Fernando Torres has joined Japanese side Sagan Tosu and our Champions League-winning striker joins this group of former Blues to have embarked upon a journey to the Far East.
Torres was a club-record signing for Chelsea when he joined us from Liverpool in 2011 and his goal a year later in the Champions League semi-final against Barcelona helped earn him cult hero status at Stamford Bridge. He also netted in the 2013 Europa League final against Benfica and scored 126 goals in 314 matches in his eight-year spell in English football.
Now, after ending his stint with Atletico Madrid by winning his first trophy with his boyhood club, the 34-year-old is taking a familiar path to the Far East which has also been trodden by a few others who have been at Chelsea over the years.
The Dutchman enjoyed two stints as Chelsea’s interim manager, the first of which ended with FA Cup glory in 2009 after a memorable 2-1 victory over Everton in the final. While Blues fans adored big Guus for his contribution, it’s fair to say that was nothing compared to what South Korean supporters thought of him after he led them to the semi-finals of the World Cup on home soil in 2002. They had played in five previous editions of the competition without winning a game; since then they’ve played at four World Cups, recording only three victories, which is as many as in the whole 2002 campaign. It’s not hard to see why he is viewed as a deity in South Korea.
A trophy winner both on and off the pitch as a Blue, not to mention two-time Chelsea Player of the Year, Hollins is a legend at Stamford Bridge – but less well known is his time as the manager of a Chinese club, which was linked to Stockport County. The second division side in Shenyang became known as Stockport Tiger Star after their affiliation with the north-west club but, alas, it proved to be a rather short-lived experiment and Hollins was soon back in the UK when, perhaps even more bizarrely, he became assistant manager to Nicolas Anelka’s brother Claude at Raith Rovers, who had no previous coaching experience.
Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba
That leads us on nicely to another ex-Blue who had a spell coaching in China. Just a few months after joining Shanghai Shenua in the January 2012 transfer window, Anelka was elevated to the role of player-coach at the age of only 33. He was joined that summer by his old Chelsea strike partner Didier Drogba, fresh from winning the Champions League with the Blues, and though the Ivorian was more prolific than his former team-mate, both men left Shanghai in January 2013. Brazilian duo Oscar, John Mikel Obi and Ramires, who both played alongside the pair at Chelsea, are currently still plying their trade in China.
Thome’s time at Stamford Bridge was far too brief, with the centre-back debuting for the club in English football’s first 'Foreign XI' but then departing less than a year later, having starred in a Champions League win over Barcelona. He concluded his career in Japan with Vissel Kobe, where the supporters took 'The Wall' to their hearts and he was given a rousing, tear-jerker of a send-off when he ended his two-year spell with the club.
The only current Chelsea player on our list is one of the stars of our Women’s team, Ji So-Yun. The South Korean has been capped more than 100 times by her country and was one of the top players in the Japanese league, before making the move to England. Since then she has scored the winner in the first Women’s FA Cup final played at Wembley Stadium, been named PFA Women’s Player of the Year and helped Chelsea to achieve the league and cup Double on two occasions. In short, she’s a superstar!