Premier League • England

The ridiculous XI of players Chelsea sold before they hit their prime: Salah, De Bruyne, Ampadu…

Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Nathan Ake and Ethan Ampadu

De Bruyne and Salah are the obvious ones, but Chelsea have had plenty of class players slip through their grasp

Chelsea have had so many players over the years, with some hits and some misses – but even some of those who didn’t hit the mark have gone on to become world-class players elsewhere.

We’ve chosen an entire lineup of currently active players Chelsea got rid of who, had they stayed together, could have become one of the best around right now.

GK: Thibaut Courtois – Real Madrid

The Belgian keeper Courtois was bought by Chelsea from Genk for €8.95m and then loaned to Atletico Madrid for two years where he hugely impressed and even won the La Liga title in 2013/14 over giants Real Madrid and Barcelona. Courtois’ presence at 6’6” was so commanding despite being such a young keeper at the time.

From that moment onward Courtois went from strength to strength. He replaced Chelsea legendary keeper Petr Cech and made 154 appearances winning two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup. Courtois then joined Real Madrid for €35m as their upgrade on Keylor Navas. At Real Madrid he’s won nine trophies including two La Liga titles and the UEFA Champions League making 230 appearances.

RB: Andreas Christensen – Barcelona

Christensen is a more recent departure, leaving the club on a free transfer in 2022/23 after spending 10 years at the club. Christensen is a very composed technical defender who in today’s age of ball playing centre-backs capable of stepping into midfield or playing right-back, ticks all the boxes. He’s mainly played centre-back but also defensive-midfield and right-back.

There are other right-backs Chelsea have had come through the Cobham academy playing in the Premier League right now such as Tino Livramento (Newcastle), Tariq Lamptey (Brighton) and Ola Aina (Nottingham Forest).

RCB: Antonio Rudiger – Real Madrid

The second Real Madrid player is Antonio Rudiger, who like Christensen left the club on a free transfer in 2022. Rudiger has been a rock solid defender for both clubs that loves to battle with the biggest, toughest strikers out there. Rudiger was an important part of Chelsea’s Champions League winning team back in 2020/21.

LCB: Marc Guehi- Crystal Palace

The England international Marc Guehi left Chelsea for Palace back in 2021/22 after a successful loan spell at Swansea City. A calm composed defender who’s comfortable on either foot playing RCB or LCB. Guehi won’t be at Palace much longer and has even been linked with a return to Chelsea.

Other top Premier League teams such as Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham have been linked too.

READ MOREExclusive: Liverpool make contact with Chelsea linked defender in first step towards blockbuster summer deal

LB: Nathan Ake – Manchester City

Ake is another that Chelsea have looked at re-signing recently. Ake left the club, joining Bournemouth on loan, in 2016/17 then permanently in 2017/18 for a whopping €22.8m. At the time it seemed like a lot but Ake was a solid player for them.

Ake played at centre-back and not only had great anticipation reading passes in behind and defended 1v1s well. Ake always had the on-the-ball ability of a midfielder but due to being smaller for a centre-back he was overlooked by a lot of teams.

But it’s Man City who signed him in 2020/21 for €45.3m. Since then he’s won eight trophies including three Premier League titles and a UEFA Champions League title. Last season Pep Guardiola’s decision to move Ake to left-back was a huge part of what made them so defensively solid and win the treble.

RDM: Declan Rice – Arsenal

Rice was famously released from Chelsea’s academy when he was young and speaks a lot about how that happening only made him a better player. Instead, Rice ended up at West Ham where he initially came through as a centre-back and transitioned into midfield as a defensive-midfielder and was their captain in his final season, leading them to a Europa Conference League title.

Since then, Rice has been one of the signings of the season for Arsenal making them one of the best defensive set ups in Europe this season.

LDM: Ethan Ampadu – Leeds United

Ampadu only just left Chelsea permanently in the summer after being out on loan for several years at RB Leipzig, Sheffield United, Spezia and Venezia. During each loan, Ampadu was getting better and better. The first two weren’t the best, but when Ampadu went to Italy he learnt to channel his aggression better and refined his decision making.

Ampadu joined Leeds in the summer and has been arguably their most important player, filling in at centre-back for injured players or being the rock in midfield. Ampadu brings defensive solidity and reads the game so well but is so composed on the ball too.

AM: Kevin De Bruyne – Man City

De Bruyne is the one that must hurt Chelsea fans the most. The Man City midfielder is in the conversation as being the best ever attacking midfielder in Premier League history but one day he was at Chelsea.

Like compatriot Courtois, De Bruyne was also signed from Genk and in his case, barely played at Chelsea. Then he went on loan to Werder Bremen and the following season signed for Wolfsburg for €22m. De Bruyne ended up becoming one of the best players in the Bundesliga and signing for Man City for €76m in 2015/16.

De Bruyne has become one of the best players in the world and for years has been the best in the Premier League. With a killer final pass and ambipedal ball striking, De Bruyne is one of the best big-game players out there and was influential in building Guardiola’s Man City dynasty – 16 trophies later including five Premier League titles and one Champions League title.

RW: Mo Salah – Liverpool

Another Premier League legend here, it’s a crazy thought that Chelsea could’ve once lined up with the likes of Salah, De Bruyne and Eden Hazard in attack. This trio were the three best players in the league at one point.

Salah signed from Basel for €16.5m and was then loaned out to Fiorentina in the 2015 winter window. Salah subsequently really came into form at Roma where he joined on a loan in 2015 made permanent for €15m in 2016.

Next, Salah became a crucial signing under Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool, returning to the Premier League for €42m and managing to win every trophy possible at the club. In 338 games at Liverpool Salah has scored 208 goals and got 89 assists.

ST: Dominic Solanke – Bournemouth

There are actually a good few strikers all at a similar level currently. Romelu Lukaku was a big name, as was Tammy Abraham, both now at Roma, but they’re not in the best of form, not compared to Dominic Solanke. In 29 Premier League games this season, Solanke has scored 16 goals for Andoni Iraola’s Bournemouth. It has been his best season in the Premier League yet.

READ MOREPochettino grinning as Chelsea told they’ll sign £113m striker this summer, with Arsenal left behind

LW: Jamal Musiala – Bayern Munich

Musiala is another who never played for Chelsea’s first team but was at their academy for eight years before leaving in 2019 for €200k as a 16-year-old. Bayern will be laughing now because Musiala is Germany and Bayern’s star boy, the best dribbler in Europe and one of the best talents in the world.

This one especially was poor business on Chelsea’s part because if Bayern were to sell him now he’d be worth over £100m.

Here’s how they would’ve lined up:

A lineup of players sold by Chelsea