Roman Appreciation Week: The 10 Best Buys of the Roman Era

Clive Mason

We continue our week of honoring Roman Abramovich by counting down the 10 finest transfers he's funded during his decade as Chelsea owner.

Monday, as you are no doubt aware, represented the 10th anniversary of Roman Abramovich trudging through the Fire Swamp that is London to save us from that prick Prince Humperdinck. The wily Russian has since transformed Chelsea Football Club from a marginally successful, but wildly flawed, outfit into one of the world's biggest footballing brands.

As such, we've tabbed these early days of July as Roman Appreciation Week - affectionately known as RAW.

For RAW, we're going to examine some of the best and worst moments of the Roman era. We're also going to dip into some of the biggest what-ifs. To start, WAGNH is going to get pretty divisive and look at what we believe (or better yet what I believe) are the 10 best transfers of the Roman era.

Let's get into it, shall we?

10. Alex
Fee:
£5.9 million

I thought we paid PSV $1 for his services? Unfounded urban legends aside, the Brazilian sledgehammer turned out to be an excellent piece of business for Chelsea. He spent five seasons at the club and was generally a rock at the back when called upon. Of course, he also provided some of the finest free kicks Stamford Bridge - and other assorted stadia - has ever seen.

9. Michael Ballack
Fee:
Free

Reeling in a player with the varied skill set of a Michael Ballack for free is uncanny. The then-German captain may have not reached the heights that accompanied his time in the Bundesliga, but he was nothing short of a fine addition to the squad and provided some genuinely unforgettable moments during his time in London. I know I'm not the only one that still misses his presence around town.

Tie 8. Juan Manuel Mata
Fee:
£23.9 million
&
Ricardo Carvalho
Fee:
£19.8 million

Tough to separate these two in terms of value. Carvalho was rather expensive looking back on it but, my word, was his worth it. He instantly formed an imperious partnership with John Terry, and the rest they say was history. Carvalho was the ideal blend of agility, awareness, grit, batshit craziness and sly dirtiness. Jose Mourinho knew it and soon so did we.

Mata, meanwhile, has been a revelation in just two seasons at Chelsea. His fee may have turned some heads at the time but considering the amount being spent by other clubs on far lesser talent, the 23-plus million looks like a bargain as we move into the 2013-14 season. And to think, at 25, the Spaniard has yet to reach his peak. What a frightening thought (for opposing sides that is).

7. Thibaut Courtois
Fee:
£7.9 million

Too high? I think not. Courtois is already among the best goalkeepers in world football - and he hasn't even thrown on a Chelsea shirt yet. That, my friends, is immaculate business. Considering we could probably go ahead and sell the Belgian for £20-plus million, and you get an even better sense of just how good a signing this was.

6. Arjen Robben
Fee:
£12 million

When on form, Robben, it could be argued, was one of the most electric players to ever wear Chelsea blue. Maybe the most electrifying, to be honest. Unfortunately, a string of injuries crippled his consistency and Robben bolted for Real Madrid after just three seasons. His time in London, however, continues to bring with it fond memories for most Chelsea supporters. The club cried out for a player of his mercurial style for several seasons in the immediate aftermath of his departure.

5. Claude Makelele
Fee:
£16 million

What needs to be said about Makelele? Jack's all-time favorite player was the engine of a massively successful Real Madrid side in the early 2000s. Don't buy it? Just ask Zizzou. Makele was undervalued by the Spanish club, however, and moved to Chelsea in 2003 for what looked like a pretty hefty fee at the time. Not really - it proved to be peanuts considering the player the club received in exchange. Never one for the highlight reel, Makelele simply did what needed to be done to make Chelsea successful. Raineri called him the battery, an apt description. Put it this way, without him where would the club have finished in 2004-05 and 2005-06?

4. Branislav Ivanovic
Fee:
£9.7 million

Big man with big quads make big plays. Nobody - except maybe Stephen - had a clue who Ivanovic was when he moved to the club in January 2008. Most of us didn't think we were ever going to get an idea who Ivanovic was even after the transfer, either, as he didn't play a game for the club for eight months and was in and out of the team under Luiz Felipe Scolari. However, backed by interim manager Guus Hiddink, the Serbian bear awoke from hibernation to become a towering figure at the club. Brace at Anfield anyone? He has since morphed into a cult figure at Chelsea, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

3. Didier Drogba
Fee:
£24 million

What a bloody player this man was at Chelsea. Legend. The Ivorian could very easily be considered the greatest signing of the Roman era (no argument here, really), rampaging in England and Europe with the kind of ruthlessness reserved for only the world's elite forwards. Blessed with strength, technique and a certain lust for the big moment, Drogba was the face of Chelsea for years. Though his reputation remains muddy on the world level, those in the know regard Drogba as one of the best players of his generation. His final contribution for the club, like the player's aura around Stamford Bridge, will live forever.

2. Ashley Cole
Fee:
£5 million + William Gallas

At the time, there was quite a bit of division over this move. Cole, not one to shy from the spotlight, was seen as a supreme talent but also a supreme asshole. He may still be an asshole, you know, but Cole is the greatest left-back of his generation, and he's only added to his on-field reputation during seven peerless years at Chelsea. Pretty much the definition of consistently great, Cole continues to define the left-back position - even at 32 years young. To bag this man for a fiver and Bill Gallas is just absurd.

1. Petr Cech
Fee: £7 million

How can you argue with this? Not much was really known about Cech, officially brought to the club by Claudio Raineri in 2004. He has since, however, written himself in Chelsea folklore - and become one of the world's best (if not the best) goalkeepers. Already a club legend, Cech continues to defy expectation, improving during pretty much each of his nine seasons in London. Not even a potentially career-ending head injury in 2006 could slow him. Petr Cech, everyone - the best purchase of the Roman Abramovich era.

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