Britain’s imminent exit from the European Union has put, once again, the question of foreign players into the spotlight. For those of you unfamiliar with the matter, the FA apparently thought of Brexit as the perfect means to increase the share of domestic players in the local leagues, an intention not very well received by the increasingly international Premier League. Of course, football is the most popular sport in the British Isles, one of the most-played sports in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but there is no denying that international talent has been crucial for the Premier League becoming what it is today.
The discussions about how the new rules will impact the squads, the performance of the National Team and the individual Premier League clubs have been extensively covered in the media – there is no use in reiterating all of that once again. Instead, let us take a brief look at some of the players who were part of Chelsea’s lineup that have come from the furthest away.
Iceland’s population is smaller than that of a medium-sized city in England – but its national football team still managed to knock England out of the Euro 2016. This shows that despite its size, it still has its share of talented footballers. Eidur Gudjohnsen was one of them during his active years. He made his debut at the Reykjavík-based team Valur in 1994 and was lured over to Holland by PSV just a year later. After two seasons with the Bolton Wanderers, the young striker joined the ranks of Chelsea in a £4.5 million transfer. While there, Gudjohnsen helped the club win two successive Premier League titles, scored a hat-trick in a 2004 match against the Blackburn Rovers, and scored more than 50 times in his 186 league games.
Ultimately, he left England for Barcelona in 2006, in a transfer worth £8 million.
Chelsea paid £24 to have Drogba join its ranks – and he was worth every penny. During his time with the Blues, he became the fourth top goalscorer for the club and the foreign player with the most goals, he won two Golden Boots and became just one of the seven players who scored a hat-trick in the opening weekend of the Premier League. Born in Ivory Coast, Drogba spent his childhood commuting between his homeland and the home of his uncle living in France.
Essien was born in Accra, the capital of Ghana, training with the local club Liberty Professionals. His breakthrough came at the 1999 FIFA U-17 World Championship played in New Zealand, where several major teams took note of his performance – Manchester United even invited him for a trial (unfortunately, he didn’t qualify for a work permit at the time). Going senior, Essien played five seasons at the French teams Bastia and Lyon before transferring to Chelsea for a £24.4 million fee. The Ghanaian midfielder helped Chelsea win the Premier League twice, the FA Cup three times, and the League Cup once.
John Obi Mikel
Born John Michael Nchekwube Obinna (no wonder he shortened his name) played with Plateau United, a team based in the Nigerian city Jos, before joining the Norwegian club Lyn in 2004. After just two seasons with the club, the young midfielder joined Chelsea under pretty controversial circumstances worthy of a novel (read more about it here). He stayed with the club for 11 seasons, playing in 249 league games, helping the club win two Premier League titles and several others.
Gustavo Augusto Poyet Domínguez was born and raised in Montevideo, the capital city of Uruguay. His first senior team was the French club Grenoble from where he returned home for one year before joining the Spanish side, Zaragoza. After his contract expired with the Spanish team, “Gus” Poyet joined Chelsea as a free agent in 1997. During his time with Chelsea, he has proven to be a reliable player and goalscorer, even scoring the winning goal in the 1998 UEFA Super Cup finals against Real Madrid. He left Chelsea for the Spurs in 2001 but his time there was brief – after just three seasons, he retired from active play, becoming a manager instead.