Chelsea have developed a reputation in recent years for becoming a loan factory with several players joining the club and immediately leaving on temporary deals. Many of these end up at Chelsea’s partner club Vitesse Arnhem in Holland, whilst others end up scattered around Europe or England’s lower leagues. The vast majority are sold after either increasing their values, or failing to show the quality required to break into Chelsea’s first team.
Thibaut Courtois and Andreas Christensen are notable exceptions having broken the mould and become regulars. This season they have featured in 100% and 67% of Chelsea’s league games respectively with Courtois the undisputed number one in goal after three successful years on loan at Atletico Madrid from 2011-2014, and Christensen making his breakthrough this season after two years with Borussia Monchengladbach.
Other players have signed for significant fees in recent years, yet have struggled to make an impact and have gone on to succeed elsewhere. Here we assemble a team of these players and rate them from one to ten based on how much of a loss they are to Chelsea, with one being no loss at all and ten being players the Blues will regret letting go.
GK: Asmir Begovic
Chelsea have not been blessed with fantastic understudy goalkeepers in recent years. Aside from the 2014/15 season in which club legend Petr Cech played second fiddle to Thibaut Courtois, the likes of Henrique Hilario, Ross Turnbull and Asmir Begovic have kept the bench warm. The latter gets the nod based on the lack of competition around him more than anything else.
A brilliant goalkeeper for Stoke, Begovic got his big move to Chelsea in 2015. Frustrated at his lack of first team opportunities, the Bosnian joined Bournemouth this summer where he has usurped Artur Boruc as number one. With Willy Caballero a capable backup however following his summer move from Manchester City, Begovic will not be missed by many in West London. 3/10
RB: Jack Cork
Okay, a very tenuous one this. Chelsea have had no right-backs in recent years who fit the criteria of flops who have succeeded elsewhere after leaving Stamford Bridge. Cork gets this spot based on the fact he played a handful of games in this position during a four-year spell with Southampton.
Naturally a defensive midfielder, the recent England debutant has succeeded with the Saints, Swansea and now Burnley. With the right-back spot redundant since Antonio Conte began playing with three at the back, and better options in his natural position, few if any will be calling for the return of Cork. 1/10
CB: Nathan Ake
One of the most successful products of Chelsea’s transfer system, the Dutchman became Bournemouth’s record signing when he joined for £20m in the summer having had a successful loan spell at the Dorset club last season. He was such a hit, Conte recalled him early to give Chelsea additional options in defence during their ultimately-successful title challenge. He rarely featured however, and was deemed surplus to requirements in the end with Christensen, Gary Cahill, Cesar Azpilicueta, Antonio Rudiger, David Luiz and Kurt Zouma all preferred options at the back, despite Zouma subsequently joining Stoke City on loan. 4/10
CB: Jeffrey Bruma
Ake’s fellow countryman joined the Blues in 2009, but was sold to PSV Eindhoven after four Premier League appearances in as many years. After three successful seasons in Holland, Conte attempted to bring Bruma back to Chelsea, but the defender had his heart set on a move to the Bundesliga where he ultimately joined Wolfsburg and has established himself as first choice alongside American international John Brooks. 3/10
LB: Ryan Bertrand
Bertrand played a key role during Chelsea’s greatest ever moment as he started the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich. Despite this, he was never able to dislodge Ashley Cole as a regular first choice and spent the majority of his nine years on Chelsea’s books as a perennial loanee. He finally left to join Southampton on a permanent basis in February 2015 where he has since established himself as first choice left-back and become a regular in the England squad.
Bertrand is reportedly on Manchester City’s radar, whilst Conte is said to have been keen on bringing him back to Stamford Bridge in the summer. If he returned, he may struggle to dislodge surprise hit Marcos Alonso in the left-wingback role, but would certainly be regarded as a capable reserve with the ability to also play centre-back if called upon. 6/10
CDM: Oriol Romeu
Like Bertrand, former Barcelona youngster Romeu has flourished at Southampton having spent the majority of his Stamford Bridge career as a loanee. The Premier League’s third-highest tackler last season (and fourth so far this campaign), the Spaniard has established himself as a midfield hardman and deservedly won Southampton’s Player of the Year award last season.
Romeu would not look out of place in the starting eleven for one of the big teams, yet would struggle to become a regular at Chelsea with N’Golo Kante and Tiemoue Bakayoko forming a solid partnership in the centre of the park and Cesc Fabregas able to fill in with defensive duties when required. 6/10
CDM: Nemanja Matic
It may be hard to believe now, but there was a time where Matic was regarded a flop. The Serb joined from Slovakian side VSS Kosice but never broke into the first team and was sold to Benfica in 2011 in part-exchange for David Luiz.
At Chelsea, Matic was below Ramires and the highly-rated Josh McEachran, a one-time Real Madrid target who now plies his trade in the Championship for Brentford. At Benfica however, Matic developed greatly and Chelsea bought him back for £21m in 2014 as he went on to establish himself as one of the Premier League’s best holding midfielders.
In the summer he joined Manchester United for £40m, ex-United defender Phil Neville described Chelsea’s decision to let him go as “one of the poorest decisions I have ever seen in the Premier League.” 9/10
RW: Juan Cuadrado
The Colombian winger joined the Blues from Fiorentina in February 2015, but only spent half a season at the club before joining Juventus on loan for the 2015/16 season. He impressed with the Italian giants who resigned him on a three-year loan which was later made permanent.
Known for his rapid pace, mazy dribbling and excellent passing ability, Jose Mourinho had hoped Cuadrado would offer a positive contribution to his side, but it wasn’t to be as the midfield attacking trio of Oscar, Willian and Eden Hazard proved impossible to dislodge. Oscar has since been replaced by Pedro who has impressed since signing from Barcelona.
Cuadrado may have done well with Juventus and perhaps would have been a useful player to have on the bench, but he will not be particularly missed in West London. 5/10
CAM: Kevin De Bruyne
The one that got away. De Bruyne’s talent was never in doubt, but his form was poor at Chelsea due to off-field issues. His girlfriend cheated on him with teammate Thibaut Courtois and this impacted on him heavily. Then-manager Jose Mourinho criticised the midfielder describing him as a “cry baby” and “an upset kid who lost form because he couldn’t manage his emotional life” which ultimately lead to De Bruyne pushing for a move away.
De Bruyne got his wish and ended up at Wolfsburg in 2014 which is where he really made a name for himself. A year later and Manchester City paid £55m to bring him back to the Premier League, then the second-most expensive signing of all time in the English top flight after Angel Di Maria had joined Manchester United for £60m a year previously.
Despite the quality in Chelsea’s midfield, there is no doubt De Bruyne would take them to the next level. The Belgian’s scintillating form for City has led to them dropping just two points this season and red-hot favourites to take Chelsea’s title from them. Perhaps it would be a different story had he remained at Stamford Bridge. 10/10
LW: Mohamed Salah
Chelsea fought off stiff competition from Liverpool to bring Salah to Stamford Bridge in 2014. He failed to make an impact however, and after loan spells at Fiorentina and Roma he joined the latter on a permanent basis in 2016. This summer however, Liverpool finally got their man and he is currently the Premier League’s top scorer with nine goals, one more than six of the Premier League’s biggest names including Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata.
A couple of injuries to the likes of Hazard, Willian or Pedro could damage the Blues and Salah would have been the perfect remedy in this situation. Perhaps even a regular starter, something that would be difficult to argue against based on his current displays. 9/10
ST: Romelu Lukaku
Another player who Chelsea probably regret selling. Having signed in 2011, he failed to dislodge Fernando Torres and Didier Drogba making twelve appearances in his first season including three in Chelsea’s successful League Cup run.
He spent the next couple of years on loan at West Bromwich Albion and Everton respectively. Despite succeeding at both clubs and being tipped for a great future, he became the Toffees record signing when he joined permanently for £30m in 2014. Three years later and Manchester United signed him for £75m.
He has 93 Premier League strikes to his name and was reportedly a target for Antonio Conte in the summer before he joined United. With just one key striker in the form of Diego Costa last season and Morata this campaign, Chelsea have looked thin up front and could struggle in the case of an injury. Michy Batshuayi has an impressive goals-per-minutes played ratio, but Conte seems reluctant to rely on him regularly. Lukaku on the other hand is a proven Premier League goalscorer and his goals would certainly be an asset for his former club. 9/10
Several other players have impressed since leaving the Blues and some could also merit a place in this eleven, or at least on the bench. Filipe Luis was brilliant at Atletico Madrid prior to his move to England in 2014. When he moved back to the Spanish capital a year after leaving he picked up where he left off and has put a disappointing spell in London behind him. Nathaniel Chalobah was a key player in Watford’s brilliant form at the beginning of this season before picking up an injury whilst Christian Atsu helped Newcastle win the Championship last year. Daniel Sturridge was one of the best players in the country during Liverpool’s ill-fated title challenge in 2014. Unfortunately injuries have since halted his progress and he has struggled to perform consistently at the highest level in the past couple of years. Andre Schurrle impressed at Wolfsburg although injuries have hampered his career at Borussia Dortmund.
If this team were to play in the Premier League, you would expect them to finish in the top half at least, most likely as challengers for a Europa League spot. Their defence may let them down at times but a front four of Cuadrado, De Bruyne, Salah and Lukaku would be up there amongst the best in the league. On one hand, the majority of these players were sold for large profits, on the other, many are worth so much more now. Although if Chelsea continue to win titles and other major trophies, perhaps their current transfer policy will be justified.