Chelsea’s Classic XI

Every club has its heroes. But equally, there are players who you might have forgotten about. These are the players that we love at Forgot About Him, and this feature is dedicated to them. Chelsea, you’re next.

Although now very much a fixture in the Premier League title race, Chelsea’s early existence in the newly-branded top-flight was mostly spent wallowing around mid-table. It wasn’t until the 1996/97 season that the Blues began to establish themselves as a contender for a European-spot, as they finished 6th under the guidance of Ruud Gullit. However, in the summer of 2003, Russian multi-billionaire Roman Abramovich bought the club, paid off the majority of the £80million debts it had incurred, and shelled out over £100million on new players. Needless to say, Chelsea won the Premier League two years later in 2005, and twice more in 2006 and 2010. Shying away from the Zolas, Hasselbainks and Desaillys of this world, this is their classic XI.

Pierluigi Casiraghi coached the Italian under-21 side from 2006 to 2010. Photo: Luca Ciriani via Flickr

GK: Frode Grodas

Grodas was 32 when he signed for Chelsea from Norwegian side Lillestrom in 1996. He had spent all of his 14 years as a professional footballer before then in his native country, making 182 appearances as Lillestrom’s first choice goalkeeper and many more as Sogndal’s stopper before. Grodas proved to be able back-up for Dmitri Kharine, making 20 Premier League starts in his first season at Stamford Bridge. The signing of Ed de Goey halted his Chelsea career though, and he failed to make an appearance in the following season, instead being shipped out to Tottenham Hotspur where he acted as a bench-warmer. He went on to play for Schalke and Racing Santander and now acts as a goalkeeping coach for the Norwegian national team.

RB: Albert Ferrer

The right back, who was capped at every level for the Spanish national side, including 36 times at senior level, arrived in London with a glowing reputation. In ten years at his hometown club Barcelona, he won five La Liga titles and a European Cup, among other honours, as well as making over 200 appearances and establishing himself as one of Europe’s most consistent full backs. At 28, Ferrer was still in the peak of his career when Chelsea parted with £2.2million for his services, but, despite being a regular in his first season, Gianluca Vialli took less of a fancy to him and he often found himself outside of the starting eleven. He saw out his contract with Chelsea, which ended in 2003, and retired soon after. He currently works as manager of Dutch club Vitesse Arnhem.

CB: Jakob Kjeldbjerg

Danish defender Kjeldbjerg became only the second Dane to play for Chelsea when he signed from Silkeborg in the summer of 1993. The centre back, who was signed by Glenn Hoddle, stayed at Stamford Bridge for four years but played only 52 times as his appearances were affected massively by niggling injuries. After injuring ligaments in his left knee in 1997, Kjeldbjerg announced his retirement from football. He now hosts a football-themed television programme called Onside back in Scandinavia.

CB: Jes Hogh

Completing our Scandinavian central defensive pairing is Dane Hogh. Hogh played for a host of clubs in his homeland, including two spells at AaB in the late 1980’s and mid-1990’s, before signing for Turkish giants Fenerbahce in 1995. After four successful years in Istanbul, the then-33-year-old decided to end his career at Gianluca Vialli’s Chelsea, who parted with £300,000 in exchange for his services. With Marcel Desailly and Frank Leboeuf in their pomp, Hogh acted as cover for the two, and made just six Premier League starts in two seasons before retiring due to an ankle injury in 2001.

LB: Winston Bogarde

After playing for some of Europe’s most extravagant teams, from Milan to Barcelona to Ajax, Bogarde was expected to continue his brand of no-nonsense defending after signing for Chelsea on a free in 2000. The club were soon aware though that the player was not going to repay the £40,000-a-week four-year-deal that he had apparently signed. “This world is about money, so when you are offered those millions you take them…I may be one of the worst buys in the history of the Premiership but I don’t care,” declared the defender. Despite several attempts to offload the Dutch international, no club was willing to match his hefty pay packet, leaving Claudio Ranieri to demote him to the reserve and youth teams. He eventually left in 2004 when his contract expired, after only two league starts. After spending a year trying to find a new club, Bogarde eventually admitted defeat in November 2005, announcing his retirement from football. His time at the club is summed up by Giles Smith in The Times particularly eloquently.

RM: Mario Stanic

After scoring twice on his debut in the opening match of the 2000/01 season, including this magnificent effort, Stanic’s Chelsea career looked promising. Upon arriving at Stamford Bridge, the £5.6million signing from Parma had built up a reputation across Europe as a more-than-handy attacking midfielder, and went on to make over 80 appearances in four years with the Blues. As if the introduction of Roman Abramovich’s millions in 2003 weren’t enough to limit Stanic’s appearances for Chelsea, a serious knee injury meant he played only five times that season – an injury which eventually forced his retirement.

CM: Samuele Dalla Bona

After being snapped up by Chelsea as a youth player in 1998, Italy under-18 captain Dalla Bona scored 16 goals in his first season for the reserve team, and made his first-team debut a year later in the Champions League against Feyenoord. Initially a bit-part player at Stamford Bridge, the departures of Dennis Wise and Gus Poyet in 2001 saw Dalla Bona given an extended run in the Blues’ first-team – making 32 appearances in the 2001/02 season. In 2002, though, he moved back to his native Italy to sign for AC Milan, but stiff competition in Milan’s midfield meant he made just four appearances for them, spending most of his time on loan elsewhere, before moving to Napoli in 2006, who, aged 30, he is still under contract with.

CM: Slavisa Jokanovic

32-year-old Serb Jokanovic signed for Chelsea in 2000 for £1.7million after a successful seven years playing in Spain. A composed and intelligent defensive midfielder who amassed 58 international caps for Serbia & Montenegro, he made over 50 appearances for the Blues in two seasons, before leaving the club in 2002 and eventually calling an end to his playing career in 2004 after a three-month spell with Spanish side Ciudad Murcia. After four years out of the game, he was announced as Serbian side FK Partizan’s new manager in May 2008, and won the league and cup double in his first season, before successfully defending both titles a year later. He left the club by mutual consent in September 2009.

LM: Gabriele Ambrosetti

In 1999, then-Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli described his new £3.5million signing Ambrosetti as the “Italian answer to Ryan Giggs.” In reality, the Italian winger’s career in England couldn’t have been more different from one of English football’s most decorated players, as he managed to notch up just just over 20 appearances for the Blues in four years, and spent most of his time back in Italy on loan. Widely regarded as one of the club’s biggest flops, Ambrosetti sheepishly returned to his home country on a free transfer in 2003, before hanging up his boots in 2009, aged 36, to pursue a career in real estate consultancy.

ST: Pierluigi Casiraghi

With Gianluca Vialli, Gianfranco Zola and Roberto Di Matteo already flying the Italian flag at Stamford Bridge, the 29-year-old Casiraghi switched Lazio for London in 1998 for a fee of £5.5million. Just six months into his Chelsea career, though, the striker suffered a cruciate knee injury in a collision with then-West Ham ‘keeper Shaka Hislop – an injury which would, after ten unsuccessful operations, cut his career tragically short in 2000. Casiraghi made the transition into management in 2002, as he spent a year in control of Monza’s youth side. After a short spell as manager of Italian Serie C2 side Legnano in 2003, the former striker coached the Italian under-21 side for four years from 2006 to 2010.

ST: Mark Nicholls

A product of Chelsea’s youth system, Nicholls’ breakthrough came in the 1997/98 season, when he made a total of 23 appearances for the Blues. However, following the arrivals of Gianfranco Zola and Tore Andre Flo, the young forward’s chances became increasingly limited, and in 2000 he spent time on loan at Reading, Grimsby and Colchester, before being released at the end of the 2000/01 season. Nicholls was picked up by Aldershot, before he spent a couple of years playing in Scotland. He joined Chesham United in 2002, where a nomadic career in non-league football ensued, as he turned out for six clubs in eight years. Now 33, he plays for Isthmian league Division One South side, Walton Casuals.

One Comment to “Chelsea’s Classic XI”

  1. No place for Wayne Bridge?

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