Chelsea are currently one of the biggest and richest clubs in the world, and have spent most of their history in the top flight of English football. They have been English Champions four times, FA Cup Winners six times and League Cup winners four times. They have also won the European Cup Winners Cup on two occasions and the Champions League in 2012 and 2021.
Founded in 1905, Chelsea always had a reputation for being entertainers, but such was their lack of success they were a music hall joke. That was all to change with the arrival of Ted Drake in 1952. He modernised and revamped the club, and they lifted their first League Championship in 1954-55.
In the Sixties they were to emerge again as a flamboyant and glamorous side and their proximity to the fashionable Kings Road meant they were embraced by the stars of the swinging Sixties such as Michael Caine and Racquel Welch.
Manager Tommy Docherty built a new, youthful team which included the ultimate hardman Ron "Chopper" Harris, goalkeeper Peter Bonetti, winger Bobby Tambling, midfielder John Hollins, full-back Ken Shellito, striker Barry Bridges, winger Bert Murray and captain and playmaker Terry Venables, all products of the youth system.
Of those players, Ron Harris remains the club's record appearance holder, with a staggering 795 games played for the Blues, between 1961 and 1980, while Frank Lampard became the club's highest goalscorer in 2013 passing Bobby Tambling's haul of 202 goals. He finished his career with 211.
The League Cup was won in 1965 and then in 1970, under new manager Dave Sexton, they made it to the FA Cup final. The opponents were Leeds United, reigning league champions and well-known for their physicality and cynicism. Chelsea were generally second best in the first match at Wembley played on a boggy pitch, but twice came from behind to gain a 2–2 draw.
The replay was staged at Old Trafford a fortnight later and is as well known for the uncompromising tactics employed by both sides as the skill and talent on display. Chelsea again went behind but equalised for the third time in the match with a diving header from Peter Osgood from a Charlie Cooke cross. As the game went into extra time, Chelsea took the lead for the first time when Dave Webb headed in a Colin Hutchinson throw-in to seal a famous 2–1 victory.
The win meant that Chelsea entered the European Cup Winners Cup the following year. After dispatching holders Manchester City in the semi-final, they overcame the mighty Real Madrid 2-1 on aggregate, to earn their first ever European trophy.
The appointment of former European Footballer of the Year Ruud Gullit as player-manager in 1996 was a signal that the good times were on their way. He added several top-class international players to the side, including fans favourite Gianfranco Zola, and led the club to an FA Cup win in 1997.
Gullit was replaced by Gianluca Vialli, who led the team to victory in the League Cup Final and the Cup Winners' Cup Final in 1998, the FA Cup in 2000 and the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals in 2000. Vialli was sacked in favour of another Italian, Claudio Ranieri, who guided Chelsea to the 2002 FA Cup Final and Champions League qualification in 2002-03.
In June 2003, Bates sold to billionaire Roman Abramovich, who spent millions on players such as Frank Lampard, Petr Cech and Didier Drogba and recruited Chelsea's most successful coach to date, Jose Mourinho. The controversial Portuguese delivered back-to-back league titles plus an FA Cup and two League Cups. A league and cup double followed under Carlo Ancelotti in 2009-10, during which they became the first side to score over 100 goals in a season since 1963.
In 2012 Roberto Di Matteo led them to their greatest triumph, the Champions League title, beating Bayern Munich on their own turf on penalties. Didier Drogba was the hero of the hour, scoring a late equaliser when all looked lost, and then coolly slotting home the winning penalty.
In 2021, Thomas Tuchel guided Chelsea to their second Champions League title, beating Manchester City 1-0 with a Kai Havertz goal.