Deadly Drogba

The veteran Ivory Coast international built up a reputation as one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League with Chelsea and now he is back at his old stomping ground causing more havoc with the Blues and Jose Mourinho, writes Richard Waterhouse.

Didier Drogba may not be as influential as he was during his first spell at Chelsea but his return to the club has coincided with the good times coming back.

The veteran Ivory Coast international built up a reputation as one of the most feared strikers in the Premier League with Chelsea and now he is back at his old stomping ground causing more havoc with the Blues and Jose Mourinho.

He initially spent eight years at Stamford Bridge and became idolised for his goals which resulted in the Blues winning numerous trophies, including the UEFA Champions League in 2012 when he scored the decisive spot-kick in a penalty shootout.

Drogba spent his early years in France in Ligue 1 as he started his career with Le Mans before moving to Guingamp and then Marseille. As he progressed up the French footballing ladder, the number of goals increased and so did the interest.

After netting 17 goals in 34 appearances with Guingamp, the Ivorian earned a GBP3.3 million move to Marseille where he then enjoyed two successful seasons and reached the UEFA Cup final.

He scored 37 goals in 60 games during his time there and was on the radar of several top clubs before joining Chelsea in 2004 for GBP24 million which, even to this day, makes him the most expensive Ivorian footballer.

Drogba went on to make his debut against Manchester United and although he failed to score in his first start, it took the striker just nine days to find his feet as he scored his first of 21 goals during that season against Crystal Palace.

Under the new regime led by Mourinho, Drogba and Chelsea went on to win the league in his first season and again in the following one. Drogba then got another Premier League winner’s medal in 2009 under Carlo Ancelotti.

Drogba became renowned for his calmness in front of goal and his ability to score important goals in finals. Another competition where he and the club prospered was the League Cup. In 2005, the Ivory Coast forward scored an extra-time winner against Liverpool and then two years later he scored both goals in his side’s 2-1 victory over Arsenal.

His record in the FA Cup is just as impressive. In 2007 he scored the only goal in the final against Manchester United and then again in 2010 against Portsmouth. He then followed those up in his final season in his first spell as he scored the winning goal in the FA Cup win against Liverpool.

As an individual, Drogba has been ever-present at the top of the goal-scoring charts. In 2007 and 2010, Drogba picked up the ‘Golden Boot’ in the Premier League and has scored over 100 goals overall during his two stints with the club.

Yet as much as Drogba is loved, the striker has also been at the forefront of controversy. In 2009, Chelsea were cruelly knocked out of the Champions League by eventual winners Barcelona after Andres Iniesta scored a late leveller to send the Catalan club through on away goals.

After the game, Drogba and several other players stormed up to the referee to vent their frustration after feeling they had been denied four certain penalties. Drogba went an extra step further by expressing his anger to the cameras, stating: “It’s a ******* disgrace.”

After this it was believed that the striker’s career at Chelsea would be over as his contract was close to expiring and UEFA were set to fine the club.

Drogba was kept on as he signed a new three-year contract in August 2009 after revealing he was enjoying life at Chelsea, but he admitted he was close to leaving the club.

In that same year, Drogba won the CAF African Player of the Year for the second time and five years later the striker announced his retirement from the Ivory Coast national team after becoming the all-time top-scorer for the Elephants with 65 goals.

His first spell at Chelsea came to a close in 2012 in strange circumstances.

Roberto di Matteo was appointed as the interim manager after Andre Villas-Boas had failed to impress despite helping them qualify for the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League that season.

Di Matteo took the reins and guided Chelsea to the final where they beat Bayern Munich at their home ground, the Allianz Arena. Drogba led the side and scored a pivotal equaliser in the 88th minute after Philipp Lahm had given the hosts the lead. The game went into extra-time and penalties before Drogba scored the decisive kick which secured Chelsea’s aim of being crowned European champions.

Since Mourinho’s return to Stamford Bridge, Chelsea fans are looking to recreate the magic of that night again. Drogba now has to play second fiddle to Diego Costa but his experience could prove crucial in the closing stages of the season.

PA Sport