Ace Football presents a detailed list of the best-ever African footballers to have played for the Blues.
English top-flight has been home to several of the greatest African players of all time. As one of the top teams in the league, Chelsea have always made sure to get their own share of African talent.
As the likes of Edouard Mendy and Hakim Ziyech continue to impress in the Blues’ jersey, let’s take a look at the club’s long-running association with African players. Here are five of the greatest African players who have established their place in Chelsea’s history with their significant impact.
5- Celestine Babayaro 🇳🇬
One of the most promising young left-backs of his era, Babayaro joined Chelsea as a teenager in 1997. His transfer fee of £2.25 million made him the most expensive teenager in the club’s history to that point.
The Nigerian starlet found a slow start at Chelsea due to his several injury setbacks. However, he gradually found his feet at Stamford Bridge and spent seven years at the club.
Most Chelsea fans know Babayaro for his special acrobatic celebrations after scoring. Having registered 20 goals in his 359 appearances for the Blues, the Nigerian made sure he performed the celebration enough times for Chelsea fans to remember it. The Super Eagles star won a Premier League title, a Carabao Cup, a UEFA Super Cup, and a Community Shield before leaving for Newcastle in 2005.
4- Salomon Kalou 🇨🇮
Kalou was one of Jose Mourinho’s favourite players during his time at Chelsea. The Ivorian arrived at Stamford Bridge from Feinord in 2006 and soon established a reputation through his game-deciding goals.
Despite playing originally as a winger, Kalou’s versatility allowed him to star in several positions in midfield. He was a key player in Chelsea’s Champions League-winning side in 2012, starting against Bayern Munich in the final.
In his 254 appearances for Chelsea, Kalou scored 60 goals and provided 44 assists. In addition to his Champions League triumph, Kalou won a Premier League title, four FA Cups, and a Carabao Cup at Chelsea. The Ivorian star eventually left the club on a free move to Lille in 2012.
3- John Obi Mikel 🇳🇬
Mikel’s Chelsea career shows you can become a fan favourite despite your unglamorous playing’s style as a defensive midfielder. It was not, however, only a matter of luck for the Nigerian. He earned his status in Chelsea’s history with his unforgettable performances in midfield.
Just like Kalou, Mikel arrived at Chelsea in 2006 and immediately established himself as a regular starter under Mourinho. In the following eight years, the versatile midfielder made 370 appearances for the Blues.
He was given the challenging task of following in the footsteps of Claude Makelele, and he pulled it off brilliantly. His performance was integral to Chelsea’s 2012 Champions League triumph. Before leaving the club in 2017, Mikel also won two Premier League titles, a Europa League trophy, Four FA Cups, and two Carabao Cups.
2- Essien 🇬🇭
Another defensive midfielder, Michael Essien, is the most expensive African player in Chelsea’s history. He moved from Lyon in 2005 on a £24.4 million deal. There were initial doubts around the club’s gamble on his abilities. But it did not take him too long to prove his doubters wrong.
Essien’s first few months were so impressive that he limited Makelele’s game time, even before Obi Mikel’s arrival. Remembered for his top-class strikes from long range, Essien remained a highly reliable midfielder in Chelsea’s squad for seven years.
Essien won Chelsea’s Player of the Year award in 2007 and earned three Ballon d’Or nominations at the club. After lifting the Champions League trophy in 2012, Essien moved to Real Madrid on a loan deal. He returned to the club a year later, but a knee injury prevented him from making the same impact.
Having won a Champions League, two Premier League titles, two FA Cups, and a Carabao Cup, Essien left the club in 2014.
1- Didier Drogba 🇨🇮
We have mentioned several great players above, but none of them has made the same impact as Drogba at Chelsea. Arguably the club’s best-ever striker, the Ivorian wrote history with his brilliant performances during his two stints at the club.
Drogba joined Chelsea from Marseille in 2004. After delivering one of the best performances in the Champions League history in the 2012 final against Bayern, Drogba left the club to join Chinese Super League side Shenhua. He then returned to Chelsea in 2014 and spent another year at Stamford Bridge.
Drogba’s love story with Chelsea led to four Premier League trophies, a Champions League title, four FA Cups and three League Cups. He won two Premier League Golden Boots at the club and became the first African player to score 100 goals in the English top-flight. Drogba made the shortlist for the Ballon d’Or eight times during his career.
FIFA paid tribute to the Ivorian legend’s great contribution to football by giving him an honorary UEFA President’s Award in 2020.