Ranking the Top 10 South Americans to Play for Chelsea

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistMarch 14, 2014

Ranking the Top 10 South Americans to Play for Chelsea

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    Matt Dunham/Associated Press

    Of all the clubs in the Premier League, Chelsea have long embraced the use of overseas players to their benefit.

    The list of big names to have joined the Blues and made a considerable impact is as hefty as it is impressive, with players from across Europe joining the club's ranks.

    It may have taken them a while longer, but in recent years Chelsea's cosmopolitan nature has gradually had a more South American feel to it. Indeed, the Blues' current first-team squad features four Brazilians, not to mention a host of others out on loan.

    But who is the man to have made the biggest impact, the one South American player whose legacy far outstrips any other at Stamford Bridge?

    Bleacher Report counts down our top 10 to find out.

10. Deco

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    Given the likes of Juan Sebastian Veron and Claudio Pizarro endured disastrous spells with Chelsea, Deco scrapes into our list at No. 10.

    His two years at Stamford Bridge were in considerable contrast to what we had seen from the Brazilian-born midfielder during spells with Porto and Barcelona, where he had won the Champions League.

    Save for an excellent debut and a few moments of brilliance elsewhere, his Blues career was largely forgettable, but still more positive than some of Chelsea's other South Americans.

9. Willian

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    Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press

    He hasn't yet been at Chelsea for a season, but the signs suggest Willian will be more than a pawn in Chelsea supporters' games of one-upmanship over Tottenham Hotspur, whom they poached the Brazilian from last summer when he seemed set to join the North London club.

    Willian seems to be adjusting well to English football and has gradually become a key member of Jose Mourinho's squad.

    Should that continue, we're certain his ranking in future lists will only improve, although we've got to say, the song Blues fans sing in his honor is beginning to wear a little thin.

8. Emerson Thome

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    Emerson Thome's spell at Chelsea was shorter than it perhaps should have been.

    Joining from Sheffield Wednesday in December 1999, he remained at Stamford Bridge for just nine months before being sold to Sunderland for £4.5 million.

    In the short time he did spend in West London, though, he made a considerable impression, notably in the Champions League against Barcelona.

    The Brazilian was imperious in the first leg of the quarter-final with Barcelona as Chelsea won the game 3-1.

    Playing alongside Marcel Desailly, it was probably his best performance for the club and is one still remembered by fans today.

    He may not have been a stereotypical Brazilian signing, yet he earned a cult-hero status on the terraces.

7. Hernan Crespo

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    Had it not been for his personal problems away from the field, who knows how many goals Hernan Crespo would have scored for Chelsea?

    As it is, he finished his Blues career with 25 goals in 73 games—a respectable record—with some exquisite finishes among them. One need only recall the opening day of the 2005-06 season and Crespo's dramatic last-minute wonder strike against Wigan Athletic to see what he was capable of.

    There were highs and lows, although things never quite worked out the way he and the club had hoped.

    Having signed from Inter Milan in 2003, he departed on a free transfer back to the Italians in 2008 after loan spells with them and city rivals AC Milan.

    You can view that Wigan goal on YouTube.

6. Juliano Belletti

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    Phil Cole/Getty Images

    A Champions League winner with Barcelona, Juliano Belletti came close to repeating that feat as a Chelsea player in 2008, although the Blues lost out to Manchester United on penalties.

    He is remembered for much more than featuring in the club's first-ever Champions League final, though.

    The Brazilian's Stamford Bridge legacy is about goals such as this one against Tottenham Hotspur, this pearler against Wigan Athletic and another world-class strike against Middlesbrough.

    In case you're wondering, Belletti was a right-back, too.

5. Alex

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    Currently plying his trade with Paris Saint-Germain, Alex was a touch unfortunate that his time at Chelsea came when John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho were in their prime.

    The pair had one of the best defensive partnerships the Premier League has seen, so Alex found it difficult to become a regular.

    That said, he did enjoy lengthy spells in the line-up on the back of injuries to key personnel and when he did feature, he was a revelation.

    There are plenty of strikers who came up against the Brazilian who have the scars—physical and mental—that can tell of his talents.

    In many ways, he was a Terry-Carvalho hybrid—physically imposing and talented in possession.

    He was a good servant to the club during his five years in the first team.

4. Oscar

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    Ian Walton/Getty Images

    Similar to Willian earlier in this list, Oscar's position among Chelsea's finest South American imports will only improve with time.

    That he ranks in our top five outlines the impact he has made at Stamford Bridge in a little over 18 months.

    Jose Mourinho has spoken of building his team around Oscar, utilizing his abilities in the No. 10 role. If ever he was looking for a vote of confidence, they don't come much bigger than that.

    The Brazilian is still only 22 years old, so with a long career ahead of him, we can expect many more trophies and years of success for the Blues should he flourish in the way many are predicting.

3. David Luiz

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    Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

    If we were ranking Chelsea's South American players on character alone, David Luiz would push our No.1 selection very close. For now, though, he has to settle for third place.

    Signed on the same deadline day that Chelsea splashed £50 million on Fernando Torres in January 2011 , his arrival was somewhat low key. Then came his swashbuckling performances in defence and suddenly a star was born.

    He is a hero to Blues fans and while his mischief away from the pitch is a big reason for that, so too is his approach to the game and his ability with a football.

    David Luiz doesn't just score goals, they have to be wonder goals and he has bailed his team-mates out on more than one occasion, too.

    Pundits will say what they will about his tendency to appear aloof at times, yet he remains an excellent player.

2. Ramires

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    Alastair Grant/Associated Press

    They call him the Brazilian Kenyan for a reason. In fact, the Brazilian Forrest Gump may be more apt as Ramires just keeps on running and running and running...

    There's more to his game than an unrivaled work rate and stamina, however. Just ask Barcelona after his expertly taken goal in the 2012 Champions League semifinal put Chelsea back in control of the second leg at the Nou Camp, eventually drawing the game 2-2 as they reached the final.

    The Brazilian was signed for £20 million from Benfica in 2010 and given the service he has provided since, it's a fee that seems a bargain.

    He may not have the trickery of his compatriots, but Ramires' contribution in midfield has been considerable in his four seasons in West London.

    Watch Ramires' Barcelona goal on YouTube.

1. Gus Poyet

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    Long before Roman Abramovich's billions started to attract the biggest names from across the globe, Chelsea were busy investing their money just as wisely and effectively on international stars.

    The best of them from South America is current Sunderland manager Gus Poyet, who stands apart for his consistent performances during his four years at Stamford Bridge.

    Hailing from Uruguay, he was a revelation for the Blues, a real class act that helped continue the project Ruud Gullit had started the season before his arrival in 1997.

    He won the FA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup with Chelsea and like so many of the Blues' other South Americans, was often on the score sheet with breathtaking goals.

    The pick of them came against Sunderland on the opening day of the 1999-00 season, which can be viewed here.

    We're sure you'll agree, it was an exquisite effort—a goal just as exquisite as Poyet's Chelsea career.

    Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes