We take a look at the five Chelsea players who have stood out this season.
It is hard to imagine exactly how Chelsea fans feel about this season. Are they happy with their Europa League triumph and a third-place finish? Or are they sad that their Champions League defence ended before it really began, and that the man who won that trophy back in May was gone by the following November?
It is no doubt a little of both, happiness rather than elation, weary acceptance rather than terminal regret.
But Blues fans have had much to enjoy this season, not least some outstanding individual performances. Here we take a look at the five players whose campaigns were ones to be proud of.
An obvious but unavoidable choice, the Spaniard has been Chelsea’s outstanding player. With 12 goals and just as many assists in the Premier league, along with a further four goals and eight assists in Europe, it is no surprise the 25-year-old was crowned Chelsea’s Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year.
The attacking midfielder has been simply outstanding, standing out in a midfield the envy of many. In only his second season at the club, he is now integral. And having doubled his Premier League goal tally from the previous season, opposition defenders may fear just how good he will become.
Doubts remain over his defensive capabilities, but this season has seen a rough diamond slowly polished. The 26-year-old Brazilian has shone under the tutelage of Rafael Benitez, and his performances in midfield have proved what many observers suspected.
Removed from the constraints of concentration, Luiz can be as good as he wants to be.
Of his 43 appearances this season, 32 have come at the heart of Chelsea’s defence; suggesting that his dalliance further up the field was fleeting. Should he iron out the last of his dwindling faults, Luiz could form the bedrock of the next great Chelsea defence, chipping in with an outstanding goal or two as well.
The Belgian reportedly had his pick of the Premier League elite prior to his summer move from Lille. That he chose Chelsea may have shocked some, but his form for the majority of the season proved he has quickly settled at Stamford Bridge.
An ill-judged altercation with a ball boy and subsequent ban halted his progress; but not for long.
The way he began the season suggested he was a certainty for at least one Player of the Year award. And while Gareth Bale rightly beat him to both, next season could be the one the young Belgian shows just how good he can be.
With 10 goals and 14 assists in all competitions, this has been a fine campaign for Hazard. But you sense it is only the beginning.
He may be at least eight years older than anyone else on this list, but the 34-year-old has had an amazing season despite the doubts surrounding his future. With 15 goals in 29 league starts, Lampard has had his most productive campaign in three years. He has also proved the doubters wrong and ultimately secured a new one year deal at the club he has served with aplomb.
How much longer he can maintain such good form is yet to be seen. But this season he has shown that there is no accounting for experience and rather than falter, he appeared to get better as the season neared its climax.
With so much youth around him, the England international will be crucial in his remaining time at the club, both on the pitch and off it.
Some men make headlines. Others allow those men to. Ramires is, for the most part, in the latter category. The Brazilian midfielder took time to settle at Stamford Bridge, but he is now an integral part of the team. His overall defensive contribution is excellent, while he has the confidence and talent to score a goal or two as well.
The fact that he has appeared in 35 of Chelsea’s 38 league games this season says everything. He is a vital cog in a team whose attacking flair often blurs the reality of what prompts it.
His fitness and ability to break forward have also seen him play as an attacking midfielder. But it is in the defensive areas that he is at his very best. Every good team needs an invisible man, but at times Ramires can’t help but be noticed.
Do you agree with our choices? If not, who did we miss?
image: © Ronnie Macdonald