It is time to lay to rest one of the biggest myths that have persisted in recent years regarding Chelsea – Hernan Crespo wasn’t a flop at Stamford Bridge.
Mateja Kezman, Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres, Radamel Falcao – a litany of names that roll off the tongue when discussing struggling Chelsea forwards over the last 15 years. Most Chelsea fans will have little issue mentioning those maligned strikers in one breath, but the addition of Hernan Crespo is one that baffles most Blues fans.
Despite an extremely short stay in west London, the Argentinian made his mark in the Premier League, featuring heavily under Jose Mourinho as Chelsea defended their title in the 2005/06 season.
Arriving from Lazio in the summer of 2003, Crespo joined the Blues along with 13 others as Chelsea’s revamp began to take shape. Under the new ownership and heavy investment of Roman Abramovich, Crespo’s signature was a message to the football world of Chelsea’s new ambitions.
In his first season, Crespo netted 12 times in 31 appearances. He caught the eye with his first start away at Wolverhampton in a 5-0 win, scoring his first two goals for the club. The forward also scored against his former team Lazio in a landmark 4-0 victory for Chelsea in the group stage of the Champions League.
Crespo’s undeniable flair and guile gave the Chelsea faithful a taste of the level of quality their club was now capable of.
The appointment of Jose Mourinho in 2004 changed many fortunes at Chelsea, but also specifically those of Crespo. After becoming surplus to requirements with the addition of Didier Drogba, Crespo was sent on loan to AC Milan for the season.
Twelve months later, Chelsea became Premier League champions and Crespo returned from his sojourn for a second chance.
The forward took little time to make an impression. In the opening game of the season away at Wigan, Crespo netted a last-minute winner from distance; giving his manager the proof he needed of his usefulness.
That goal sparked an extremely prosperous season for Crespo, earning 19 league appearances and claiming his first league title in European football. Crespo was predominately featured alongside a young Drogba, who was still finding his feet amid criticism and providing double figures in goals helped Chelsea win many points.
Crespo oozed class and was adored in west London. The chant of ‘Hello, Hello, Hernan Crespo’ would be heard on a regular basis from the Matthew Harding Stand during home games as the number nine gained approval.
Crespo’s sudden departure in 2006 upset many fans who saw one of their most talented players leave prematurely.
The now 43-year-old has opened up in recent years over the reasons behind his departure, surrounding personal loss in his family. Speaking with FourFourTwo, Crespo looks back with affection to his time at Chelsea, saying: “I wanted to give something back as I felt I had their respect. I had fun with Chelsea. I would run all the way there if I had the chance to go back”.
The reasoning behind labeling him as a failure can only be connected to his amount of time at the club, which even then seems baseless when looking at his output. If scoring 20 goals in 49 league appearances are considered a flop, then Diego Costa’s time at the club will also have to be reevaluated.
Crespo made his long-awaited return to Stamford Bridge in a Legends match in May, where he played for an Internazionale XI. Unsurprisingly, Crespo’s chant was reinstated and the forward drew much support from an adoring crowd.
Always leave them wanting more – that’s exactly what Hernan Crespo did at Chelsea.