A fourth Player of the Year trophy for Eden Hazard has put the Belgian out on his own as the most successful player in the 52-year history of the award, but he’s far from the only man to win the prize more than once.
Since Peter Bonetti became the first Blue to be crowned Chelsea’s best player of the season back in 1967, 11 men have lifted the trophy on numerous occasions.
Until last night, Hazard and our all-time leading goalscorer, Frank Lampard, were the only POTY hat-trick heroes, but now our No.10 – who converted the winning penalty in our Europa League semi-final shoot-out win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday – has become a four-time winner of the award.
In the nascent Player of the Year era, it certainly wasn’t uncommon to see the same name on the trophy more than once – although perhaps not the names one might have expected to see honoured by the supporters.
In the Sixties and Seventies, when the likes of Peter Osgood, Peter Bonetti and Alan Hudson were lauded by the fans, the contribution of John Hollins and David Webb caught the eye. The former won back-to-back awards in the years when we won the FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup, in 1970 and ’71 respectively, while Webby, whose goal settled our FA Cup final replay win over Leeds United, took home the prize in 1969 and 1972.
Perhaps Charlie Cooke is a less surprising two-time POTY, although the seven-year gap between his two successes is the longest of anyone written about here and included a spell away from the club with Crystal Palace. After winning the award in 1968, the man known as the Bonnie Prince, a devious dribbler with the ability to make even the best defenders look foolish, had to wait until 1975 to claim the honour again, by which time his status as one of the wise old pros leading an inexperienced group was as much a factor as his prodigious talent with the ball at his feet.
Another Seventies hero won the award in back-to-back seasons, as the late, great Ray Wilkins followed Cooke as our Player of the Year. He was still a teenager when he took home both his first award and the pressure of leading Eddie McCreadie’s side as our youngest club captain, and he was a huge hit with fans and team-mates alike for showing maturity beyond his years and the dazzling array of goals and assists he provided from midfield.
Speaking of dazzling, Pat Nevin’s awards double in the Eighties began with the Scottish winger as a shining light in a new era for the club in the 1983/84 after the darkest period in our history, which had almost ended in relegation to the third tier for the first time. He ran rings around Division Two defences when winning his first award in 1984 and he proved he could cut it against the best English football had to offer in the top flight, taking home the trophy again three years later.
Moving into the Premier League era, our next two-time winner was a man who may not have had the same technical qualities as Wee Pat – although this side of his game was vastly underrated by those outside of Stamford Bridge. Dennis Wise was rewarded for his leadership of our beloved side of the late-Nineties, which brought major silverware back to the club after a near three-decade absence, taking home the award in 1998 and 2000.
One of his team-mates in that era was Gianfranco Zola, our current assistant coach, who secured his first Player of the Year prize in 1999, having almost led us to our first championship in 44 years – but his second POTY was even more impressive. In his final season at the club, at the age of 36, Zola finished as top scorer and helped us back into the Champions League, bowing out of his spiritual home in style.
The Premier League trophy was finally won by west London's finest in 2005, by which time Frank Lampard and John Terry were leading us into the most successful period in the club's history. Our all-time leading scorer was the first three-time winner, securing the trophy in 2004, 2005 and '09 after establishing himself as arguably the best goalscoring midfielder in world football. His second triumph came in a year when he was runner-up to Ronaldinho for both World Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or.
It took JT a little over 40 appearances in a blue shirt to earn the adulation of the supporters as he won his first POTY in 2001 and five years later he won it again after becoming the first man to captain Chelsea to two top-flight championships. He was well on the way to establishing himself as our captain, leader, legend by this point and, but for the array of world-class talent at the Bridge, more individual recognition would surely have followed.
As the Blues prepare to contest the Europa League final, it's fitting that the final name on our list is the man who was named Player of the Year in our two most recent European trophy-winning campaigns. Indeed, Juan Mata is unique for the fact that he won the award in the only full seasons he spent with the club, as his time in west London was cut short midway through his third year at Chelsea when he was sold to Manchester United.