In celebration of the sporting decade that is coming to a close, writers from The Athletic have been picking their teams of the 2Terry
Here is Chelsea’s best XI of the decade according to the Athletic.
Chelsea’s greatest-ever goalkeeper spent much of his final season as one of their players watching heir apparent Thibaut Courtois anchor Mourinho’s third Premier League title-winning side in 2014-15.
But in the four years that preceded that changing of the guard, the Czech Republic legend did more than enough to earn his place in this team.
In addition to winning the Premier League and FA Cup double in 2009-10, Cech lifted the European Cup and FA Cup again in 2012 and the Europa League the following year.
Never the cleanest fit at right-back — his unreliable crossing was a recurring issue — but Ivanovic’s many other qualities made him indispensable to a series of winning Chelsea teams.
Prized by successive Chelsea managers for his unwavering determination and tactical discipline, he earned the love of supporters with some iconic goals.
Two against bitter rivals Liverpool at Anfield in a 2009 Champions League quarter-final first leg announced his arrival at Chelsea, while a towering 93rd-minute header to break Benfica hearts in the 2013 Europa League final cemented his legacy.
His personality stood out even in a team packed with leaders. “A competitive animal, a big heart,” was the appraisal of Jose Mourinho, who adored him.
In the first five months of 2012, Cahill went from battling relegation to the Championship with rock-bottom Bolton Wanderers to holding Bayern at bay on one good leg in a Champions League final win.
By the time Chelsea claimed their fourth Premier League title in May 2015, he had collected every major domestic and European club trophy faster than anyone else in history.
The fairest way to describe Cahill is as a good player who has had a great career. He edges out David Luiz, an objectively far more talented footballer, for a place in our Chelsea all-decade team because his consistency and professionalism earned the trust of every manager he worked under at Stamford Bridge, with the exception of Sarri.
He led by example and captained Chelsea on the pitch as Conte led them to the Premier League title in 2016-17, scoring a career-best six goals from defence in the process. Assuming the armband when Terry moved on that summer might have proved a poisoned chalice for others but Cahill endured the slings and arrows and left the Bridge for Crystal Palace this past summer with head held high.
At the age of 34, Terry played every minute as Chelsea reclaimed the title in 2014-15 — something no outfield player had managed in a championship-winning season since Gary Pallister for Manchester United in 1992-93.
The achievement marked longevity unmatched by many of his rivals in the conversation for the greatest defender English football has seen in the modern era.
He was certainly Chelsea’s rock for the first half of this decade, even if their two most memorable cup triumphs — the Champions League final in 2012 and the Europa League equivalent a year later — were achieved with him on the sidelines.
Another watching brief for Conte’s title run in 2016-17, where he started only six league games, allowed him to bow out of Stamford Bridge with a more fitting finale.
Mourinho moved him across from the right side because he needed a defender he could trust to guard the exposed space behind Hazard, just having Azpilicueta in his team somewhere was more important than his precise position.
Azpilicueta was so good that he ended Ashley Cole’s brilliant career at Stamford Bridge.
It’s mind-boggling that Chelsea paid Marseille just £7 million for a right-back who went on to become a champion as a left-back and a centre-back, started 74 consecutive matches in the Premier League, and established himself as the popular captaincy choice among supporters who still struggle to pronounce his surname.
Mourinho once claimed a team with 11 Azpilicuetas could win the Champions League. The one Chelsea have has made them better almost every day since he arrived.
Centre midfield: Fabregas
“Cesc is a great player that gives a new dimension to our team,” Mourinho said.
Fabregas justified the lofty billing by registering a spectacular 18 assists in 34 Premier League appearances that season, striking up a particularly lethal quarterback/wide receiver-style chemistry with Costa.
Two seasons later, he was once again the creative hub of a dominant team, leading Conte’s Chelsea in assists (with 12), despite starting just 13 Premier League matches (he made 16 more appearances off the bench).
Centre midfield: Kante
Has there been a more directly influential player in the last decade of the Premier League?
Having been the engine of the Leicester fairytale in 2015-16, Kante was similarly vital to Chelsea succeeding them as champions 12 months later, becoming the first man since Eric Cantona in 1992 and 1993 to win back-to-back English top-flight titles with different teams.
Originally hailed as a transcendent destroyer, Kante blossomed with the freedom to develop his skills in possession at Stamford Bridge, and within months of working with him, Conte had taken to describing the little Frenchman as a “complete midfielder”.
Centre midfield: Lampard
It’s fair to say the 2000s rather than the 2010s contain the bulk of Lampard’s spectacular peak as the greatest goalscoring midfielder of his generation.
Though he did enjoy his most prolific Premier League campaign under Carlo Ancelotti in 2009-10, scoring an incredible 22 goals in 36 appearances on the way to winning his third domestic league title.
This decade was more about the great moments for Lampard at Chelsea and there were more than enough of those to put him in our team ahead of the likes of Matic and Ramires.
He captained Chelsea to victory in Terry’s absence in those Munich and Amsterdam finals, producing understated performances in a deeper midfield role and showcasing the quiet leadership that should have marked him out as a future manager.
Right forward: Mata
Mata was voted Chelsea’s player of the year in 2011-12 and 2012-13, registering 18 goals and 25 assists in 69 Premier League appearances and regularly thrilling supporters with his skill, passing vision and penchant for spectacular goals. He was also a man for the big moment, scoring decisive goals against Arsenal, Tottenham and Man Utd.
Drogba’s production in the Premier League did tail off sharply after his 29-goal haul in the 2009-10 season but he retained the ability to summon greatness when it mattered.
Six goals in eight Champions League games in 2011-12 led him to the winning penalty kick that sealed his Chelsea legacy in Munich, and he also scored the decisive goal in that season’s 2012 FA Cup final win over Liverpool.
Left forward: Hazard
Hazard defined the club post-2012, his singular talent providing the foundation for every major success and conditioning the decisions of a series of managers tasked with building teams worthy of him.
He put the team on his back for the final stretch of the 2014-15 and 2016-17 title runs, scoring decisive goals and picking up the slack in the final third as Costa faded.
His best moments were still borne primarily of his individual brilliance but he flourished as the free spirit within the formidable systems Mourinho and Conte had built around him. In less successful times, with less talent around him, Hazard’s brilliance became the system.
Even then, he was able to shine, registering 16 goals and 15 assists under Sarri in his final season a year ago.