Romelu Lukaku and his predecessors: The Chelsea striker curse

Romelu Lukaku
  • Omogbolahan Apata

A startling number of top-level attackers have failed to make the grade at Chelsea, departing the club with their career and reputation in shambles.

While Didier Drogba and Diego Costa will live on in Chelsea mythology, forwards are rarely seen as heroes in West London.

Blues supporters have turned to Eden Hazard, Frank Lampard, John Terry, and N’Golo Kante for inspiration throughout the years, but trustworthy center forwards have been hard to come by.

Chelsea, you know, has a tendency of ‘breaking’ attackers.

In the last decade and a half, several of Europe’s finest goal scorers have gone through Stamford Bridge’s doors, but few have left with their reputations intact. The goals dry up, the confidence fades, and Chelsea’s attackers have had about as long a shelf life as their managers in recent seasons.

After fumbling through his first six months as one of the world’s most frightening No 9s after joining from Inter Milan, Romelu Lukaku now threatens to become the curse’s newest victim.

It remains to be seen whether the Belgian can turn things around, but history isn’t on his favor.

Keeping this in mind, here are six outstanding attackers whose careers were wrecked after signing with Chelsea.

Fernando Torres

We’ll begin with what is undoubtedly the most well-known of examples. At Liverpool, Fernando Torres instilled dread in Premier League defenders, and Chelsea made a serious statement by buying him for a club-record £50 million in January.

While Torres’ form had fallen dramatically in his last months at Anfield, no one could have predicted how badly he would disintegrate at Stamford Bridge.

It took him until April to score his first goal for the club, and he was plagued with obvious misses for the following season and a half.

Torres’ three-and-a-half year tenure in London won’t be remembered fondly, despite the fact that he played a vital role in the club’s Champions League and Europa League titles in 2012 and 2013.

Andriy Shevchenko

Andriy Shevchenko, like Torres, arrived to Chelsea as one of the most dangerous attackers in the game, only to fall flat on his face almost immediately.

Big things were anticipated of a guy who averaged 25 goals per season during his seven-year stint at AC Milan, but the Ukrainian only managed nine league goals in two seasons before being sent back to Italy.

Drogba’s brilliant form didn’t help matters, with Jose Mourinho preferring to play the Ivorian over a player who appeared to be inserted into the team at the behest of Roman Abramovich.

Even when handed a regular starting spot, Shevchenko looked nothing like the player who won the Ballon d’Or in 2004.

Alvaro Morata

Although he didn’t have the same pedigree as Shevchenko or Torres, Chelsea supporters were pleased when Alvaro Morata arrived from Real Madrid in 2017.

But can he succeed Diego Costa, who has led the Blues to two titles in the last three years? In a nutshell, no.

The Spaniard started his Chelsea career brilliantly, scoring 10 league goals before Christmas, but a back ailment and a string of high-profile misses rocked his confidence, and the goals dried up swiftly.

The following season was marred by more simple misses and personal problems, and Morata was sent back to Spain during the winter window.

Timo Werner

Timo Werner has time to turn things around at Chelsea, but not if his first 18 months at the club are any indication.

The German was on fire for RB Leipzig, scoring over a century of goals in four years and generating interest from some of Europe’s top teams, but has only managed seven league goals for Chelsea so far.

He started brightly, like Morata, but after missing a series of sitters, he lost that innate sense for which Chelsea spent £53 million.

Werner hasn’t had the best of luck either. He’s scored 18 goals since joining Chelsea, he’s also had 16 goals called off by VAR.

Mateja Kezman

Given his extremely dismal season with Chelsea, it’s easy to forget how outstanding Mateja Kezman was in the Eredivisie.

After joining the Blues’ Russian revolution in 2004, the Serbian striker scored 129 goals in 176 appearances for PSV but was a flop in the Premier League.

Despite scoring against Liverpool in the Carling Cup final in 2005, Chelsea fans had to wait until December for his first league goal and were relieved to see him go the following summer. Kezman left having scored just seven goals in 41 games, but he insists that his year in west London was the height of his career.

Adrian Mutu

Adrian Mutu’s Chelsea career was wrecked by a seven-month drug ban, so having him on this list feels a little unjust.

However, the Romanian came to the club with a large reputation and departed with it in shambles.  Mutu rose through the ranks of Serie A, first with Hellas Verona and then Parma, before becoming one of Abramovich’s first acquisitions at Stamford Bridge.

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