At most clubs, being given the No 9 shirt is a source of great pride and responsibility… but at Chelsea, it just seems to be a bit of a chore.
Tammy Abraham is the latest to take the number vacated by Gonzalo Higuain after an impressive start to pre-seaon.
So dreaded is the No 9 at Stamford Bridge that last season Alvaro Morata swapped it for 29 at the start of the campaign.
There have been 14 different occupants of the ‘cursed’ shirt since the start of the Premier League era, from the prolific Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink to the far less so Steve Sidwell. Here, Sportsmail takes a look back at every one…
Tammy Abraham has become the latest occupant of Chelsea’s cursed No 9 shirt
Tony Cascarino (1992-1994)
Signed in January 1992, Cascarino occupied the No 9 shirt for the first Premier League season… but he less than impressed the Stamford Bridge faithful. He only played nine game all season, scoring twice (against Tottenham and Coventry).
He kept the shirt for the following season, and played far more games, but still only managed four goals. Chelsea finished 11th, Cascarino was shipped off to Marseille and never played again for an English club!
Tony Cascarino failed to impress wearing Chelsea’s No 9 and scored six times in two seasons
Mark Stein (1994-1996)
Taking the reins the following season was Mark Stein, who signed for £1.5m from Celtic, despite interest from Liverpool, Tottenham and Manchester City. Understandably, there were high expectations and he certainly fulfilled them.
He scored in seven consecutive matches from December 1993 to February 1994, a Premier League record which stood until Ruud van Nistelrooy (and since Jamie Vardy) broke it. In total, he netted 25 goals in 63 games for Chelsea, before the arrival of Mark Hughes, Gianluca Vialli and Gianfranco Zola limited his playing time.
Following his retirement, he became a physiotherapist at Barnet, before moving onto Crawley Town. Currently, he can be found fixing injuries at Championship strugglers Rotherham United.
Mark Stein earned a Premier League record, scoring in seven consecutive games for Chelsea
Gianluca Vialli (1996-1999)
The Italian joined as part of Ruud Gullit’s revolution at the Bridge, arriving as the former Juventus captain with a Champions League winners’ medal around his neck.
He scored 11 goals in his first season, 19 in the second and 10 in the third… oh, and he became the club’s manager in February 1998. He retired from playing at the end of the 1998-99 season to concentrate on his job as boss, but has gone down in history as a legend at Stamford Bridge.
While at the club as a player, he won the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Super Cup and the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, before adding another FA Cup and a Charity Shield as manager.
A player and manager at Chelsea, Vialli will always be remembered as a hero by the supporters
Chris Sutton (1999-2000)
There is no doubting Sutton’s ability as a player – at Norwich, Blackburn and Celtic, he was prolific – but it just didn’t happen at the Bridge. He had big shoes to fill in Vialli, but could not live up to his £10m price tag and scored just one league goal.
His other two goals for the club came against Skonto Riga in a Champions League qualifier, and Hull City in the FA Cup. The side got to the final of the same competition that season, but he didn’t make the squad. In the summer, he was sold to Celtic for £6m… and it didn’t take long to re-find his shooting boots.
Chris Sutton had prolific spells in his playing career, but never hit those heights at Chelsea
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink (2000-2004)
Perhaps the most iconic No 9 in Chelsea’s Premier League history. A £15m club-record purchase from Atletico Madrid, Hasselbaink scored on his debut and never looked back. He netted 26 goals in his debut season, and went on to score 29 the season after, easily cementing himself as a fans’ favourite.
In the second half of his time at the club, the team was focused around Gianfranca Zola, which somewhat limited Hasselbaink’s playing time under Claudio Ranieri. Still, though, he only scored one goal less than Zola’s 16, and he was top scorer again for the next two seasons after that. In July 2004, he turned down approaches from Fulham, Celtic and Rangers and instead joined Middlesbrough on a two-year deal.
Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink is a Chelsea legend, and has 88 goals in all competitions for the club
Mateja Kezman (2004-2005)
The 2004-2005 season is fondly remembered by Chelsea fans as their first Premier League title-winning campaign… but in terms of players, the likes of Frank Lampard, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Petr Cech are spoken about way before Kezman.
He scored four goals in 25 league games and headed to Atletico Madrid at the end of the season. Not the best time then, you may think. According to the player himself, though, he loved it: ‘Chelsea was the best thing in my career. That was the climax of my career, for sure. Living and playing in London was something I will never forget.’
Mateja Kezman won the Premier League title with Chelsea, and loved his time at the club
Hernan Crespo (2005-2006)
Returning from a loan spell at AC Milan for the 2005-06 season, Hernan Crespo took the vacant No 9 shirt and wowed supporters with some scintillating displays and eye-catching goals as he scored 13 goals to help Chelsea win another league title.
His family, though, never settled and Chelsea fans will always feel as though they didn’t see the best of the Argentine in England. After his impressive displays in 05-06, he went back on loan to Italy – this time with Inter – to see out his contract with the Blues.
Hernan Crespo’s family never settled in England, but on the pitch Chelsea fans loved him
Khalid Boulahrouz (2006-2007)
You can forgive the casual football fan for forgetting Khalid Boulahrouz’s time as Chelsea’s No 9. In fact, it would be more than reasonable to forget that he was No 9, given that he was a central defender.
He arrived from Hamburg for £8.5m in the summer of 2006, and was given the shirt as it was one of the few available following Crespo’s exit. He made a promising start, playing well against Liverpool and Barcelona in particular, but gradually fell out of favour, in part due to performance, but injuries didn’t help either.
Chelsea fans may have been surprised to see centre back Khalid Boulahrouz take the No 9 shirt
Steve Sidwell (2007-2008)
At this point it was becoming commonplace for Chelsea’s No 9s to only last a season, so Steve Sidwell didn’t really stand a chance. He joined from Reading, and the No 9 shirt got a little closer to a striker but eventually stopped just short in central midfield with Sidwell.
He never really established himself in Jose Mourinho’s starting XI, making his debut as an 83rd minute substitute against Birmingham. He played 25 times in all competitions that season, but many were off the bench and he headed to Aston Villa at the end of the campaign.
Steve Sidwell was another surprise No 9, and he only lasted a season at Stamford Bridge
Franco Di Santo (2008-2009)
It would be harsh to dismiss Franco Di Santo’s time at Chelsea as a failure, given his lack of age and experience upon joining the west London club. He was just 19 when he made his debut, and his entire season as No 9 was made up of substitute appearances.
He played 16 times – eight in the league, eight in various cup competitions – but did not manage to score a goal. He was shipped out on loan to Blackburn the following season, before joining Wigan on a permanent deal.
Franco Di Santo didn’t score as Chelsea’s No 9, before leaving on loan to Blackburn in 2009
Fernando Torres (2011-2014)
The much-maligned Fernando Torres turns up next. Clearly, there were huge expectations placed upon his shoulders when he arrived. A £50m price tag made him the sixth most expensive footballer of all-time, and he had been prolific at Liverpool.
In truth, though, when people discuss the curse of Chelsea’s No 9, Torres’ name is often the first port of call. He scored his first goal in April, ending a run of 903 minutes without scoring for his new club… and it didn’t get any better from there.
In the 2011-12 season, he went on a 24-game barren run, eventually ending the season with six league goals. He got eight the year after, and five the year after that. Indeed, the damage was done, and he moved onto AC Milan on a two-year loan, with his career in tatters.
Fernando Torres arrived for a huge fee, but was a huge flop during his time in west London
Radamel Falcao (2015-2016)
After a season without a No 9, Falcao arrived on loan from Monaco with the potential to make the deal permanent at the end of the season. In Ligue 1, he had scored for fun but a temporary loan spell at Manchester United saw the goals dry up.
It was now Chelsea’s turn to try and turn his fortunes around, but the then 29-year-old once again failed to recreate his scoring form in the French leagues. He netted once in the Premier League, only playing 10 games in the competition overall, before being sent back to Monaco in the summer of 2016.
Radamel Falcao was prolific in Ligue 1 but failed to find form with Chelsea in English football
Alvaro Morata (2017-2018)
Thirteen is unlucky for some, as the old saying goes, and that appears to be the case for Morata. Chelsea’s 13th No 9 in Premier League history failed to hit the heights expected of him in west London and is already being shipped out on loan. In fact, this season he has even been wearing No 29, such was his desire to get rid of the ‘cursed’ No 9 shirt.
According to boss Maurizio Sarri, he has wanted to leave for the last month and he has now got his way with a loan to Atletico Madrid. Five Premier League goals this season isn’t good enough, and there has been a real lack of trust in his ability from the manager. Both Chelsea fans and Morata himself will be happy as he boards that flight to Madrid… and whether it’s a return ticket is yet to be seen.
Alvaro Morata is set to head to Atletico Madrid, bringing his Chelsea nightmare to an end
Gonzalo Higuain (2019)
With Chelsea desperate for a central focal point in 2018-19, Maurizio Sarri reverted back to what he knew. Gonzalo Higuain had been prolific in his vibrant Napoli side and the pair were reunited when the Argentine joined on loan from AC Milan in January 2019.
Fears over the 31-year-old’s fitness and suitability to the pace of the Premier League proved well-founded. His return of five goals in 18 games paints a better picture than his six-month spell at Stamford Bridge actually was, despite an encouraging brace against Huddersfield in just his third game
Gonzalo Higuain took the shirt in January 2019 but struggled in his loan spell from AC Milan
Tammy Abraham (2019-Present)
And so the baton now passes to Tammy Abraham, partly-enforced by the transfer ban that has forced new manager Frank Lampard to dig deep into Chelsea’s reserve of youth talent.
At 21 there is no doubting the England international’s potential and he has been prolific in two seasons on loan in the Championship with Bristol City in 2016-17 and with Aston Villa last year, scoring 52 in total in both campaigns.
A loan season at Swansea in between ended in relegation and a return of just five Premier League goals. He has much to prove to justify the faith of the new boss but will be afforded time after an encouraging pre-season so far.
Tammy Abraham has had an encouraging pre-season and scored against Barcelona in Japan