Rating Chelsea’s first 5 signings of the Roman Abramovich era

  • We take a look at how the first five signings after Roman Abramovich's takeover in 2003 fared for Chelsea.
  • Four of the five players on this list were signed from fellow Premier League sides.
Modified 02 May 2020, 16:00 IST

Abramovich's takeover shook English football for the good

Chelsea are one of the biggest football clubs in Europe currently. However, this hasn't always been the case, and the arrival of Roman Abramovich in 2003 propelled the Blues towards becoming the club we know them to be today.

Before the arrival of the Russian oligarch, Chelsea used to be a decent Cup side, with a couple of FA Cup and UEFA Cup victories standing out in the late 90s. However, Abramovich's takeover in June 2003 shook up the landscape of English football forever.

Despite being known for his lack of patience with managers and general ruthless behaviour, the results on the pitch since he took over tell a different story. In his 17 years at the club, no English club has won more silverware than Chelsea.

Abramovich made an instant impact, spending approximately £120 million in his first season in charge of the club. As the Russian is close to completing 17 years at the helm, we take a look at his first five signings in English football:

#1 Glen Johnson (£6 Million)

Johnson joined Chelsea as an 18-year old
Johnson joined Chelsea as an 18-year old

English full-back Glen Johnson became the first purchase of the Roman Abramovich era as Chelsea snapped up the then 18-year old for just £6 million. A graduate of the West Ham academy, Johnson had made quite an impression in his first full season for the Hammers.

Although Johnson’s first professional season ended with West Ham's relegation, his stock had risen enough to convince the Chelsea board to splash the cash on the youngster. After making 60 appearances for the Blues in his first couple of seasons, the Englishman found himself out of favour after the arrival of Paulo Ferreira in 2004.

After a successful loan spell at Portsmouth, Johnson decided to move to Fratton Park permanently in 2007, thus ending his three-year spell with the Blues. The English right-back went on to enjoy successful spells at Liverpool and Stoke City before hanging up his boots at the end of the 2017-18 season.


Rating: 4/10

#2 Geremi (£7 Million)

Geremi was a competitive figure in the middle of the park
Geremi was a competitive figure in the middle of the park

Versatile midfielder Geremi joined Chelsea just a day after Glen Johnson’s arrival. The Champions League-winning midfielder joined the Blues from Real Madrid for £7 million.

Equally adept at playing at right-back as well as in midfield, Geremi enjoyed four successful seasons at the Bridge. The Cameroon international won two Premier League trophies under the guidance of Jose Mourinho as he played an important role in delivering Chelsea’s first league title in 50 years.

With the likes of Frank Lampard, Claude Makelele and later Michael Ballack competing for the midfield places, Geremi’s game time got drastically reduced at the latter end of Mourinho's reign. As a result, the Cameroonian left the club to sign for Newcastle United in the summer of 2007.

After three seasons at Tyneside, the midfielder, who acquired 118 caps for his national side, had short stints in Turkey and Greece before hanging up his boots in 2011.

Rating: 6/10 

#3 Wayne Bridge (£7 Million)

Bridge will always be remembered for this effort in the UCL
Bridge will always be remembered for this effort in the UCL

After snapping up young right-back Glen Johnson just a few days earlier, it was the turn of another young English full-back to join Johnson at the Harlington training centre. Wayne Bridge was a very exciting 23-year old left-back, who arrived from Southampton for £7 million with Graeme Le Saux going the other way.

The youngster had made himself known in the past couple of seasons, with his wonderful displays earning him a place in the 2001/02 PFA Team of the Year. The Englishman had a spectacular first season in London, making almost 50 appearances in all competitions, and more memorably firing in an 88th-minute winner against Arsenal to propel Chelsea into the Champions League semi-finals.

The arrival of Ashley Cole in 2006 was always likely to hinder Bridge’s progress at Chelsea, and as a result, the left-back joined Manchester City in 2008. As the cash-rich Manchester club went on a spending spree, Bridge endured loan spells at the likes of West Ham, Sunderland and Reading, before hanging up his boots in 2014.

Rating: 5/10 

#4 Damien Duff (£17 Million)

Damien Duff of Chelsea jumps a tackle
Damien Duff of Chelsea jumps a tackle

In a season where Chelsea signed the likes of Adrian Mutu, Hernan Crespo and Claude Makelele, it was Damien Duff who took the tag of being Chelsea’s most expensive summer signing.

The Irish winger signed from Blackburn Rovers for a fee in the region of £17 million. Duff’s solid performances on the left-wing had caught Chelsea’s eye, and he showcased the same during his three seasons with the club.

The Irish international clocked up 125 appearances for the Blues, scoring 19 goals in total. After leaving Chelsea in 2006, the two-time Premier League winner enjoyed successful stints with both Newcastle United and Fulham in the next eight seasons.

Stints in Australia, and his homeland country for whom he made 100 international appearances, brought the curtain down on his career in 2015.

Rating: 7/10

#5 Joe Cole (£6.6 Million)

Joe Cole survived the longest at Chelsea
Joe Cole survived the longest at Chelsea

One of the most technically gifted English footballers of his generation, Joe Cole had a decent career, but could have been even better had his injury problems remained in check.

Cole fell into the spotlight with impressive performances for his boyhood club West Ham, and the Hammers’ relegation in 2003 paved the way for Chelsea to sign the English playmaker for just £6.6 million.

Cole spent seven successful seasons at Stamford Bridge, winning the Premier League three times, as well as being Chelsea’s Player of the Year in 2007-08. In his last season with the club, Cole scored the opener in a 2-1 win over Manchester United in what turned out to be the title-deciding game of the season.

After leaving Chelsea, Cole also played for Liverpool, Lille, West Ham, Aston Villa and Coventry City, before hanging up his boots in 2018.

Rating: 7/10   

Also Read: 5 current Chelsea players who have won the most trophies

Published 02 May 2020, 16:00 IST
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