29. Joe Cole – Fee: £6.6m
English midfielder Joe Cole joined Chelsea FC as a 22-year-old in 2003 after a stellar start to his career at West Ham United. Cole was regarded as one of the top prospects in English football while in the West Ham youth setup and it was a bit of a coup that Chelsea procured his services for such a modest fee. A player of his quality with an English passport would likely cost three or four times that much in today’s market.
The tricky midfielder was the natural successor to Gianfranco Zola and was one of the six signings in Roman Abramovich’s first summer with the club. Cole would go on to make 183 appearances for the club and was one of the Premier League’s best players when he was healthy. His health was always a concern, however, and there were seasons when he made less than 25 appearances due to problems with his foot and knee.
There was always an air of great promise around Joe Cole and he was always lauded for his trickery and technical ability. Steven Gerrard even compared him to Lionel Messi when Cole moved to Liverpool in 2010. He never quite lived up to his initial billing because of his injuries but he was phenomenal for Chelsea when fit and on form and is still a beloved figure around the club. His resume includes three Premier League titles, three FA Cup triumphs, and two League Cup victories over his seven year Blues career.
One of his lesser known contributions to the club was his supposed influence in bringing Eden Hazard to Stamford Bridge. He was on loan at Lille during the 2011/12 season and helped influence the young Belgian’s decision by telling him he “had to go to Chelsea,” according to Hazard himself. Joe Cole, the gift that keeps on giving.