Chelsea’s first XI of the Roman Abramovich era and what happened next
As Jesper Gronkjaer cut inside the right wing and over his left foot, in what has been dubbed the ‘£ 20million clash’ against Liverpool on the final day of the 2002/03 Premier League season , Chelsea’s history has been rewritten forever.
The West London side had not only sealed a Champions League spot amid growing financial woes, but also the heart of a certain Russian billionaire.
Roman Abramovich was given the keys to the gates of Stamford Bridge in 2003 from Ken Bates in a deal worth £ 140million following the historic Blues victory.
Chelsea fans have since seen their club evolve and establish themselves as one of the best teams in Europe.
From signing Didier Drogba to Alvaro Morata, Blues fans have been on a roller coaster of emotions watching their squad week after week as players come and go.
Here are Chelsea’s top 11 under the Abramovich era as the Blues beat Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield on Matchday 1 of the 2003/04 season.
Goalkeeper – Cudicini
Carlo Cudcini made his first of 26 Premier League appearances for the Blues on Matchday 1 against Liverpool.
The Italian has started the season well, picking up where he left off before winning the title of “ITV 2002/03 Premiership Goalkeeper of the Season”.
However, Cudicini suffered a string of injuries which ultimately led to the arrival of Petr Cech the following season.
The former Blues goalkeeper now works as a loan technical coach at Chelsea, overseeing and overseeing the development of the club’s loan network.
Defense – Johnson (Cole 72 ‘), Terry, Desailly, Bridge
Despite conceding to Liverpool on Matchday 1, the quartet continued to help the Blues concede just 30 goals during the Premier League season, second best behind Arsene Wenger’s “invincibles” in conceded 26.
Glen Johnson ended his career with Stoke City after being relegated to the Championship. He was then released before retiring at the age of 33 in January 2019.
John Terry recently left his post at Aston Villa as assistant head coach to take on a managerial position, while Marcel Desailly now works as a TV football expert for Bein Sports.
Wayne Bridge finally left Chelsea on loan in January 2006 for Fulham before leaving the Blues for good in January 2009 for Manchester City. The former Blue also appears on television as a football expert.
Joe Cole began the proceedings after 72 minutes as he entered the Abramovich era. Although he recorded just eight goals in 49 games that season, he would eventually become a fixture on the Blues side.
Cole stepped down from his role as technical coach at Chelsea Academy in June 2020, although he said he would welcome a return to the club in some capacity.
Midfielder – Gronkjaer, Lampard, Geremi, Veron, Duff (Gallas 76 ‘)
Following Gronkjaer’s magical end to the 2002/03 season for Chelsea, the Norwegian winger was back in the thick of it by providing the assist for the first of the Blues’ two goals on Matchday 1. The former Blue has since worked on Danish television, speaking openly about dealing with depression and its journey to full recovery.
Frank Lampard, who assisted the game-winning goal against Liverpool in Abramovich’s opener, is currently out of management after being sacked by Chelsea after his stint at Derby County, and has appeared on television as expert throughout Euro 2020.
Geremi has been the President of the National Union of Cameroonian Footballers since 2016, providing free advice and support to Cameroonian footballers across the world. Juan Sebastien Veron is currently the president of Argentina’s Estudiantes de La Plata team, having initially joined them in 2013 as a player before moving from the pitch to the office.
Once Damien Duff retired he embarked on training at youth level before landing his first senior role as the reserve team coach at Celtic. The Irishman was then promoted to first-team manager following the appointment of Neil Lennon as Celtic’s interim manager in 2019.
In April 2020, Duff was announced as Deputy Director of the Republic of Ireland before stepping down in January 2021.
William Gallas made a cameo appearance in Abramovich’s opening Premier League game. The Frenchman, who played a full 90 minutes in 11 successive league appearances, made 28 other league appearances that season. He retired at the end of the 2013/14 season, having made 14 appearances for Perth Glory.
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Forward – Gudjohnsen (Hasslebaink 47 ‘)
Eidur Gudjohnsen played 40 more times for the Blues that season and played a key role at Chelsea to reach the Champions League semi-final.
The Icelandic talisman has scored seven goals and assists in eight Champions League appearances this season, four of which came in the semi-finals and quarter-finals respectively against Monaco and Arsenal. He is currently deputy director of the Icelandic men’s national team.
Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink came on to score what would be the winning goal to seal Abramovich’s first three points in the Premier League.
The Dutchman is currently manager of League One squad Burton Albion and has impressively led the Brewers away from relegation losing just four of their last 19 games.
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