EVERY time Kevin De Bruyne or Mohamed Salah pulls off a Man of the Match appearance, Chelsea fans are hit with a pinch of what could have been.
Unfortunately for blues devotees, these two are now undisputed superstars in the world.
But before they reached their current elite level, they were once allowed to leave Stamford Bridge as under-challenged, under-performing youngsters.
And they’re not the only two either.
KEVIN DE BRUYNE
NOW probably the best midfielder in the world, it’s hard to believe De Bruyne was a Chelsea outsider.
After being signed by Belgian club Genk in 2011/12,Manchester City Star only played two Premier League games for the Blues.
On the periphery of the first-team squad, De Bruine was loaned out to Werder Bremen before being sold to Wolfsburg for just £16.7million.
It was there that De Bruyne’s class shone through and his career took off when he joined City in 2015 for £55m.
The passing champion has won three Premier League trophies at City in the club’s greatest era.
SALAH joined Chelsea from Basel in 2014 – but only played 13 times in the league, scoring twice.
In 2015 and 2016, the Egyptian was loaned to Fiorentina and Roma – before joining the latter on a permanent basis in a deal worth around £11million.
In his first season with the Reds, Salah broke the Premier League record for most goals in a 38-game season.
In his second season he won the Champions League.
And in his third, Salah inspired Liverpool to success in the Premier League.
Salah is now easily ranked as one of the best strikers in the world – and will always be the one who got away from Chelsea.
THE England international and his family were all big blues and he must have thought he was well on his way to fulfilling his childhood dream of playing for them when he was signed to their academy.
But the midfielder was sacked by Chelsea in 2013 at the age of 14.
The determined star was undeterred and was quickly snapped up by West Ham after a successful trial.
Rice hasn’t looked back since, rising through the ranks in East London and breaking into the first-team at the end of the 2016/17 season.
He is now the near-weekly standout for the Hammers and achieved international recognition with Three Lions last year after switching allegiance from Ireland and captained the side in Mark Noble’s absence.
These displays caught the eye of several big boys, including Manchester Unitedbut it was Chelsea who desperately wanted him to return.
AFTER Lukaku joined Chelsea in 2011 as a youngster from Anderlecht, Lukaku was tipped on size.
However, he only played ten times in the Premier League, was loaned to West Brom and eventually sold to Everton.
Lukaku Immediately showed his potential, scoring 53 Premier League goals in just 110 games.
The Belgian joined Manchester United in a £75m deal, where he maintained a decent goalscoring record but was generally under-challenged.
Then he finally shone at Inter Milan, inspiring Antonio Conte’s side to the Serie A title last season.
And Chelsea regretted losing him so much… that they bought him back! Spend almost £100m in the summer Re-sign the Superstar’s center forward.
THE Dutch defender joined Chelsea at youth level from Feyenoord in 2011 before moving to the senior side a year later.
but Oh played just seven times for the Blues in the Premier League and has been loaned out to Reading, Watford and Bournemouth.
Ake eventually found a permanent home on the south coast and became a star for the cherries.
Bournemouth fought hard to keep Ake on for three years – during which he played over 100 times in the Premier League.
But with Manchester United and City both knocking, the Cherries eventually raked in £40m following their summer relegation.
Now at the Etihad, Ake is a star of both Pep Guardiola’s City and European side Holland, who seem destined to only shine brighter with time.
SIGNED by now defunct Slovak club Kosice in 2009, matic was traded as an attacking midfield superstar for the Blues.
The Serbia midfielder had only played twice in the Premier League and was loaned to Vitesse in Holland.
But after two years – and a move to a more defensive role – Matic was sold to Benfica as part of the 2011 deal that saw David Luiz arrive at Stamford Bridge.
But after he starred at Benfica, Chelsea spent £21m – almost 20 times what they originally bought him for – to re-sign him in 2014.
Matic later joined Man Utd in 2017 – where he still plays to this day.
THE full-back is another to get away after leaving Chelsea in 2020.
He joined their academy aged just eight and won a string of accolades as they climbed through the youth ranks alongside the likes of Tammy Abraham and Reece James.
Tariq Lamptey has suggested he moves away from Chelsea to take his career to the next level. The 20-year-old is a product of the Blues youth development system and joined the club when he was just 8 years old.
Lamptey was promoted to the Blues first-team in 2019 after Lampard’s arrival at the dugout.
But he wasn’t given as much playing time as some of his other academy graduates, making just one Premier League appearance for the club last season.
Brighton came in for Lamptey and Chelsea and were happy to do business cash the youngster for £4million on deadline day.
But he’s since blossomed for the Seagulls with a string of stunning performances, leading to speculation he could even be close to a senior international call-up.
Arsenal have been linked with a nosedive for the starlet who Chelsea failed to include a buyback option as part of his departure, but he committed his future to Brighton earlier this year by instigating a new long-term deal.
Explaining his decision to leave Chelsea, he said: “I had to look at where I could get the most football and how I could take my game to the next level.
“I sat down with the coaches, family members and agents and figured out what’s best for me. It was a really tough decision.”
⚽ Read ours Football news live blog for breaking news, gossip and must-read stories
https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/13044436/chelsea-ex-stars-salah-de-bruyne-rice/ Ex-Chelsea stars who left the blues to become world-class, from Kevin De Bruyne to Mo Salah and Declan Rice