Footballers can be a superstitious group. Some ensure they always put one boot on before the other, others listen to the same playlist before a big game, while others refuse to shave or wear the same items of clothing if their team is on a winning streak. Superstitions work both ways, with the famous number nine shirt of Chelsea, according to the media, being cursed. Does such a curse exist?

Some star players have donned the number nine shirt for Chelsea during the Premier League era. The likes of the late Gianluca Vialli, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, and even Mark Stein had no problems under the weight of the jersey. However, you can’t forget about flops such as Fernando Torres, Mateja Kezman, Hernan Crespo, and even midfielder Steve Sidwell being wearing nine on their backs. None of that latter group would have been considered good soccer bet picks to make in the top scorer markets.

Chelsea doesn’t have a number nine for the 2023-24 Premier League season – we don’t have an out-and-out striker, but that’s for another article – so we are going to look at the last five players to wear the “cursed” number and judge how they performed for the Blues.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang arrived at Stamford Bridge with a reputation for being a deadly striker. The Gabonese number nine scored 141 goals in 213 games for Borussia Dortmund and another 92 in 163 appearances for Arsenal before a public fallout with Mikel Arteta, the Gunners’ manager, saw Aubameyang head to Barcelona.

Chelsea brought in Aubameyang despite him now having a reputation for being a disruptive influence over teammates and having an attitude problem. One goal in 15 Premier League games and two more in the group stages of the UEFA Champions League were far from what Blues fans expected, and it was unsurprising when Graham Potter excluded Aubameyang from the 25-man Champions League squad for the knockout stages.

Romelu Lukaku

Things didn’t work out for Romelu Lukaku during his first spell at Chelsea as a youngster. Still, he went on to score with alarming regularity for West Brom, Everton, Manchester United, and Inter Milan. The giant Belgian returned to Stamford Bridge in a reported £97.5 million deal and great expectations of him.

Eight goals in 26 Premier League games and 15 in 44 appearances in all competitions weren’t terrible records but were Lukaku’s worst return for nine seasons. Lukaku fell out with then-manager Thomas Tuchel and was promptly shipped out on loan to Inter Milan after just one season in London.

Tammy Abraham

Many Chelsea fans do not feel that Tammy Abraham got a fair crack at the whip at Chelsea. After coming through the youth ranks and making his debut during the 2015-16 season, Abraham spent the next three seasons on loan at Bristol City, Swansea City, and Aston Villa. The Englishman broke into the Chelsea first team during the 2019-20 campaign, scoring 15 goals in 34 Premier League appearances, earning him an international call-up.

An ankle injury sustained in February 2021 kept Abraham on the sidelines for 11 games, and he was sold to AS Roma for £34 million with a £68 million buy-back clause. After injuring his ACL, Abraham has not played a minute of first-team football since June 5, 2023.

Gonzalo Higuain

Argentinian superstar Gonzalo Higuain joined Chelsea on loan from Juventus during the January transfer window of the 2018-19 season. There was much excitement surrounding his arrival despite him being 32 years old. Higuain had scored goals wherever he had played, including 121 in 264 games for Real Madrid, 91 in 146 Napoli fixtures, and 66 goals for Juventus in 149 appearances.

Five goals in 14 Premier League games were hardly a stellar return. Higuain looked like he lacked match fitness and often struggled with the pace and physicality of the Premier League, and was let go after only six months at the Bridge.

Alvaro Morata

Alvaro Morata joined Chelsea for a reported club-record fee of £60 million, arriving with a glowing reputation for having an eye for goal. Successful spells with Real Madrid (twice) and Juventus meant the Spaniard was tasked with leading the line for the Blues during the 2017-18 campaign.

Morata started well, scoring seven goals in his first six games, including a hat trick in a 4-0 win at Stoke City, but that was a flash in the pan. The Spaniard went 13 games without a goal from December 30, 2017, managed to get himself sent off against Norwich City, and ended the season with 15 goals in 48 games in all competitions.

Morata swapped to the number 29 shirt the following season but was loaned to Atletico Madrid after nine goals in 24 games.


Is the number nine shirt at Chelsea cursed, or is it something that the media and some pundits have latched onto and refuse to drop? It is almost certainly the latter, and the lack of success for recent Blues number nines speaks volumes about the recruitment policy at the Bridge rather than some hoodoo surrounding the shirt.

Lukaku and Abraham were not disasters by any stretch of the imagination, but what was the club thinking when they sanctioned the transfer of Aubameyang? He’d kicked up a stink at Arsenal, turned up late to training, and was not the answer to Chelsea’s striker woes.

Higuain had failed to set the world alight for two seasons in Serie A before his short loan move to England, while Morata was too lightweight for the hustle and bustle of the Premier League and missed far too many sitters for it ever to work.

Chelsea is still crying out for a number nine, an out-and-out striker who can fire the club up the table and into the European places. Brentford’s Ivan Toney seems the perfect fit for Mauricio Pochettino’s squad, but can the club fork out the reported £100 million Brentford wants for the England man?