July 2003 was a landmark month in English football. It marked the arrival of the first foreign billionaire in the Premier League, when Roman Abramovich took over ownership of Chelsea. The Russian oligarch has pumped billions into the club since then, winning every trophy imaginable over the last 20 years. During that time, The Blues have bought some legendary names such as Didier Drogba, Eden Hazard and Diego Costa. Yet, they have also purchased some extremely expensive flops. So who are the worst Chelsea signings in the Roman Abramovich era?
5 worst Chelsea signings under Roman Abramovich
After Russia’s strong showing at Euro 2008, Abramovich was keen to bring in one of their stars to lead his team. Enter Yury Zhirkov – a quick and versatile winger that could play theoretically anywhere on the left flank.
Arriving for a hefty fee of £19m from CSKA Moscow in 2009, everything looked set for Zhirkov to enjoy his rise to superstardom. What Chelsea didn’t know though was just how injury-prone the Russian was. He was even injured when he joined the club and it took two months to make his debut for the side in a League Cup clash against QPR in September 2009.
What followed was month after month on the sidelines with recurring knee issues. These injuries stopped Zhirkov from gaining any consistency in his form and earning just 27 appearances during his 3-year spell in the club. Anzhi Makhachkala eventually ended his misery taking him back to Russia at the start of the 2011/12 season. There might have been a decent player in there but, thanks to injuries, we’ll never know and therefore he takes his place on our list of the worst Chelsea signings.
Scott Parker was a standout star for Charlton Athletic and the London-born lad must’ve seen it as a dream come true as he became one of Abramovich’s first big domestic signings in 2004. It turned out to be a nightmare instead for Parker who was placed on the periphery of the squad after moving across the Thames.
He barely featured in the starting lineup only making cameo appearances in cup competitions for The Blues. Injuries further hampered Parker’s chances at Stamford Bridge and left London just one year later moving to Newcastle in the hope of more regular football.
At Liverpool, Fernando Torres was one of the deadliest strikers in English football. His record £50m move to Chelsea in January 2011 showed how desperate The Blues were to sign the Spanish striker. Oh, how this move backfired.
Torres’ form during his time in London was nothing like what it was on Merseyside with the Spaniard looking like a shadow of his former self. Embarrassing misses, attitude issues, and no real consistency were all common themes during Torres’ 4-year spell with Chelsea. Goal droughts were far more common than they should’ve been with at least 2 streaks where Torres failed to score in over 10 games.
In the end, Torres only scored 20 Premier League goals for Chelsea in 3 ½ seasons – that’s 4 less than what he managed in his debut season alone for Liverpool. That says it all for one of the worst Chelsea signings in recent history.
The initial spending spree by Roman Abramovich brought plenty of colourful characters to the Premier League – perhaps none more so than Adrian Mutu. The Romanian striker arrived for £17m in 2003 after impressive performances in Serie A in Parma. His form in the Premier League wasn’t too bad either 10 goals in 36 games across all competitions.
However, off the pitch, the striker was a mess going off the rails at dangerous speeds. Not only did he get banned for 7 months for failing a drug test for cocaine but then got into a nasty court battle with Chelsea over a breach of contract. Both sides parted ways shortly after this scandal. Mutu eventually moved back to Italy with Juventus and Fiorentina to never return to English football ever again.
Many big clubs always scout the world for the next big talent and agents can come bringing many promises of superstar players. The scandal surrounding Gael Kakuta though was not worth the drama. Kakuta was approached by Chelsea several times to join the club in 2007 whilst part of the French side RC Lens’ youth system.
Signing for The Blues later that year, Kakuta and his agent were found to be in breach of contract and banned for 4 months as well as earning the club a 1-year transfer ban. When he was eligible to play, Kakuta was all style and no substance preferring to try flashy skills rather than working the ball forward. This lack of output hurt his chances significantly and fell by the wayside before leaving Stamford Bridge for Sevilla in 2015 on a free transfer. Easily one of the worst and most disappointing signings Chelsea have made under Abramovich.
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