The first foreign international to sign for Chelsea was not paid for by television money or a billionaire owner. He was Nils Middelboe a Danish amateur who played just 46 games over five seasons either side of the First World War.
Middelboe had won silver medals for Denmark in the Olympic Games of 1908 and 1912 and indeed had scored the first ever Olympic football goal. He retained his amateur status for the whole of his stay at Chelsea and worked in a nearby bank despite the fact that he could have trebled his salary by becoming a professional footballer.
MIddelboe was an extremely talented defender whose reading of the game and his ability to carry the ball out of defence where years ahead of his time. Undoubtedly ‘The Great Dane’, as he was known, would have played more games for Chelsea but for his work commitments. Indeed, just 12 of his Chelsea appearances came in games outside London as he was often unable to travel north with the rest of the team on Friday afternoons.
Even after Middelboe’s retirement and his return to Denmark in 1936, he remained a great friend of the club up until the time of his death in September 1976.