With Euro 2020 moving into the knockout round this weekend, we take a look back at past Chelsea representation in Europe's showpiece national football tournament...
Remarkably, the Blues were not represented at a European Championship tournament until 1996, which is 36 years after the first edition was held – although it should be noted that the competition wasn’t expanded to 16 teams until that famous tournament in England a quarter of a century ago.
Prior to this year’s pan-European event, we’d had 44 participants over the years and detailed below is a little more about their involvement in the European showpiece...
The first European Championship to see any Chelsea involvement was in 1996, when football ‘came home’. Former Blues midfielder Terry Venables didn’t go back to his old club when naming his England squad, however, which meant our home nations representation was limited to a pair of Scotland players: Craig Burley and John Spencer.
That duo, along with Romania’s Dan Petrescu and Russia keeper Dmitri Kharine, were our only players at the tournament – and all four of them exited at the group stage. Still, at least Blues boss Ruud Gullit made a bigger mark at Euro 96, when he coined the phrase ‘sexy football’ during his punditry duties!
Belgium and the Netherlands were on hosting duty for the first tournament of the new Millennium, and this time we had one player representing the hosts, as Ed de Goey – fresh from setting then Chelsea club records for most appearances and clean sheets in a season – was back-up goalkeeper for the Oranje, who reached the semi-finals.
Petrescu was in action again for Romania, helping his country past an England squad for whom Wise did receive the nod this time, albeit in an ignominious group-stage exit. That fate also befell Tore Andre Flo (Norway) and Jes Hogh (Denmark), but there was glory for three Blues as Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps and Frank Leboeuf got their hands on the trophy following a dramatic win over Italy in the final.
Ten Chelsea players were in action in Portugal four years later and, remarkably, all but one of them made it out of the group stage – Alexey Smertin of Russia was the exception. Then it all went horribly wrong. Wayne Bridge, Joe Cole, Frank Lampard and John Terry (England), Marcel Desailly, William Gallas and Claude Makelele (France) and Jesper Gronkjaer (Denmark) all lost out in the quarter-finals.
The last man standing was Bolo Zenden, who played not a minute of either of the Netherlands’ knockout matches as they were eliminated at the semi-final stage.
England were surprisingly absent from the tournament in Austria and Switzerland, but there was still plenty of Blues in action. Our French contingent of Nicolas Anelka, Claude Makelele and Florent Malouda missed out from the traditional ‘Group of Death’, while Petr Cech and the Czech Republic also failed to progress to the quarter-finals.
The last eight proved to be the end for Khalid Boulahrouz (Netherlands) and the Portuguese trio of Jose Bosingwa, Ricardo Carvalho and Paulo Ferreira, but our involvement went all the way to the final thanks to Michael Ballack. Alas, the German midfielder’s impressive (or should that be unimpressive?) collection of runners-up medals was added to once again…
Another Euros, another shared hosting role – this time it was the turn of Poland and Ukraine, just a few weeks after the Blues had been crowned champions of Europe for the first time. Surprisingly, only seven of our triumphant squad were present at the tournament. Ashley Cole and John Terry suffered quarter-final penalty heartache with England, and the same stage accounted for Cech and Malouda.
Raul Meireles went one better, as he helped Portugal reach the semi-finals, but they succumbed to a Spain side containing Juan Mata and Fernando Torres. Both scored in Spain’s dismantling of Italy in the final, with Torres’ goal clinching him the Golden Boot.
The tally of Blues was down even further at France 2016, as only six men made it. This time, there was to be no winner from the Chelsea ranks – indeed, nobody made it beyond the quarter-finals of this new 24-team format.
Gary Cahill will prefer to forget England’s surprising last-16 defeat to Iceland, along with the rest of the nation, while Cesar Azpilicueta, Cesc Fabregas and Pedro were among the Spanish squad to relinquish their grip on the trophy when they lost at that stage to an Italy side managed by Chelsea-bound Antonio Conte.
Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard made it one step further, but then came a cropper as part of the Welsh fairytale story, as Hal Robson-Kanu scored the goal of his life to send them packing.
Let’s hope it’s a happier ending for the Blues taking part in this year’s tournament…