Frank Lampard’s Chelsea begin their first of the back-to-back games against Ajax with a trip to the Johan Cruijff Arena in the UEFA Champions League group stage on Wednesday evening.
The Blues are in stellar form at the moment and are hoping to make it six consecutive victories in all competitions for the first time since September 2018.
However, they will have to do that against the Dutch champions and last season’s UEFA Champions League semi-finalists, who are also in form having won both of their fixtures in the group stages under head coach Erik ten Hag.
There have been only a handful of players who have experienced what it is like to have warn both shirts over their careers. Here at the Chelsea Presser, we take a look at three of them.
Mario Melchiot (Ajax 1996-1999, Chelsea 1999-2004)
Mario Melchiot and his famous dreadlocks arrived at Stamford Bridge on a free transfer from tomorrow’s opponents and at the time, it was difficult to see why as he did not have much of a reputation, despite a UEFA Champions League semi-final goal to his name.
His Blues career looked to be taking a similar path within the first eight months, having yet to make his debut.
Claudio Ranieri made way for the sacked Gianluca Vialli as manager and that’s when Melchiot’s fortunes started to change.
The Dutch defender barely put a foot wrong during his spell in the blue of Chelsea. Melchiot’s incomparable work rate and attitude clearly caught the eye of Ranieri as he made 31 league appearances throughout his first season.
His first league goal for the club came against Manchester United in a famous 3-0 victory in the 2001/2002 season and he became a model of consistency as Melchiot finished as The Blues’ highest appearance maker for that season.
Despite the arrival of billionaire owner Roman Abramovich in 2003, the ever-present Melchiot still found himself a constant figure in the first team as he appeared in the UEFA Champions League victory against Arsenal and the defeat to AS Monaco respectively.
Melchiot left the club at the end of the season to join Birmingham City on a free transfer as The Blues prepared themselves for a revolution.
Jesper Grønkjaer (Ajax 1998-2000, Chelsea 2000-2004)
Jesper Grønkjaer was best described as an inconsistent beast. With a little more consistency under his belt, he could have turned out to be one of the most talented players at the time.
Despite the on and off performances, Grønkjaer arrived at Chelsea with a good pedigree, having famously won the Dutch Cup with Ajax in 1999.
The tricky midfielder joined the club for almost £8 million but he had to wait three months to make his first appearance as he was sidelined with an injury.
Undoubtedly, Grønkjaer’s most notable moment in a blue shirt was a Man of the Match performance against Liverpool on the final day of the 2002/2003 English Premier League season where assisted the first goal and scored the second. That victory meant that Chelsea qualified for the following season’s UEFA Champions League campaign.
That goal is often called the “billion-pound goal” as it is stated that it was essential to Abramovich’s takeover at the time.
With the arrival of manager Jose Mourinho, it also signalled the end of the road for Grønkjaer’s Chelsea career, as he signed for Birmingham City, alongside Melchiot, in 2004.
Bertrand Traore (Chelsea 2013-2017, Ajax 2016-2017 on loan)
Bertrand Traore was once hailed as a successful product of Chelsea’s youth academy having spent one season under the reins of Andy Myers, before being loaned out to Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem a few months later.
Traore impressed heavily during his time in The Netherlands and was given clearance to play for The Blues from the summer of 2015.
The striker-cum-winger looked like hot property in early 2016 as he scored four goals in five games, one of them being his first English Premier League goal for the club against Newcastle United.
However, that form soon dwindled and the youngster was loaned out to Ajax for the 2016/2017 season.
He could not get away from English opposition however, when he played every minute of the UEFA Europa League final in 2-0 defeat to Manchester United.
In an attempt to stay at the top level of professional football, Traore signed for French side Olympique Lyonnais in the summer of 2017 where he still plies his trade and has currently made 64 domestic appearances and has scored 20 goals.
By Darion Westwood