At first glance, a record of 228 goals in 740 games looks like that of a very durable, if hardly Ballon d’Or-troubling, centre forward. In fact, it’s the aggregate output of one of the most motley of crews: the baker’s dozen of Premier League players who have graced Chelsea’s no 9 shirt.
Passable, past-it and simply passing through; the lucky thirteen are a diverse group of beanpole nuisances, once-fearsome goalscorers secretly blunted by injury, intermittently deadly finishers and, of course, Khalid Boulahrouz.
Even allowing for a curious late-2010s period of 61 games and just a single goal – Steve Sidwell against Hull City in the Carling Cup, September 2007 – the Chelsea no 9 shirt perhaps isn’t quite as cursed as some believe. After all, its goal record compares rather tidily with that of Frank Lampard, the club’s all-time record scorer, who racked up 240 goals in his 750 games for Chelsea and England.
Meanwhile, Peter Crouch – the former Stamford Bridge ballboy who came within a dubious transfer rumour or two of taking the shirt for himself last season – boasts 227 goals in 770 games and eternal Chelsea favourite Gianfranco Zola 238 goals in 796 appearances.
Late on Wednesday night, Gonzalo Higuain became the temporary incumbent of the shirt. Precisely where the 31-year-old will end up among the former Chelsea no 9s of the Premier League era is unclear, but history suggests he will need to hit the ground running. From the least spectacular to the most devastating, let’s examine the lineage of Chelsea No 9s…