In Focus: Chelsea's Premier League legends from Zola to Terry
There have been few more successful teams in the Premier League era than Chelsea — and they have five titles to prove it.
But who are the biggest icons in the Blues’ modern history? There are certainly plenty of contenders in a glittering era at Stamford Bridge.
Here are our five greatest heroes from the King's Road.
Long before Roman Abramovich's takeover brought untold riches to West London, Chelsea had begun to blaze a trail by bringing foreign talent to the English top flight.
Signed by Ruud Gullit for £4.5million in 1996, Gianfranco Zola arrived in London aged 30 having dazzled at Parma in his homeland.
Described as a "clever little so-and-so" by Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, Zola hit double figures in five of his seven seasons with the Blues, despite playing as a No10 or withdrawn forward.
A tricky, technically gifted attacker with a penchant for special goals, Abramovich tried to tempt Zola to remain for another year — but he had given Cagliari his word that he would see out a remarkable career with the Sardinians.
Petr Cech was a relative unknown when he joined the Blues from Rennes in 2004 — but that did not stay the case for long as he collected 13 major honours in West London.
By the time he left Stamford Bridge 11 years later, Cech had racked up a record number of Premier League clean sheets and won the Golden Glove three times.
He also required the fewest appearances (180) to reach 100 clean sheets, registered more shutouts (24) in a single season than anyone else and marshalled a defence that conceded just 15 times under Jose Mourinho in 2004-05.
Granted a move to London rivals Arsenal in 2015 — where he bagged another Golden Glove — Cech returned to Chelsea in 2019 for a three-year spell as technical advisor and briefly registered as an emergency keeper during the coronavirus pandemic.
Scorer of the most memorable goal in Chelsea history, Didier Drogba's place in the club's pantheon of greats was not always guaranteed.
The Ivorian only managed 20 Premier League strikes once in his first five seasons at Stamford Bridge and was regularly accused of play-acting.
But it all clicked in 2009-10 when he bagged an incredible 29 goals and 37 in all competitions to inspire the West Londoners to a league and FA Cup double — two of 12 major honours he won with the club.
His late header in the 2012 Champions League final forced extra-time and penalties before he converted the winner from the spot in his final outing before heading to China.
Drogba returned for an encore in 2014-15, scooping another Premier League winners' medal.
The 2004 appointment of Mourinho changed the course of Chelsea's history. But it also had a monumental impact on the career of Frank Lampard who, up to that point, had been a serviceable midfielder.
By the time he left Stamford Bridge in 2014, the Blues’ No8 was the club's all-time leading goalscorer — from central midfield, no less — winning three league titles, the Champions League, Europa League, four FA Cups and two League Cups.
Vice-captain to John Terry, the ex-skipper believes his old team-mate is as good as they come for Chelsea.
He said: "You talk about the Zolas and the best players to have played at the club, but for me, he [Lampard] is the best.
"You can only single out two players to play consistently well and to score goals over the course of the last 10-15 years and that is him and Ryan Giggs."
The club's most successful captain, Terry came through the Blues' academy to lift five Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, the Champions League and Europa League.
Another who benefited greatly from Mourinho's tutelage, JT was the epitome of a leader and a warrior at Stamford Bridge — regularly putting side before self in the pursuit of excellence.
Long-time team-mate for club and country Lampard said: "In my opinion [Terry was] the best centre-half in world football for a long time.
"I think you could've taken John for granted, having someone that good behind you, and he'd often play on the left side directly behind me."
Terry is, quite simply, Mr Chelsea.