19th May, 2012 (UEFA CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL)
Commentator: “Didier Drogba steps up to take what would surely be his last kick in a Chelsea Jersey”.
His subsequent winning penalty kick not only meant the “Big Ears” headed to Chelsea and London for the first time, Didier’s legacy was sealed and that successful kick ended what was a fruitful 8 year spell at the Bridge;157 goals in 341 appearances which includes 9 goals in 9 Cup Finals. A perfect Valedictory Service and the end of an era for the Ivorian, it seemed.
However, on the 25th of July, 2013, Chelsea announced the return of the DROG, not as the Ambassador or Coach that many envisaged but as a Player or in Mourinho’s words, “a squad player”.
The move has raised several eyebrows and has also left many questioning the wisdom of the Special, Only and Happy One (Someone said Chosen) and to a lesser extent Roman Abramovich in bringing a Player who is 36 years, lost yards of pace and well past his best.
The fact Chelsea has three established Forwards in Fernando Torres, Romelu Lukaku and newly signed, Diego Costa has also left a few baffled as to the second coming of the Father of Four.
Others say the move is purely emotional and that he’s at the risk of ruining his legacy with a return to his famous home. Shevchenko, Kaka and to a lesser extent, Henry are examples of players who didn’t enjoy a glamorous second coming.
For some, the Club has run counter to its youth development policy where the focus should be on developing the likes of Andre Schurrle, Patrick Bamford and Drogba’s protégé, Romelu Lukaku who are just about to enter the battlefront.
While this writer perfectly understands the concern of most fans, especially the Chelsea Faithful, He nevertheless believes Mourinho’s re-signing of Didier Drogba is a masterstroke and ticks every box, one you’ll agree with after reading my carefully constructed reasons.
LEADERSHIP IN THE TEAM
Chelsea is in a period of transition; the likes of Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard who were instrumental to the Club’s success in the last decade have been ushered out of Stamford Bridge while the future of the London Team’s Greatest Goalkeeper, Petr Cech is far from secure. Mikel, another who has been there for 8 years, is far from a Club Leader and the future of the Nigerian is very bleak leaving Captain John Terry as the only possible player from Jose Mourinho’s successful first era team.
Their exits have left a huge void in terms of leadership, experience and winning mentality as the club charts a new course of bringing younger guys with lots of prospect. The likes of Eden Hazard, Oscar, André Schurrle, Salah, Thibaut Courtois and Romelu Lukaku have all been touted as the future of the London Side and while that position is not in doubt, there’s still the present which still has to be dealt with as most of these players still lack the mental strength and the winning mentality required to last through the whole season and not a part. Oscar faded off from January downwards and Hazard though exciting, was not particularly brilliant throughout the last campaign.
Having a figure like Didier Drogba in the dressing room will be a huge boost and an inspiration for the likes of Hazard, Oscar, Schurrle, Willian, Lukaku, and Felipe Luis and of course Diego Costa who are still in the early stages of their Professional and Chelsea careers. Having Didier in the club would be fundamental as these players hope to make that leap from potentials to World beaters.
At a time when Mourinho has released the Old Guard to make room for the New Guard, the lure to seek the favor of an old friend is something even the Special One can’t resist.
Mourinho might have got Diego Costa to solve the goal-scoring conundrum, Fabregas to replace club scoring Legend, Frank Lampard and Felipe Luis to replace another club legend, Ashley Cole but in Didier Drogba, he’s got someone who will bring the spirit and character to the dressing room, something the team badly lacked last season.
A PERFECT MENTOR FOR ROMELU LUKAKU
When Lukaku joined Chelsea from Anderlecht, he was tipped as the long term successor of Didier Drogba and the reasons given by fans and pundits were not far-fetched. They are big, powerful, got superb body structure, carry enormous aerial threat, pacey and can score loads of goals.
Unfortunately, that’s where the comparison stops as it has not quite happened for the 21 year old at Chelsea. He has shown promise in his loan spells at the Hawthorns and Goodison but has not quite developed into the kind of forward Chelsea had hopes of when they paid that huge sum for.
At the age of 21, he’s far from the finished article, and should he stay, there’s no one who would be better placed to teach the protégé than the teacher himself, Didier Drogba. The Ivorian would take him under his wings and nurture him into the fearsome forward that Chelsea fans really dream of seeing.
HE’S LOVED AT THE BRIDGE AND THE FEAR FACTOR
Didier Drogba is held in the highest regard by most Chelsea fans and even a couple of rival fans. In his 8 year spell at the club, he was simply the Man for the big occasion; scored the most important goal in the Chelsea’s illustrious history, scored 9 Cup Final goals in 9 matches and loads of big game goals especially against Arsenal, whom he developed the knack of scoring against (14 in 13 games).
Even when he didn’t score he always wore his heart on his sleeve (Playing as an auxiliary defender against Reading in 2006 and NOU Camp 2012) which further endeared him to the fans and drove fear into the opposition.
This time around, it is highly unlikely that he’ll have performances that would fill the headlines of the dailies but you get the feeling that anytime he is introduced, it will be a massive boost on the fans, the players and drive fear into the opposition. He’ll take so much of the attention and will allow those around to thrive on that.
His history from his first spell means that regardless of how much pace he has lost, his mere physical presence alone on the pitch would be enough to unsettle the opposition and galvanize his teammates into action.
AN ALLY OF JOSE MOURINHO
Wherever Mourinho has succeeded, he has had the full control of the dressing room. That control was down to the fact he had loyal lieutenants in his army who comprised the key cog of the team.
At Porto, he had Victor Baia, Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, Tiago and Deco as his allies and it was no surprise that FC Porto won the treble in the 2003/04 season which included an unlikely Premier League. These key players influenced the likes of Maniche, Benni Mc McCarthy who would play out their hearts for the then 40 year old Portuguese.
In his first spell as Manager of Chelsea, he developed close bonds with the likes of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Petr Cech, Claude Makalele, and Ashley Cole and Didier Drogba who famously wept after the Special One departed in 2007.You remember the untouchables that included the likes of Michael Essien and the Portuguese duo of Carvalho and Ferreira.
Moving over to Lo Stivale, in his two year spell at Inter, the Portuguese had the strong backing of then Captain, Javier Zanetti, Wesley Sneidjer, Diego Milito, Julio Cesar, Maicon and Marco Materazzi who sobbed on the shoulder of his manager after the 2010UEFA Champions League Final. This shows how emotionally attached his players can become to Him.
The Happy One has a way of making sure his players are not just tactically drilled but also committed to Him.
One of the major reasons why Mourinho’s final season with Real Madrid ended in a disaster is because he fell out with the Key Players in the dressing room. The likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos and Cristiano Ronaldo fell out with the 51 year old and it was no surprise that he was eventually booted out of the Bernabeu.
Looking at this Chelsea Side, there’s no denying the fact that the two-time Champions League Winner has lost key friends in Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole and he needs allies which is almost central to his coaching philosophy. John Terry, another key player of his has signed a new one-year deal but the re-signing of Didier Drogba means there’ll be another who’ll bring the players in line with Mourinho’s thinking and philosophy.
The Portuguese influence in Drogba’s decision to rejoin Chelsea is summed up in his statement on the Club’s website
“It was an easy decision.I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with Jose again”
A PERFECT BACKUP FOR DIEGO COSTA
Despite Chelsea’s acquisition of Diego Costa, many still felt the attack was the weak link particularly with the likes of Fernando Torres and Romelu Lukaku as backups; the former still flattering to deceive since his move from Liverpool and the latter not looking like a player ready for a big club. A Quality Backup was urgently needed and Mourinho’s insistence that he was done with transfer signing was the last thing most Blues wanted to hear.
Fast-Forward and on the 25th of July, the Special One and the Silent One (Abramovich) reacted by bringing one of the Club’s favorite sons back to Bridge.
I don’t expect him to be the one to lead the line next season but I’m sure most Chelsea fans would rather see a 36 year old man on the dugout than a 21 year old (with all due respect).
He may not be the force he used to be as his pace has been on the wane but what he lacks with his legs, he makes up for it with his evergreen head and on any given day, he’s still a nightmare for any defence.
The 36 year old won’t have to adapt to a very demanding Premier League as his game is perfectly suited to a demanding Division.
He doesn’t have to play the whole 90 minutes but there’s no denying that the former Marseille can change the game on its head in 20 minutes.
Drogba now provides the perfect back-up to kick up the backside of Diego Costa. With Torres around, possibly Lukaku and also Patrick Bamford the attack setup has youth, experience, talent and quality. There won’t be any risk of last season’s striker issues rearing its ugly head.
Drogba would not be the star man of next season but he has a part to play and as for his legendary status, that is long secured in the hearts of Chelsea Fans.