As the Blues were being dominated by German giants Bayern Munich after conceding a late goal in the Champions League finals of 2012, out of nowhere, in the dying minutes of the game, Didier Drogba found enough space to escape the Munich defence and fire a bullet header from Chelsea’s only corner of the game – a moment no Chelsea fan will ever forget.
That goal was enough to resurrect the English dream and eventually it was the player’s penalty that was the decider for Chelsea as they become the first London club to lift the UEFA Champions League. That was the last trophy Drogba won before moving from the West London club to Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, The Ivoirian won every title a player can win in the English game in the Blue jersey and was validated by club legend Gianfranco Zola, who said, “In all their very important matches he has put a stamp on it.”
The kid from Abidjan had a start that was not exactly great, given the difficulties in his family life and owing to injuries, as noted by his coach at Le Mans, Marc Westerloppe, who said, “It took Didier four years to be capable of training every day and playing every week.” The veteran spent 6 seasons playing for various French sides until he was acquired by Chelsea after an extraordinary season with Marseille steering the club to the UEFA Cup final and netting 32 goals, he was bought for a club record of £24 million fee, making him the most expensive Ivorian player in history.
It is reported that in 2004 Mourinho had the chance to sign the two-time world player of the year Ronaldinho but he decided to go with the physique of the Ivorian rather than the skills of the Brazilian. Of all the players the Special One has coached in Europe’s top clubs including the likes of Ibrahimovic and Eto’o, Drogba tops his list. He describes the forward as “out of this world.” Mourinho’s relationship with the striker has always been special as people defined Drogba as his son and it left the Ivorian shattered when the Portuguese left Stamford Bridge-
“We call him daddy. I don’t know about all of us but he did a lot of things for me during that moment where I had a lot of critics. He was supporting me and helping me. He signed me for Chelsea and did everything,” said the Ivorian in his interview for the Guardian “Emotionally it was difficult for me, I did not understand. My reaction was I want to go; he has left, I want to go, everything is finished. I was in this mood. But then I was still under contract and I always said that as long as I was wearing the Chelsea shirt I will always give my best, no matter what. I will always give my best. For two weeks it was very difficult.”
This pair’s reign was inexorable; retaining the Premier League title twice after a famine of 50 years, further managed to cling to the Football League Cup twice plus the FA Cup and the FA Community Shield before the end of the Only One’s era. Other than Mourinho, over his eight years spell in London, DD had six dissimilar coaches with one similitude of starting The Elephant ahead of matchless forwards as Andriy Shevchenko and Hernan Crespo. His resurgent performance was unrivalled; a player with the power and pace to beat his opponents and guide the Blues’ attack to triumph, his sheer brawn in the air, his supremacy in banging goals and in assisting his teammates made the front runner – a leader in no need of an armband. The former Premier League Golden Boot winner coveted to end his career with the Pensioners but as he claims “the club wanted to bring new blood into the group” which eventually tumbled down the negotiations between the player and Chelsea.
By new blood the club meant the “New Drogba” Romelu Lukaku who in three seasons was loaned twice and was entrusted to start 15 games for Chelsea failing to find the target in any occasion, Victor Moses who did not make it to the squad after only one goal in the Premier League last season, Lucas Piazón who was loaned out to Dutch side Vitesse, Gael Kakuta who has since moved five clubs in the last four seasons failing to find a starting place, Fernando Torres who is a goal short from reaching his 20th in four seasons, Mourinho’s third option Demba Ba and the newest signing 32 year-old Samuel Eto’o.
Drogba followed the advice of his former Le Mans coach and left for Shanghai Shenhua, though he will always linger in the hearts of the Chelsea supporters. The player will step in Stamford Bridge for the first time since the European triumph in 2012, and Mourinho has said he expects the captain of Côte d’Ivoire to receive “the best reception of his life”. The club’s directors may have their plans for this Chelsea but come this Tuesday their fans are counting on watching the phenomenal Didier more than any of the three strikers in Mou’s disposal. As Drogba said in the first leg Chelsea are ”10 times better” than Turkish champions Galatasaray so this may not be a bamboozling game for the Blues, but it is certainly a hell of an emotional one as the voted by fans club’s greatest ever player will return to his monarchy.
– Ramez Youssef Nathan