The Number 7 shirt, have been a squad number assigned majorly to players who ended up leaving Chelsea without really impressing. From John Spencer to Bernard Lambourde and on to Bjarne Goldbaek, Chelsea has never really had a cult hero in a player spotting the famous number 7 jersey.
In this piece, we a take look at some of the players who have adorned the number 7 jersey at SW6 and how they fared.
We begin with John Spencer. Signed from Glasgow Rangers in 1992 for £450,000, the Scottish international had a bitter-sweet time with the Blues. Coming in as part of the Ian Porterfield’s revolution at Chelsea, Spencer was handed the number 7 jersey upon his arrival at Chelsea and he quickly settled into the squad.
John Spencer would go on to make a total of 103 appearances for Chelsea, scoring 36 goals in the process. The arrival of Gianluca Vialli and Gianfranco Zola ultimately ended his time at Chelsea, as he struggled for playing time. In the summer of 1996, Spencer left Chelsea for a big money move to Queens Park Rangers.
Taking over the number 7 jersey from John Spencer was Frenchman Bernard Lambourde. Ruud Gullit wanted a utility player who could play both in defence and in midfield and hence splashed £1.6 million to price Lambourde away from Bordeaux.
The Frenchman however, failed to live up to his huge billing and was soon relegated to becoming a fringe player in Ruud Gullit’s team. Following his poor performances he felt the number 7 jersey was too much of a responsibility and subsequently switched over to to the number 21 shirt. In July 2000, Lambourde left Chelsea for Bastia, after the arrivals of Marcel Desailly and Albert Ferrer.
Bjarne Goldbaek picked up the number 7 shirt abandoned by Bernard Lambourde. The Danish midfielder arrived Stamford Bridge following a comprehensive performance against the Blues in the European Cup Winners Cup on October 1998, in which he scored for FC Copenhagen. Then Chelsea manager, Gianluca Vialli would lure the Dane to the bridge and hand him the number 7 jersey vacated by Bernard Lambourde.
Bjarne Goldbaek, went on to become a familiar feature in Gianluca Vialli’s starting XI. Goldbaek also won over the Stamford Bridge faithful by producing some stellar performances as well as scoring a few match-winning goals. In 2000, Goldbaek left Chelsea for Fulham due to lack of playing time, after falling down the pecking order in Vialli’s midfield setup.
Didier DeschampsThe French midfielder arrived Stamford Bridge in 1999 following a string of successes both in Italy (Juventus) and for France. He had led France to world cup victory the previous year and was looking for more success at club level following his achievements abroad.
He replaced Bjarne Goldbaek as Chelsea’s new number 7. However, Deschamps would achieve little with the London-based outfit and left England a year later in search of greener pastures at Valencia (Spain).
Arguably the worst of the bunch, Winston Bogarde took over the number 7 shirt vacated by Didier Deschamps. The Dutchman raked in a staggering £10million in his 4-year wage but could only make a total of 12 appearances for the Blues. Chelsea fans would sometimes think they had no number 7, but no! He was right there with the reserves, earning £40,000-per-week. He eventually ran down his 4-year contract and subsequently retired since no club wanted his services.
The Romanian joins the long list Chelsea number 7s who failed miserably at the bridge. Mutu didn’t come in on the cheap, though. In 2003, he was snapped up from Parma for as much as £15 million.
Mutu settled quickly into Claudio Ranieri’s squad. He even got a goal on his debut against Leicester. However, off-the-pitch troubles would stifle the attacker’s progress at the Bridge. The final nail on his Chelsea career came during José Mourinho’s early days at Chelsea in 2004. The talented attacker (who was once referred to as a bad egg by Mourinho), tested positive for cocaine and was immediately fired by Chelsea, even before the-the FA could make a pronouncement.
Ukrainian goal-poacher, Andriy Shevchenko is on the list of Chelsea ‘never-do-well’ number 7s. The former AC Milan striker completed a big money move to Chelsea in 2006. Chelsea fans must have thought that Shevchenko would be a massive hit at the bridge following his heroics with Milan and his record-breaking price tag (£30 million), but this was not to be.
After 48 games for Chelsea, he had only managed 9 goals. Injuries and lack of game time further contributed to the Ukrainian’s woes at the club. In 2009, Shevchenko returned to AC Milan on loan in a move which brought down the curtain on another “number 7” flop at Stamford Bridge.
Ramires do Nascimento
Ramires brings fond memories to the number 7 jersey at Chelsea. The Brazilian fought and kicked for a regular place in a star-studded Chelsea midfield and soon became a regular feature in Carlo Ancelotti’s line-up.
Signing from Benfica in August 2010, the Brazilian midfielder would go on to win 5 titles at the Bridge, including a premier league title, a UEFA Champions League and a Europa cup. Ramires is fondly remembered for his goal against Barcelona at the Camp Nou en route to the 2012 UEFA Champions League victory for the Blues. Last year, Ramires was snapped up by the Chinese invasion, signing for Jiangsu Suning on a ‘then’ Chinese record fee of £25 million.
In the past week, Chelsea assigned squad number (7) to french midfield powerhouse N’golo Kante. The premier league winner inherits the squad number left vacant by Ramires.
Hard tackling Kante becomes the third Frenchman to be adorned with jersey number 7 at the bridge. Coming on the backdrop of an ‘every-foot-right’ season with Leicester in which he was named in the premier league’s team of the season, as well as helping France reach the Euro 2016 final. Big things are expected from the ‘baby-faced’ midfielder.
Chelsea fans will be hoping that Kante picks up from where Ramires left off and go on to become a cult hero at the Bridge.