As Jesper Gronkjaer cut inside off the right wing and onto his left foot, in what was dubbed the ‘£20million clash’ versus Liverpool on the final day of the 2002/03 Premier League season, Chelsea’s history was rewritten forever.
The west London outfit had not only sealed a Champions League place amid growing financial issues, but also the heart of a certain Russian billionaire.
Roman Abramovich was handed the keys to the gates of Stamford Bridge in 2003 from Ken Bates in a transaction worth £140m following the Blues’ historic win.
Chelsea fans have since seen their club evolve and cement themselves as one of Europe’s leading sides.
From signing the likes of Didier Drogba to Alvaro Morata, Blues fans have been on a rollercoaster of emotions watching their side week in, week ouk, while players come and go.
Here is Chelsea’s first 11 under the Abramovich era as the Blues defeated Liverpool 2-1 at Anfield on the opening day of the 2003/04 season.
Goalkeeper – Cudicini
Carlo Cudcini played his first of 26 Premier League appearances for the Blues on the opening day versus Liverpool.
The Italian started the season well, picking up from where he had left off the season prior having won ‘ITV 2002/03 Premiership Goalkeeper of the Season’.
However, Cudicini went on to suffer a series of injuries which ultimately spelled the arrival of Petr Cech the following season.
The former Blues goalkeeper now works as a loan technical coach at Chelsea, overseeing and monitoring the development of the club’s loan network.
Defence – Johnson (Cole 72′), Terry, Desailly, Bridge
Despite conceding to Liverpool on the opening day, the quartet went on to help the Blues concede only 30 goals over the course of the Premier League season, the second-best behind Arsene Wenger’s ‘invincibles’ who conceded 26.
Glen Johnson ended his career with Stoke City having been relegated to the Championship. He was then released before retiring at the age of 33-years-old in January 2019.
John Terry recently stepped down from his role at Aston Villa as an assistant head coach to pursue a management role, meanwhile Marcel Desailly now works as a TV football pundit for Bein Sports.
Wayne Bridge eventually left Chelsea on loan in January 2006 for Fulham before leaving the Blues permanently in January 2009 for Manchester City. The former Blue also appears on TV as a football pundit.
Joe Cole entered proceedings after 72 minutes as he stepped foot into the Abramovich era. Despite going on to record just eight goal contributions across 49 games that season, he would eventually become a staple in the Blues side.
Cole stepped down from his technical coaching role at Chelsea Academy in June 2020, despite claiming he would welcome a return to the club in some capacity.
Midfield – Gronkjaer, Lampard, Geremi, Veron, Duff (Gallas 76′)
After Gronkjaer’s magical end to the 2002/03 season for Chelsea, the Norweigan winger was back among the thick of it providing the assist for the Blues’ first of two goals on the opening day. The former Blue has since worked on Danish TV, speaking openly about dealing with depression and his journey to full recovery.
Frank Lampard, who assisted the winning goal versus Liverpool in the first match under Abramovich’s reign, is currently out of management after being sacked by Chelsea following his stint at Derby County, and has appeared on TV as a pundit throughout Euro 2020.
Geremi has been the president for the National Union of Cameroonian Footballers since 2016, offering free advice and support to Cameroonian footballers across the world. Juan Sebastien Veron is currently the chairman of Argentine side Estudiantes de La Plata, having initially joined them in 2013 as a player before transitioning from the pitch to the office.
Once Damien Duff retired, he delved into coaching beginning at youth level before he landed his first senior role as a reserve team coach at Celtic. The Irishman was then promoted to first-team coach following Neil Lennon’s appointment as Celtic interim manager in 2019.
In April 2020, Duff was announced as the Republic of Ireland assistant manager before stepping down in January 2021.
William Gallas made a short cameo in Abramovich’s maiden Premier League game. The Frenchman, who played a full 90 minutes across 11 successive league games, went on to make 28 more appearances in the league that season. He retired at the end of the 2013/14 season, having made 14 appearances for Perth Glory.
Striker – Gudjohnsen (Hasslebaink 47′)
Eidur Gudjohnsen went on to feature a further 40 times for the Blues that season, and famously played a pivotal hand in Chelsea reaching the Champions League semi-final.
The Icelandic talisman recorded seven goals and assists over eight Champions League games that season, four of which came across both legs of the semi and quarter-final against Monaco and Arsenal respectively. He is currently the assistant manager of the Iceland men’s national team.
Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaink came on to score what would be the winning goal to seal Abramovich’s first-ever three points in the Premier League.
The Dutchman is currently manager of League One side Burton Albion and impressively steered the Brewers away from relegation losing just four of their last nineteen games.
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Source by Football London