chelsea in the Premier League, the Nigerian international notched up 372 appearances in all competitions for the club, winning two Premier League titles and a Champions League trophy. He left the club in 2017 for Chinese club Tianjin TEDA (now Tianjin Jinmen Tiger). The 33-year-old currently plays for Championship side Stoke City.


#1 Claude Makelele

Claude Makelele is regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders to have played the game
Claude Makelele is regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders to have played the game

While Mikel may have produced good performances as a defensive midfielder, it was Claude Makelele who defined the position.

The French international played for clubs like Marseille, Celta Vigo and Real Madrid, but it was at Chelsea where he enjoyed his best form. The Blues signed him from Los Blancos for a fee of £18 million in 2003. The move was met with disappointment from the Real Madrid players.

For Chelsea, this proved to be a shrewd acquisition. Makelele's ability to read the game, his positional awareness and defensive attributes endeared him at the club. He made 217 appearances in all competitions for the team, winning the Premier League twice and helping Chelsea become a feared club in the league.


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Edited by Utathya Ghosh
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