After part one of my two-part piece on two of the best strikers I have ever seen play the game, after focusing on Samuel Eto’o, it is time to look at Didier Drogba. Probably Chelsea’s best striker in the last twenty years, and a legend for Ivory Coast, Drogba was a great striker, with his strength and ability to score great goals from outside the box making him a legend with the Pensioners fans and lovers of Ivory Coast.
Didier Drogba actually began playing football at an advanced age, with family problems meaning he lived much of his childhood shuttling between France where he lived with his uncle, and ivory coast. He never played at a football academy all his life, which explains partly why he started his football at the small clubs of le mans age 18, and Guingamp.
While Drogba clearly had the potential to make it as a pro, signing for Ligue 1 Guingamp for a measly £80,000 in 2002 showed just how much he was valued by the football fraternity; possibly as an average striker. Indeed, he only scored 3 goals that season. It was in the 2002/2003 season that his career would finally explode, netting in an impressive 17 goals in 34 appearances for Guingamp. Olympique Marseille, possibly France’s most storied and successful club, came calling.
Joining in July 2003, Didier Drogba at the age of 25 was finally ready to shine in the big time. He netted 19 goals in Ligue 1, five in the UEFA champions league and six in the UEFA Cup (now Europa league) as Olympique Marseille made it all the way to the UEFA cup final, losing 2-0 to magnificent Valencia coached by none other than Rafa Benitez.
The football world woke up to the potential of Didier Drogba. Newly monied Chelsea FC forked out £24 million, and after pocketing a cool 21 million profit after just one season, Olympique Marseille was only too happy to oblige.
Didier Drogba would play for 2004 up to 2012, in what is no doubt the most successful era in the history of the London club. Indeed, for many Chelsea fans, he is possibly their greatest ever striker, so much did he leave his imprint. His career at Chelsea was pockmarked by spectacular highs and lows, with 10 goals in 10 finals and ten trophies won showing his brilliance and big game mentality that is possibly matched by very few strikers.
He had a bit of an emotional streak, and his red card in the 117th minute in the UEFA Champions League final for slapping Nemanja Vidic, leading to John Terry taking the fifth Chelsea penalty in that final instead of him, is one of the less mentioned events in that remarkable final. What if he had taken it, would we be laughing at Terry’s miss today or Cristiano’s miss?
|Didier Drogba record for Chelsea (both spells)|
|English premier league||100 goals in 226 appearances||Titles won in 2004–05, 2005–06, 2009–10, 2014–15|
|UEFA champions league||34 goals in 69 appearances||Title won in 2011-2012, scoring the winning penalty after equalizing late on|
|FA Cup||12 goals in 27 appearances||2006–07, 2008–09, 2009–10, 2011–12|
|League Cup||9 goals in 15 appearances||2004–05, 2006–07, 2014–15|
Didier Drogba’s relationship with his first Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho is well documented, and the sacking of Mou in 2012 almost led to him leaving the club. However, he preserved, winning titles under Carlo Ancelotti and the long-awaited UEFA champions league with Roberto di Matteo in 2012.
Didier Drogba left Chelsea in 2012, his 8-year career having seen off challenges from the likes of Andriy Shevchenko, Fernando Torres, Nicolas Anelka and others to leave as the best striker in Chelsea’s modern history.
A nomadic career that took in the likes of Shanghai Shenhua, Galatasaray, followed, before a return to Chelsea in 2014 under his mentor Jose followed, and then a move to the MLS in the United States followed, before winding down with Phoenix rising in the second tier of American soccer league.
Losing in the USL Playoffs on November 2018, many thought Didier Drogba would retire from football aged 40, with the player having hinted at that previously. He took to Twitter to dispel this rumours hilariously.
His next move is awaited eagerly.
Didier Drogba’s international career is probably filled with more regret and near misses than his club career. He never won the African Cup of Nations finals, losing in 2006 to the magnificent Egypt I wrote about previously on penalties, and in 2008 again to the pharaohs of Egypt, in 2010 losing to Algeria and then losing 2012 final to the Zambian side who seemed guided by history.
He ended his international career with 63 goals in 104 appearances in 2014, having captained the golden generation for 8 years, and remains their all-time top scorer, a record that will not be challenged any time soon.
Indeed, Didier Drogba’s international career might be remembered by how to try to unite his country during the war-torn years in 2006, where the appearance of the national team under his leadership brought some respite to hostilities.
|African player of the year||2006, 2009|
|Ivory Coast player of the year||2006, 2007, 2012|
There is no doubt that in Samuel Eto’o and Didier Drogba, Africa has witnessed, from 2000 to 2018, two of the greatest strikers ever not only in the motherland but worldwide. The two players led their clubs and countries to multiple finals, trophies and scored bucketfuls of goals.
While Samuel Eto’o started his football career at the very top, Didier Drogba had to fight from the bottom to the top. It is clear that Eto’o achieved more, especially internationally, with Drogba’s talented ivory coast too often playing like less than the sum of their parts, with too many superstars maybe failing to click.
Didier Drogba was probably better than Samuel Eto’o between 2005 to 2007 when Chelsea was the best in England and he led the line, but looking at their legacies in the past 18 years, I have to conclude that Samuel Eto’o will go down as the greatest striker in Africa since George Weah. Didier Drogba will be a close second.