When it comes to new signings, Chelsea are renowned for breaking the bank. The Blues have not been afraid to spend big in recent years, and the current summer transfer window is no exception with the likes of Timo Werner, Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz.
The club’s spending has massively increased in the Roman Abramovich era, but it all began with the birth of the Premier League and the arrival of Robert Fleck. He was their record signing and their first to surpass £1m - a bargain in the modern transfer market.
Over the last three decades, that record fee has since been broken 12 times by Chelsea. Whether they went down as legends or failed to leave their mark, there has been an abundance of record-breaking arrivals at Stamford Bridge.
Robert Fleck (£2.1m)
Transfer: July 1992 from Norwich City
Fleck was the first player to join Chelsea for more than £1m, when they paid Norwich £2.1m. He moved to west London right before the Premier League was established, but failed to make a real impact in three years at the club.
He mustered just three goals in 40 appearances, twice going out on loan to Bristol City and Bolton. Fleck finally returned to Norwich in 1995, where he eventually earned legendary status with the Canaries.
Paul Furlong (£2.3m)
Transfer: July 1994 from Watford
Furlong left Hertfordshire for London in 1994, with his transfer fee narrowly surpassing Fleck’s. It was a fairytale rise to the top for the striker, who had been playing non-league football with Enfield just three years earlier.
He scored on his Chelsea debut in a 2-0 win over Norwich, finishing his maiden season with a respectable 13 goals. However, Furlong scored just three the following campaign, before becoming Birmingham City’s record signing.
Roberto Di Matteo (£4.9m)
Transfer: July 1996 from Lazio
Honours: FA Cup (x2), League Cup, Community Shield, UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, UEFA Super Cup
When Chelsea signed a Swiss-born Italian midfielder from Serie A, it was hard to imagine the impact he would have. Di Matteo scored the winner on his Stamford Bridge debut against Middlesbrough, also netting inside 42 seconds against the same opposition later that season in the FA Cup final, which the Blues won 2-0.
Di Matteo went on to win six trophies in blue, including the UEFA Super Cup against Real Madrid. When he returned as manager ten years after retiring, he took his club tally to eight trophies, managing the Blues to their iconic Champions League triumph in 2012.
Pierluigi Casiraghi (£5.4m)
Transfer: July 1998 from Lazio
Honours: FA Cup, UEFA Super Cup
Chelsea decided to resume business with Lazio two years later, spending just over £5m on striker Casiraghi. With 106 goals on Italian shores, there was anticipation for him to repeat his goalscoring prowess under fellow countryman Gianluca Vialli.
Unfortunately, Casiraghi never seemed to find his feet, albeit making a measly 15 appearances in two years. His only goal for the Blues came in a 1-1 draw with Liverpool, before his career was ended by a cruciate ligament injury in 2000.
Chris Sutton (£10m)
Transfer: July 1999 from Blackburn
Perhaps one of the Blues’ most infamous recruitments was when they bought Sutton from Blackburn, their first player to arrive for an eight-figure transfer fee just shy of the new millennium. The fact he only spent a season at the Bridge tells the whole story.
After scoring in his second game against Latvian side Skonto Riga, Sutton got just one goal in 28 league appearances, going the last seven months of the season without netting once. It never worked out for him in west London, leaving for Celtic 12 months later.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (£15m)
Transfer: July 2000 from Atlético Madrid
Honours: Community Shield
A striker who went under the radar for many, Hasselbaink became a cult hero at Chelsea during his four-year stint. He remarkably won just one piece of silverware in his time there, marking his debut with a goal and a win in the 2000 Community Shield.
Hasselbaink was a goalscoring machine, winning the Golden Boot with 23 goals in his first season. He reached double figures in all four seasons and played a key role in helping set the club up for its future success.
Damien Duff (£17m)
Transfer: July 2003 from Blackburn
Honours: Premier League (x2), League Cup, Community Shield
His tally of 19 goals may not reflect it, but Duff was a pivotal player during Chelsea’s glory days under José Mourinho. He caught the eye from the moment he made his Blues debut, and it would not be long before he helped the club win their first league title in 50 years.
Across Chelsea’s back to back Premier League triumphs, Duff got 18 total goal contributions, ending his time in the capital with four major domestic honours. He was a valued part of the club’s title-winning squad, contributing greatly to both successes.
Didier Drogba (£24m)
Transfer: July 2004 from Marseille
Honours: Premier League (x4), FA Cup (x4), League Cup (x3), Community Shield (x2), Champions League
When Mourinho was doubted for signing an unknown Ivorian striker from Marseille, he simply replied: “Judge him when he leaves the club.” Drogba left - twice - as their finest striker of the modern era, Chelsea's fourth greatest goalscorer and one of the club’s greatest ever players.
Drogba was a special striker, always turning up in the big games and stealing the show when he was called on. Winning 14 trophies in nine years, none were more special than the Champions League, where the Ivorian scored the equaliser and the winning penalty in the shootout: the greatest night in the history of the club.
Michael Essien (£24.4m)
Transfer: August 2005 from Olympique Lyonnais
Honours: Premier League (x2), FA Cup (x4), League Cup, Community Shield, Champions League
Affectionately known as 'The Bison', Essien was an outstanding midfielder and a brilliant signing from Lyon. His nine years at Chelsea were some of his finest, making 256 appearances and winning trophy after trophy.
Whether it was lifting the Premier League on two occasions, ensuring the Blues were kings of the FA Cup or that incredible night in Munich, the Ghanaian was a consistent choice at the heart of midfield. For £24.4m, he proved to be a real bargain for the Blues.
Andriy Shevchenko (£30m)
Transfer: May 2006 from Milan
Honours: League Cup
Two years after winning the Ballon d’Or, Shevchenko arrived at Chelsea with huge pressure and expectation. It was a signing which felt too good to be true - ultimately, it proved to be exactly that in an underwhelming stint in England.
Shevchenko scored 22 goals in three years, his lowest return by far during his illustrious career. Even a loan return to Milan, where he failed to score a single league goal, did not help rejuvenate the striker’s form. He finally returning to his native Ukraine with Dynamo Kyiv in 2009.
Fernando Torres (£50m)
Transfer: January 2011 from Liverpool
Honours: FA Cup, Champions League, Europa League
Transfer deadline day in 2011 proved to be one of the biggest in football history, when Torres broke the British transfer record with his £50m move from Liverpool. While he is generally remembered as a flop who never reached his potential, El Niño did have some memorable moments in blue.
His iconic goal against Barcelona to clinch Chelsea’s place in the Champions League final will always be remembered, as well as his strike in the Europa League final the following year. A return of 45 goals in three and a half years was underwhelming, but he does still deserve credit for what he achieved at the Bridge.
Álvaro Morata (£58m)
Transfer: July 2017 from Real Madrid
Honours: FA Cup
Morata’s Chelsea career draws many parallels to his Spanish compatriot Torres, scoring nine goals in his first 14 Premier League games. It looked like Antonio Conte had signed a world-class striker from Real Madrid, but it soon went downhill in west London.
The Spaniard found himself confidence-struck, and it was clear that the criticism and his poor form was getting to him. Morata always looked depleted on the pitch and was never the same again, returning to boyhood club Atlético Madrid to rejuvenate his lost love for the game.
Kepa Arrizabalaga (£71m)
Transfer: August 2018 from Athletic Club
Clean Sheets: 33*
Honours: Europa League*
*As of 2019/20 season
The third and most recent Spaniard to break Chelsea’s transfer record was Arrizabalaga, arriving from Athletic Club as the world’s most expensive goalkeeper to become the Blues’ number one. His debut season saw him keep 23 clean sheets, but his second season in goal was traumatic to say the least.
Arrizabalaga’s numbers gave for some unwanted records, with stats that were among the worst the Premier League has ever seen. Whether the Spaniard will get the chance to return to his best under Frank Lampard is unknown, but Kepa must prove himself if he is to live up to his record-breaking price tag.
Source : 90min