Abramovichs first 11 signings as Chelsea owner – and how £120m spree turned out

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Newcastle’s new Saudi owners will no doubt be paying close attention when early Premier League pacesetters Chelsea visit this weekend.

Not only will they get a chance to gaze upon Thomas Tuchel’s table toppers up close, but they will also have one eye on how the club is run.

Having seen Russian billionaire businessman Roman Abramovich bankroll Chelsea to the summit of European football since taking charge in 2003, Newcastle’s new owners need look no further for inspiration.

After taking over the Magpies a few weeks back, the Saudi-led consortium made no secret of hiding their ambitions to compete for major trophies and establish Newcastle United as a global brand.

With a spending splurge and squad overhaul predicted at the north east club in January, here’s what happened to the 11 players Chelsea signed in the first year of Roman’s reign…

Glen Johnson

The first signing of the Abramovich era, a teenage Johnson made an impressive 33 appearances in his first season at Stamford Bridge having been snapped up from recently-relegated London rivals West Ham for £6million.

An England debut followed before Jose Mourinho’s arrival in 2004 signalled the beginning of the end for the right-back who went on to enjoy a solid Premier League career with Portsmouth, Liverpool and Stoke City.


The versatile Cameroonian arrived from Real Madrid for £7m and was another to enjoy an excellent first campaign before The Special One arrived.

Despite limited gametime, Geremi was eligible for a winners’ medal in Chelsea’s title winning seasons of 2004-05 and 2005-06 before being offloaded to Saturday’s opponents Newcastle.

Damien Duff

Which of Chelsea's first 11 signings under Roman Abramovich was the best? Let us know what you think in the comments section

A £17m arrival from Blackburn Rovers, Damien Duff only lasted three years at Chelsea before he too departed for the Magpies and then on to Fulham.

Despite the arrival of a certain Arjen Robben, Duff was a Chelsea regular and will always be remembered for his strike in the Blues’ epic 4-2 Champions League triumph over Barcelona, as well as scoring the semi-final winner against Manchester United on the way to 2005 League Cup glory.

Wayne Bridge

Chelsea’s new left-back scooped the club’s Goal of the Season award after netting the dramatic Champions League semi-final winner to knock out London rivals Arsenal in his first season, following his £7m move from Southampton.

Competition from the easy-to-forget Spaniard Asier Del Horno and later, the unforgettable Ashley Cole saw Bridge settle for second fiddle before playing out a steady Premier League career with Fulham, Manchester City, West Ham and Sunderland.

Juan Sebastian Veron

Chelsea signed the Manchester United flop for £15m but failed to get the best out of the Argentine as he continued to struggle to adapt to the demands of Premier League football.

Veron made a mere 14 appearances in his one injury-hit season before enjoying a far more successful post-Chelsea career, impressing at Inter Milan and in his homeland where he played into his forties.

Joe Cole

Undoubtedly one of the more successful signings from Abramovich’s early spending spree, Cole proved the perfect replacement for club legend Gianfranco Zola after joining from West Ham for £6.6m, alongside Johnson.

Cole played the best football of his career with the Blues, helping them to three Premier League titles, two FA Cups and one League Cup before spells with Liverpool, Lille, West Ham, Aston Villa, Coventry and American outfit Tampa Bay Rowdies.

Adrian Mutu

Chelsea had high hopes for the young Romanian striker when he arrived from Parma for a hefty £15.8m back in the day, but his spell in England couldn’t have gone much worse.

Clashes with new coach Mourinho were followed by Mutu being handed a seven-month ban from football after testing positive for cocaine, before he was swiftly shipped back to Italy and left to deal with the messy Chelsea fallout for many years to come.

Alexei Smertin

Following his £3.5m signing from Bordeaux, Smertin was immediately loaned out to Portsmouth before returning to find Mourinho had replaced Ranieri at the Bridge.

Chelsea’s new Portuguese manager had his own ideas and soon deemed Smertin surplus to requirements, sending him out on loan to Charlton before a permanent moved to Dynamo Moscow preceded one season at Fulham and then retirement in 2008.

Hernan Crespo

Big things were expected of the man who once broke the world transfer record after Chelsea splashed out £16.8m on Inter Milan marksman Crespo.

The Argentine forward failed to hit the heights in the Premier League and found himself in the shadow of a certain Didier Drogba as successful loan spells at both Milan clubs led to a permanent move back to Italy with Inter in 2008.

Claude Makelele

One of the few men in football to boast a position named after him, Makelele established himself as a Chelsea legend after arriving from Real Madrid for £16.6m and has since returned to take up a coaching role with the Blues.

As a player, the French warrior made 217 appearances for the Chelsea on his way to winning two league titles, an FA Cup and two League Cups, before seeing out the rest of his playing days for Paris Saint-Germain after the 2008 Champions League final defeat.

Scott Parker

The young midfielder clinched the PFA Young Player of the Year crown after joining the Blues midway through the 2003-04 season from Charlton for £10m.

Limited opportunities in a star-studded Chelsea midfield and a broken metatarsal brought an end to his short-lived stint at Stamford Bridge before successful Premier League spells at Newcastle, West Ham, Tottenham Hotspur and Fulham led to a move into management.

  • Premier League
  • Jose Mourinho
  • Newcastle United FC
  • Chelsea FC

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