Only a handful of clubs in all of world football can lay claim to spending as much money as Chelsea over the course of the last 20 years.
After previous owner, Russian billionaire, Roman Abramovich bought the club in 2003, they went on to become a major power in European football, mostly due to the billions that have been invested in the playing squad. That big spending continued under Abramovich’s successor Todd Boehly, who splashed out close to £250 million in the summer of 2022 and then £320m in January 2023.
Although the rise in Chelsea’s stature started in Roman Abramovich’s era when the London-based club was injected with much-needed funding. In the past, Chelsea has been the dream destination for many big players and big players come with big prices.
So who are Chelsea’s most expensive transfer flops ever?
Timo Werner – £47.7m (from RB Leipzig, 2020)
Signed for big money on the back of a prolific season for RB Leipzig, Timo Werner’s move to Chelsea has not gone well, with the Germany international now tipped to return to his former club.
Werner cut a frustrated figure right from the off, his confidence clearly affected by a succession of glaring misses. He slowly fell out of favour, as Chelsea desperately searched for more dependable attacking outlets.
In fact, there was a marked decrease in his game-time in the 2021-22 season and has since returned to RB Leipzig, where cut their losses.
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Fernando Torres – £50m (from Liverpool, 2011)
Fernando Torres was a roaring success at Liverpool, with 69 goals in his three-and-a-half seasons there, but he never hit the same heights at Chelsea.
A warning sign should’ve come with his injury issues, and the fact that whilst he netted 18 league goals in just 1,717 minutes in 2009/10, Torres was on the decline in 2010/11.
Chelsea still forked out an English record fee at the time to acquire his services, and although he netted that famous goal at Camp Nou, he ultimately didn’t live up to expectations.
It took him nearly 1,000 minutes to net his first Chelsea goal, and whilst 45 goals and 35 assists in 175 appearances isn’t awful (a goal contribution roughly every 2.2 games), he simply wasn’t as good as the club had hoped he would be.
Rüdiger will surely celebrate if he scores at Stamford Bridge🤭#Rudiger #Chelsea #RealMadrid pic.twitter.com/fw5vZCytT3
— FootTheBall FC (@FootTheBallFC) April 12, 2023
Christian Pulisic – £57m (from Borussia Dortmund, 2019)
With a price tag of over £50 million, Christian Pulisic was regarded as a long-term Chelsea player and successor to the departing Eden Hazard when he arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2019.
Pulisic has been at the club for over four seasons but has yet to live up to expectations. Despite having all the skills he needs, Pulisic has not yet proven himself at the highest level.
Alvaro Morata – £60m (from Real Madrid, 2017)
When it comes to signing strikers, Chelsea don’t have a particularly good record, resulting in talk of ‘The curse of the No.9’. Alvaro Morata is one of the most high-profile victims.
The Spaniard arrived from Real Madrid for big money and with a fine reputation. However, he struggled to adapt to the rigours of the Premier League.
His profligacy became a massive talking point, too, he ended up leaving the club for Atletico Madrid after an initial loan spell at the Wanda Metropolitano. Chelsea did, at least, manage to recoup most of their original outlay on him.
Kepa Arrizabalaga – £71m (from Athletic Bilbao, 2018)
Due to their policy of only fielding players from the Basque region, it’s extremely expensive to pry players away from Athletic Bilbao, as Chelsea found out with Kepa Arrizabalaga. A world-record fee for a goalkeeper was agreed as the club needed a replacement for the Real Madrid-bound Thibaut Courtois, but it hasn’t gone to plan.
Under Sarri, Kepa was average at best; he wasn’t awful, he looked promising, but certainly not world-class. In 2019/20, however, it was another story.
He had the lowest save percentage of goalkeepers in the league, conceding 47 Premier League goals whilst making just 1.7 saves per 90, the least of any ‘keeper with more than one appearance in the league.
He subsequently lost his place in the team and was an expensive backup in 2020/21 and 2021/22, but has since reclaimed his place – although there is very little hope he can be an elite keeper.
Kai Havertz – £72m (from Leverkusen, 2020)
Kai Havertz was a big-money signing of Chelsea during the 2020 Summer window and in his debut season, he led Chelsea to a Champions League triumph.
The German midfielder gives a glimpse of Frank Lampard but is yet to replicate the same consistency and magic. His numbers are well below average and now has big point to prove under the next Chelsea manager.
Romelu Lukaku – £97.7m (From Inter, 2021)
While it may have seemed odd on paper for Chelsea to spend so much money on a player they once had on their books as a young prospect, the signing of Romelu Lukaku in the summer of 2021 was undoubtedly a statement transfer from the club.
After dominating Italian football with Inter with 64 goals in 95 games over the course of two seasons and helping the club win their first Serie A title in 10 years, Lukaku returned to English football as one of the best strikers in world football and with a new point to prove.
He took just 15 minutes into his second debut to find the back of the net, away against Arsenal.
Lukaku’s performances fell away disastrously as the season went on and he scored just eight Premier League goals before returning to Inter on loan after just one season.