Chelsea’s African Heritage

Chelseas penchant for acquiring African talent is a well-established tradition. With recent rumours linking them to Nigerian sensation Victor Osimhen, the club’s affinity for African players is set to continue. These signings have not only shaped the club’s history but have also played crucial roles in its on-field success.

In this article, we take a closer look at some of Chelsea’s standout African signings, celebrating their exceptional abilities and enduring contributions to Stamford Bridge.

Didier Drogba: Côte d’Ivoire

Probably the most loved African player by Chelsea fans, Didier Drogba first joined the club in 2004 under José Mourinho, who demanded the former Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich sign him as a priority. It ended up being one of Chelsea’s signings of the decade because he went on to win four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Community Shields, and Chelsea’s first ever Champions League title. 

He featured in 381 appearances for Chelsea in two stints for the club, scoring a total of 164 goals and providing 88 assists during his stay in London.

However, it was his ability to step up when Chelsea needed him most that made him a fan favourite scoring 10 goals in 10 finals. He made a habit of scoring at Wembley, doing so on different occasions, resulting in his numerous domestic titles.

To put it in better context, Chelsea has played in eight different domestic finals at Wembley since he left the club at the end of the 2014/2015 season. However, they have only won one of those finals, via an Eden Hazard penalty against Manchester United in 2018.

But one cannot talk about Chelsea and Drogba without mentioning that night in Munich. With Chelsea conceding a late Thomas Müller goal, it looked like another Champions League defeat. Yet, with their only corner of the game, the big man stepped up for Chelsea to score the equalizer. The Ivorian went on to score the deciding penalty in the shootout to write his name into Chelsea history books.

John Obi Mikel: Nigeria

The Nigerian African Cup of Nations winner joined Chelsea having one of the most controversial windows in the sport, Manchester United originally purchased the player from Lyn. However, Chelsea purchased the player during the same transfer window, paying Lyn £4 million and Manchester United £12 million. He was a rock in the midfield position for Chelsea spending over 10 years at the club making 372 appearances during that period. 

During his time at Chelsea he won one Community Shield, two League Cups, four FA Cups, one Europa League, two Premier League titles and one Champions League. Mikel was adored by the Chelsea fans so much that due to his rarity of scoring goals, getting just six goals in his time, every goal was celebrated with a proud smile on all faces around to see.

Michael Essien: Ghana

Ghanaian legend Michael Essien joined Chelsea from Lyon in 2005, and was vital to many of Chelsea trophies during the 2000s. During his time at Stamford Bridge, he made 256 appearances for the Blues scoring 25 goals and providing 20 assists during that period. 

Essien also made it a habit of scoring goals people would never forget, from a volley against Barcelona in the Champions League semi final, to an outrageous outside of the boot shot against Arsenal. Every time he lined up for a shot, fans held their breath, knowing he had it in his locker to score a screamer.

Essien went on loan to Real Madrid in 2013 before finally leaving the club in January 2014, but not without winning one Community Shield, one League Cup, three FA Cups, two Premier League titles and one Champions league.

Victor Moses: Nigeria

Victor Moses time at Chelsea can be divided into two periods: the time he was a member of the Chelsea infamous loan army, and the time he made himself an undisputed starter at the club. Signed from Wigan in 2012, he went on loan to Liverpool, Stoke City and West Ham between 2012 and 2016. 

However, with Antonio Conte coming in as manager at the start of the 2016/17 season, his Chelsea career was revived. Moses was given an important role in both their Premier League and in their FA Cup triumph the following season, playing as a right wing-back in the new formation. 

However, with Conte leaving the club at the end of the 2017/2018 season, it meant Moses had to go on another loan journey across Europe before settling with former boss Antonio Conte in Internazionale.

During his time at Chelsea he made a 128 appearances for the club scoring 18 goals and providing 12 assists. He also won the FA Cup, two Europa League and one Premier League title at Chelsea.

Salomon Kalou: Côte d’Ivoire

Although not as popular as some of the other names on this list, Salomon was still a solid player that Chelsea. Signed from Feyenoord in 2006 for €4 million, it was not known how big of an impact he would have at the club. Nevertheless he ended up being a key player for Chelsea. Making 254 appearances for the club, he ended up scoring 60 goals and providing 47 assists before making a move to Lille on a free transfer.

Before leaving the England capital for France, he was able to bag himself one Community shield, one League Cup, four FA Cups, one Premier League, and one Champions League.

Édouard Mendy: Senegal

Probably the most recent name on this list, Mendy was signed from Stade Rennais in 2020 as a solution to be Chelsea’s replacement for Thibaut Courtois, as Kepa was highly inconsistent. Mendy made an instant impact at Chelsea keeping several clean sheets in his debut season. He also played a key role in Chelsea’s Champions League win in 2021, conceding only three goals in the entire competition.

In his entire time at Chelsea, he kept 49 clean sheets in 105 appearances for the London side. He was also awarded the Goalkeeper of the Year in 2021 after his outstanding debut season. He left Chelsea in 2023 for Saudi Arabia after winning the Champions League, Super Cup and the Club World Cup.

Celestine Babayaro: Nigeria

Babayaro might not be popular with Chelsea fans now, but he was a popular and household name in Chelsea homes. He joined Chelsea from RSC Anderlecht in 1997 and made himself an important player in the left-back position for that Chelsea team. He made himself an important member of the Chelsea squad after joining and staying at the club till joining Newcastle in 2005.

He made a 197 appearances for the Blues, providing 11 assists and scoring eight goals which was quite impressive back then for a left-back. He did not leave London empty-handed though, as he won one Community Shield, one League Cup, one FA Cup, one Super Cup, one UEFA Cup Winners Cup, and one Premier League title.

Honorable Mentions 

Several other legends and popular figures of African football have worn the royal blue of Chelsea. Some of those names include Claude Makélélé, Kalidou Koulibaly, Hakim Ziyech, Samuel Eto’o, George Weah, Mohammed Salah, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Derek Smethurst (the first African to play for Chelsea), Marcel Desailly, Geremi, Bertrand Traoré, and Demba Ba.

The names mentioned on this list highlight Chelsea’s impressive record of bringing in talent from the African continent, and enjoying major success with these players.

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