In the third edition of ‘A generation of players’ I will be analysing a list of Chelsea left backs from the last decade, and look at who we will rely on to fore fill this position in the future.
Before I go on to analyses Chelsea left backs I just want to have a few words on some of the best Left Backs in the world throughout history. The likes of Marcelo, Jordi Alba, and Yuto Nagatomo are some of the best Left Backs we can see today, and the likes of Paolo Maldini, and Roberto Carlos are legends in this positions. So where do our boys stand in the league of Left Backs?
Graeme Le Saux
Le Saux moved to Chelsea in 1987 and he made his debut for the club two years later against Portsmouth, becoming a regular by the 1990-91 season. His first stint at Chelsea ended in controversy and he was sold to Blackburn Rovers in March 1993. But in August 1997, Le Saux became the most expensive defender in English football when he returned to Chelsea in a £5 million deal. Always a regular when available, Le Saux’s second spell with Chelsea was often interrupted by injury or suspension. He remained there for six seasons, and was an important part of the side which won the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998 and the FA Cup in 2000. With over 300 appearances this former England and Chelsea star was up there with the best and is a legend at the club.
Babayaro signed for Chelsea for a transfer fee of £2.25 million, a club record paid for a teenager at the time. During his time at Chelsea, the team won the FA Cup, and Charity Shield in 2000, and reached the FA Cup final in 2002. He faced competition from Graeme Le Saux during his seven-year spell, but managed to play over 132 games for the London side.
Babayaro will always be remembered for his acrobatic celebrations with back flips which were loved by fans. The Nigerian has often been forgotten about due to some of the amazing left backs this club has had however, we must credit this man for he is a blue and guided us to several successes.
Before joining the Blues, Wayne Bridge had an amazing couple of seasons at Southampton, and was selected for the 2001–02 FA Premier League PFA Team of the Year. After five years with the Saints, Bridge moved to Chelsea in July 2003 for a fee of £7 million plus Graeme Le Saux, and was initially a regular starter.
No doubt that his finest moment came in the Champions League quarter-final against Arsenal in 2003–04. Bridge scored the winning goal in the 88th minute to send Chelsea into the semi-finals and end an 18 game winless run against Arsenal. The goal was later voted goal of the season. During his time at Chelsea, Bridge was honoured with the FA Premier League 2004–05, FA Cup 2007, and League Cup: 2006–07. Bridge was also part of the 2006 World Cup Squad and made 36 England appearances in total.
Our current Left Back, and without a doubt our best ever Left Back, Ashley Cole has made over 300 appearances for the Blues.
Ashley Cole was a 2006 summer deadline day signing from Arsenal, to whom we paid £5 million plus William Gallas. Cole is renowned for making timed goal-line clearances and “cutting out danger”.
Furthermore, in the Champions League Final, he put in one of the best displays on the night, including a successful shoot-out penalty.
Cole was voted as Players’ Player of the Year at the end of 2008/09, and because of his unfaltering consistency he is arguably the best Left Back in the world.
At Chelsea Cole has been honoured with Premier League: 2009–10, FA Cup: 2006–07, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2011–12, League Cup: 2006–07, FA Community Shield: 2009, UEFA Champions League: 2011–12
What is more, Cole has also won: PFA Team of the Year: 2002, 2004, 2005, 2011, UEFA Team of the Year: 2004, 2010, Chelsea Goal of the Season: 2009–10 vs Sunderland, Chelsea Players’ Player of the Year: 2008–09, 2010–11, England Player of the Year: 2010
It was announced in January that Cole had signed a one-year extension to his contract, tying him to the Blues until the summer of 2014. This man is a fantastic player who is one of the, if not the, best left back in the world.
The future of Chelsea at Left Back
Ryan Bertrand appears to be the player that is most likely going to take over from Ashley Cole in the future.
Loans had dominated his career prior to his Chelsea debut, however Andre Villas-Boas decided not to loan him out for the 2011/12 season, and he provided reliable backup to Ashley Cole over the course of the campaign, featuring heavily in the domestic cup competitions with displays of energy and pace.
As a gruelling schedule began to take its toll towards the end of the season, Bertrand was chosen to start crucial league games against Wigan Athletic, Fulham, Arsenal, Newcastle and Liverpool.
However, the highlight of his campaign, and arguably his career to date, came when he was selected for the Champions League Final against Bayern Munich on 19 May. Playing in an unfamiliar role further forward, the youngster impressed before being withdrawn midway through the second half due to a calf injury, but ended the biggest night of his life with a Champions League winners’ medal.
Chelsea are scouting Wolfsburg’s Swiss international left back Ricardo Rodriguez. The 20-year-old has started this season brightly and boasts attacking verve to compliment his defensive astuteness, making him the perfect replacement for Cole.
Finally, according to the Daily Mail, Chelsea consider £14m Baines swoop to pair him with England rival Cole.
Let me know who your favourite Chelsea Left Back from the past decade is, and if you feel we need to look another one.