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Chelsea all-departure team (2004-present)

May 22, 2012, 4:39 PM EDT

Ricardo Carvalho, Carlos Ruiz AP

Clearly, I’m a bit fixated on this Didier Drogba-thing, but just let me get it out of my system. It’s not every day that one of the world’s most recognizable players leaves his club (let alone 72 hours after he helped win a European title). I’ve got one, maybe two more posts to go on this. After that, it’s back to our regular scheduled (and probably, closer to home) programming.

But I couldn’t help but thinking about al the other prominent departures Chelsea’s endured since José Mourinho’s arrival (summer 2004). After going through the last eight years’ squads, it wasn’t too difficult to come up with a nice little team:

G – Carlo Cudicini

Before José Mourinho’s arrival Cudicini was one of the premier goalkeepers in England. In the summer of 2004, Petr Cech was brought in, relegating Cudicini to the bench. In 2009, after five seasons deputizing, Cudicini switched to rival Tottenham, where he has served as a backup to Heurelho Gomes and Brad Freidel.

LB – Wayne Bridge

The year before Mourinho’s arrival, Bridge was bought from Southampton for £7 million and Graeme La Soux. By 2006, he was second choice to Ashley Cole, who José had lured from Arsenal. After three years of backing up Cole for club and country, Bridge was brought to Manchester City by Mark Hughes, where he quickly lost his starting spot. He’s since been spent time on loan at West Ham and Sunderland.

CB  – Ricardo Carvalho

The best defender of the Roman Abramovich era, Carvalho come with Mourinho from Porto’s 2004 Champions League-winner. The year he arrived, Chelsea reduced their goals allowed by 50 percent, conceding only 15 times in 2004-05. In the summer of 2010, Mourinho brought Carvalho to Real Madrid, though he has since lost his place in Real’s starting XI.

CB – Alex

Alex’s cannon right foot never got a consistent run in the starting lineup, but with Ricardo Carvalho and John Terry proving fragile during Carlo Ancelotti’s tenure, the Brazilian defender proved a importnat part of a title-winning team. Though he spent three years on loan at PSV, Alex would departure for PSG this winter having played 87 times for the Blues.

RB – William Gallas

Otherwise known as Ashley Cole’s makeweight, Galas proved to be an important utility man for Chelsea, playing across the Chelsea back line before being sent to Arsenal in 2006. In five years at Stamford Bridge, Gallas made 159 league appearances, scoring 14 goals. He went on to captain the rival Gunners before travelling the rarely used road between the Emirates and White Hart Lane.

DM – Claude Makélélé

The man for whom a position has come to be named, Makélélé came to Chelsea as a casualty of Real Madrid’s Galacticos era. At Stamford Bridge he helped usher in a new chapter in contemporary soccer tactics, illustrating the value of the deep-sitting, midfield destroyer. The position has since become known as “the Makélélé role,” nomenclature adopted long before the Zaire-born midfielder moved to Pars Saint-Germain.

CM – Michael Ballack

Unfortunately, Ballack will be remembered as much for accosting officials as he will for his play in midfield, but the then-captain of German proved to be a vital to Chelsea’s transition away from its dependence on Makélélé. A starter in midfield with Michael Essien and Frank Lampard, Ballack help Chelsea claim their third Premier League in 2009-10.

CM – Lassana Diarra

This is the weakest pick of the all-departure team, but thanks to Frank Lampard’s incredibly longevity, there hasn’t been remarkable turnover in Chelsea’s midfield. Diarra’s playing time was a casualty of that stability, the French international making only 13 league appearances from 2005-07. Diarra would see similarly sporadic playing time at Arsenal before establishing himself at Portsmouth after of a move to Real Madrid.

LW – Arjen Robben

Chelsea paid €18 million to get Robben from PSV. They were repaid with nine all-competition goals during the Dutchman’s injury-filled first season. After two more seasons in a tenure that saw Robben collect five major trophies, Real Madrid’s €35 million bid was accepted, taking Robben to the Santiago Bernabeu. In 105 games at Stamford Bridge, Robben scored 19 times.

RW – Joe Cole

Before Joe Cole became an oft-ill-used metaphor, he was a pretty useful player for Chelsea. Moving from West Ham in 2003, Cole would go on to collect eight honors in seven seasons at Stamford Bridge. But as injuries started to pile up, Cole lost his regular place in the team and decided to try his luck at Liverpool starting in 2010. In his time in blue, Cole score 40 times, twice hitting double-digits.

ST – Didier Drogba

Here are the other Drogba stories we’ve put up over the last couple of days, but as you look at this list, ti’s pretty easy to see: Didier Drogba is the most important departure of the Abramovich era.

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