The three signings John Terry believes transformed Chelsea

Chelsea: John Terry
Chelsea legend John Terry believes three star signings paved the way for an era of unprecedented success at Stamford Bridge.

Terry joined the Blues in 1995 after a spell on West Ham’s books, and made his first-team debut three years later.

The combative centre-half went on to become one of Chelsea’s greats over the course of the next 19 years, but reckons three signings made in his early days at the club transformed the culture.

Terry says Chelsea’s approach to fitness, nutrition and professionalism – now regarded as essential components of success – was transformed with the arrival of Gianfranco Zola, Ruud Gullit and Gianluca Vialli in 1995 and 1996.

“Compared to what it’s like today, it [the professionalism of players] is black and white, complete opposites,” Terry told former England cricketer Kevin Pietersen on the platform Unacademy.

“(Previously) We would finish training and go upstairs and have burger and chips or sausage and mash.

Chelsea: Gianfranco Zola
Zola is a hugely popular figure among Chelsea fans

“It was just a couple of ladies who lived by the training ground who would cook the food.

“There was no nutritional aspect. You would finish training, leave straightaway and be home by 1pm.

“We were lucky at Chelsea because we signed Zola, Gullit and Vialli and they turned up at the training ground and said ‘Where’s the food, where’s the protein? We need a bigger gym, we need to stretch more’.

“They took it to another level and I was really lucky to be around those players at that stage of my career.”

‘Another level’ for Chelsea

Zola soon developed into a fans’ favourite at Chelsea, scoring 80 goals and starring in two FA Cup wins in 1997 and 2000, before returning to Italy in 2003.

He has since had a spell as assistant boss under former manager Maurizio Sarri.

Terry added: “Gianfranco would get in two hours before anyone else, he would go to the gym for a weight session, he would stretch for two hours after training.

“He would eat the right food and those guys just took it to another level, and it’s probably gone on another five or six levels from there to where we are today.”