A. Cole, Hilario, Hutchinson, Eto'o (and Lampard) officially leave Chelsea

Christof Koepsel

Officially official: five first-team players have left Chelsea Football Club as the clock struck midnight in London.  We had already known about Frank Lampard of course, but the other four were not quite yet made official.  Now, they have.  And now, they're gone.  Some after many, many years and many, many trophies.  One after just one year and no trophies.  But they will all be remembered in their own special ways.

Chelsea official have posted farewells to each of the non-Lampardian four.  Follow the links below to read them.  (Lampard's official website farewell from earlier can be found here.  Alternatively, read Graham's '203' feature.)

ASHLEY COLE

Frequently referred to as the best left-back in the world during the peak years of his career, many of which were spent at Chelsea, Cole has a very strong claim to be this club's greatest player in his position of all time.

Chelsea Football Club thanks Ashley for the fantastic service he gave throughout his eight years here, and for helping to bring so many trophies home. We wish him well for the future.

Ashley Cole is a modern day legend of the game and a Twitter hero as well.  He made 229 Premier League appearances for us, exactly the same as Gianfranco Zola and three more than Didier Drogba.  He may not have been as flashy as either of those two, but we'd do well to remember him in similar terms.  One of the all-time greatest left backs and we had the privilege of watching him for eight seasons, during most of which he was at the top of his game.

HILÁRIO

Henrique Hilario's playing contract ends this summer following eight years as a Chelsea Football Club goalkeeper.

Everybody at Chelsea Football Club would like to thank Henrique for his huge contribution to the first team success over the past eight years.

Note emphasis on 'playing' contract.  I fully expect Hilario to stick around the club in some sort of capacity.

SAM HUTCHINSON

An Academy graduate who joined Chelsea as a seven year old, Hutchinson has recently spent time on loan at Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday in the Championship and abroad at Vitesse Arnhem, with the spell at Wednesday in particular providing regular first team football as he demonstrated versatility by often operating in central midfield. His Chelsea contract ended yesterday.

Chelsea Football Club sincerely wishes Sam good fortune and success in the next stage of his career and long into the future.

Hopefully we're all familiar with Sam's story by now.  Just the fact that he has hopes of a playing career at a fairly high level (I'd expect Sheffield Wednesday to tie him up pretty quickly) should be considered a glorious victory.  Anything beyond that is a bonus.  And once his career is over, I would also not be surprised to see him back with Chelsea in some non-playing capacity.

SAMUEL ETO'O

Chelsea Football Club today bids farewell to Samuel Eto'o whose contract is now at an end.

Eto'o spent one season at Stamford Bridge and true to his illustrious career as one of the great strikers in world football, provided some of the most memorable moments of 2013/14 with his goals, often important opening strikes including in big games against Arsenal and Tottenham, and against Manchester United when he became just the third Chelsea player to score a hat-track against the Old Trafford outfit.

He started slowly and ended weirdly, but around the middle part of the season, he was actually pretty good, especially at home.  Still, his greatest contribution is that we can lay claim to having had three of the greatest ever strikers from Africa play for us:  Drogba, Weah, and now Eto'o.

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