Ballon d’Or history: Chelsea’s golden boys

Although no Chelsea player has ever had their hands on the Ballon d’Or at the time they were playing for the club, we have had three former winners on our books. You can read all about them and their achievements ahead of the ceremony for this year’s award on Monday night.

For a side with two Champions Leagues to our name, it might seem something of an anomaly that one of our players has never been crowned the best player in Europe across the calendar year. Although many a Blues manager would point to the fact that football is a team game…

The closest we have come to having the best footballer on the planet was in 2005, when Frank Lampard finished second, behind the inimitable Ronaldinho, who was at his absolute peak. Since then, there’s been a fourth-place finish from Didier Drogba in 2007, but little else to shout about.

However, three players have had previous when it came to winning the Ballon d’Or prior to arriving at Stamford Bridge. Each of them secured the trophy while playing for AC Milan. Intrigued? Read on to find out more about them and what was happening at Chelsea in the year of their triumph.

Ruud Gullit

1987
Chelsea had just finished 14th in the English top flight and had begun a campaign that started with John Hollins at the helm and ended with Bobby Campbell in charge and the Blues heading for the Second Division.

The contrast with Gullit could not have been starker, as the Dutchman had enjoyed a stellar 1986/87 campaign with PSV Eindhoven, netting 28 goals to guide them to the Eredivisie title and, more importantly, securing him a move to an AC Milan that was about to dominate European football.

The Rossoneri paid a world-record transfer fee to sign him and he lived up to the billing, starting with his award-winning turn in early winter. A few months later he captained the Netherlands to Euros glory, capping a wonderful year or so.

He was the clear winner of the Ballon d’Or ahead of Paulo Futre, who had a short-lived stint in the Premier League with West Ham at the same time as Gullit was Chelsea’s player-manager. Current Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker finished fifth, while future Blue Gianluca Vialli was eighth.

George Weah

1995
This was the first time players who were born or represented countries outside Europe were eligible for the Ballon d’Or, with the focus switching to those who played for European club sides.

That proved to be good news for George Weah, who received almost twice as many votes as Jurgen Klinsmann to take home the award. This was five years before he had a short loan spell at the Bridge, which started with a famous winner off the bench against Spurs.

The Liberian had finished as the Champions League’s top scorer in 1994/95 while playing for Paris Saint-Germain, who reached the semi-finals of the competition, and an eye-catching goal against Bayern Munich in the group stage had earned him plenty of admirers.

Moving to Milan that summer further elevated his profile – although he was still a year or so off his stratospheric peak, which came with an outrageous solo goal against Verona – and he established himself as the leading goal-getter in Fabio Capello’s side that would go on to win the Scudetto.

Chelsea, meanwhile, were consistently inconsistent; an 11th-place finish under Glenn Hoddle in 1994/95 was on its way to being replicated under the soon-to-be-named England manager. We did have Gullit in our ranks by this point, mind.

There were also several future Blues in the voting for that year’s Ballon d’Or, as Weah beat the likes of Gianfranco Zola (sixth), Marcel Desailly (11th) and Vialli (19th) to the award. Ian Wright also got a vote, to finish joint-32nd alongside Alan Shearer and Luis Figo.

Andriy Shevchenko

2004
Things were very different at Stamford Bridge as we approached the mid-Noughties, with the Blues now genuine title contenders at the start of the Roman Abramovich era. A second-place finish in 2003/04 was soon to be followed by our maiden Premier League title.

We were also in a position to sign former Ballon d’Or winners before their 30th birthday, rather than well after, as had been the case with Gullit and Weah. Less than two years after winning the trophy with AC Milan, Shevchenko was on his way to west London.

Unfortunately, Chelsea fans never saw the best of the Ukrainian striker during his time as a Blue, in which he never lacked for effort, but something simply did not click.

That could not have been further from his AC Milan days when he was seen as not just one of the leading forwards on the planet, but among the very best footballers. He had fired the Rossoneri to Champions League glory in 2003 and then followed it up the next year by finishing as the leading scorer in Serie A, as they reclaimed the league title. His 24 goals in the Italian top flight had come from just 32 games.

Sheva was a rather straightforward choice, as it also happened to be a year when the Champions League-winning side was very much about the collective rather than any individual – it was Jose Mourinho’s Porto side, who had Deco (second) and Ricardo Carvalho (ninth) in the top 10.

The latter was already at Chelsea, where he was the highest-finishing Blue that year, ahead of Lampard and Drogba (joint-17th). Deco, of course, would join us a few years later, as would Samuel Eto’o (15th).
 

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