For over a decade now the No. 9 shirt at Stamford Bridge has been under a strange and powerful curse.
Back in the early noughties, when Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was at the helm, the No9 shirt was a goalscoring weapon.
But when Jimmy left and Jose Mourinho was appointed manager, the curse was born…
The first No9 under Mourinho arrived from PSV having scored windmill-loads of goals.
In England he was sapped of his powers and the Serbian forward bagged only seven goals in 41 appearances.
Kezman out. Crespo in.
A forward with one of the best reputations in the world for instinctive finishing.
Crespo didn’t actually fair too badly. He made it to double figures in terms of goals and his minute-per-goal ratio was more than respectable.
However, the Argentinian failed to settle in London — the curse targeted his personal life, rather than his career.
Mourinho deemed the wavy-locked poacher excess baggage, shipping him back to Italy for spells at both Milan clubs.
Much like Voldermort, the cursed shirt worked in mysterious ways and seemed to grow more powerful after each victim.
Crespo’s successor was Khalid Boulahrouz. A right-back second in the pecking order to Paulo Ferreira.
Proof that any player in any position was a potential target.
Nobody was safe.
After two years the shirt passed to Steve Sidwell.
At this point it was clear Mourinho had succumbed entirely and acted as the curse’s puppet, administering its orders without resistance.
It took the heroic Avram Grant to break the spell and banish Sidwell to Aston Villa.
But there was more misery to come…
FRANCO DI SANTO
Poor Franco didn’t stand a chance.
The games in which the young forward led the line for Chelsea remain the weirdest in the Blues’ recent history.
Zero goals in 16 games.
Carlo Ancelotti, in his infinite wisdom, decided not to burden any of his players with the No9 shirt.
This stroke of genius worked as Chelsea won the league. Fans rejoiced in the streets, the curse was broken!
Enter… El Nino.
All that talent, all those goals, gone.
This was a man who was born wearing a No9 shirt.
But not even Fernando could tame the beast.
One of the world’s most potent finishers turned into a punchline by the demonic Chelsea No9 shirt.
So the shirt was locked away in a box weighed down by Abramovich’s receipts and tossed in the deepest, darkest recesses of Stamford Bridge.
Free from the curse’s stranglehold once more, Chelsea won the league.
All was well, until…
The shirt wormed its way back into existence and latched itself onto the unsuspecting Radamel Falcao.
The Colombian’s miserable loan deal was the pit of his career.
For a while it looked as if the handsome Spaniard had banished the curse.
He started the 2017/18 season converting Cesar Azpilicueta’s diagonals into goals with ease.
But eventually the curse weighed heavy on him and he suddenly found it impossible to score one-on-ones.
Morata missed a series of notable chances, often in key games, and he fell out of favour with Antonio Conte.
Such was the negative impact of the No9 shirt on his morale, he has opted to change to No29 for the new campaign.
The No9 shirt is once again vacant, waiting for its next victim to wander into its trap.