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Didier Drogba - signing off in style


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If there is one man who could best epitomise the glories of the Chelsea side under the ownership of Russian oil oligarch Roman Abramovich, it is Didier Drogba.

A man who was purchased by José Mourinho for a then-club record fee of £24 million, eyebrows were raised. This was a man with considerable talent but with little European experience - a solitary successful season at Olympique de Marseilles being the only true reflection of the man's talent. Standing well over six feet in height and with the frame and build to match it, expectations were unusually high despite him being relatively unknown in the English game. It is fair to say the man has not disappointed.

Is there a more fitting way for a iconic, cult figure to sign off his Chelsea career than by netting the decisive penalty to secure the elusive Champions League trophy?

Drogba had been on the list of 'greatest players never to win the European cup'. Instead, the player who netted an exquisite headed equaliser in Saturday's show-piece final in Munich can now quite safely be categorised as one of the greatest players to ever lift that famous trophy with the big ears.

Drogba divided opinion not just amongst Chelsea supporters, but amongst fans of the game in general. His supposed diving and cheating has always riled managers, but as Rafael Benitez famously experienced in 2008, it is best not to publicly denounce the Ivorian as such! Some Chelsea fans even went as far as to boo Drogba during the 2005/06 season, and he was further villainised in 2009 as one of those responsible for the premature sacking of Luiz Felipe Scolari. It would not be too wide of the mark to label Didier as an unpopular figure at times during his spell with the West London outfit.

Yet whilst his on-field antics are the cause of such inflammatory comments from opposition fans particularly sick of the sight of him sticking the ball in the back of their net time and time again - yes, Arsenal supporters, I am talking about you - there can be no criticisms of Didier the man. His character is one of great humility, cutting a dignified figure at all times. He is a man devoted to God, and to his team-mates. His charity work in his own country is well-documented, and Didier is showing no sign of ceasing with his off-field activities, with plans to build a further six hospitals in the Ivorian capital Abidjan in the pipeline. He also played a significant role in organising a period of ceasefire in the light of civil war.

Not bad at all. Especially when you throw in what he has achieved at club level.

Now a European champion, Didier led Chelsea to three Premier League titles in 2005, 2006 and 2010 - the latter of which almost single-handedly. He scored four goals in four FA Cup Final wins in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012; a further three goals in two triumphs in the League Cup in 2005 and 2007; whilst he also helped his side to two FA Community Shield titles, netting twice in the 2005 final against Arsenal, and a crucial penalty in 2009's penalty shoot-out win over Manchester United.

Twelve pieces of silverware and countless individual accolades besides (including two Premier League Golden Boot awards in 2007 and 2010), Drogba has enjoyed a golden career at Stamford Bridge. In total, the man played 338 times for the club and netted on 157 occasions, making him the fourth-top goalscorer in Chelsea's illustrious history. He also contributed 71 assists during his time here.

But it only when you look beyond the statistics that you realise the true quality of Drogba. His team play is what makes him such a unique player. In another life, Drogba would probably have made one of the world's finest centre-backs, as countless defensive headers testify. Yet it has not all been plain-sailing for the Ivorian, who has had his fair share of bad press.

If you cast your mind back to Didier's first goal for the club - a bullet header in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace in August 2004 - you will recall it being the herald to an indifferent first season, quickly followed by a second year of inconsistency and controversy, marred by alleged diving and cheating. Drogba had been accused of deliberately deceiving the referee by handling against Fulham and Manchester City during Chelsea's title run-in during his second season, and his play-acting was even riling some sections of the Stamford Bridge crowd.

He silenced any doubters with a stunning return of 33 goals in the 2006/07 campaign as he led Chelsea to a League Cup and FA Cup double in José Mourinho's final season in charge. Yet further controversy was to follow - the following season he was dismissed for a slap on Nemanja Vidic during the 2008 UEFA Champions League final, and he was the subject of the blame from many quarters. Fresh doubts over his future were cast the following season when he was marginalised by manager Luiz Felipe Scolari. According to newspaper talk, Drogba responded by uniting with several other senior players and the Brazilian was cast out. Back in the team under interim coach Guus Hiddink, Drogba starred as his side reached the last four in Europe, secured a top three place domestically and won the FA Cup.

His greatest season was to come, when in 2009/10 he scored an impressive 37 times despite missing six weeks of the season through international commitments. Chelsea won the League and FA Cup double - Drogba scored the winner at Wembley once again - and the following summer he led the Ivory Coast to their second successive World Cup finals in South Africa.

During his final two seasons with Chelsea, Didier was limited to only a handful of appearances due to fitness concerns caused by him catching a deadly bout of malaria. Though it took a considerable amount of time for the striker to physically recover, he still featured heavily in the 2010/11 season run-in, whilst his exploits for the club under Roberto di Matteo will be forever remembered. In fact, you could go as far as saying that the Ivorian was at his most iconic playing the role of di Matteo's first Lieutenant. Despite his importance, Drogba has always been the first man to consider football a team game. Speaking this morning, he said that he and his team-mates have created history together, and that after winning the European Cup it is "the best time to move on".

If ever such a wonderful athlete and ambassador for the sport deserved such an incredible send-off, it is this man.

His goals in the Champions League against Bayer Leverkusen, Valencia, Napoli, Barcelona and Bayern Munich will go down as the stuff of legend. Add in a wonder-goal at Wembley in the FA Cup semi-final against that team from North London that we don't really like very much, as well as a brilliant second-half winner against Liverpool in the final of the same competition, it is fair to say that some of Drogba's finest and most important contributions to the Chelsea cause have come as part of the encore.

As to what Chelsea do to replace the Ivorian is anybody's guess. Whether Fernando Torres can step to the fore, or Edinson Cavani or Radamel Falcao are given the unenviable task of filling Drogba's boots remains to be seen. What is certain, though, is that there will never be a finer example of a gentleman and a magnificent, typical English-style centre-forward in all the history of this club. The man will be immortalised through his spot-kick heroics in Munich, and forever remembered as the epitome of Chelsea's golden generation.

It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye and farewell to a man that will forever be etched into the minds of Chelsea supporters across the globe. What Didier Drogba has achieved with this club will perhaps never be replicated by another Blues striker. We have got so used to seeing stories every summer that Drogba is on his way out of Stamford Bridge, that many people may be laughing this off. The fact of the matter is that whilst the rumour mill bore no fruit, the time has come for the curtain call. Didier Drogba has played his final game for Chelsea Football Club - and he has left a winner; a champion of European football.

Drogba said that his heart will forever be blue regardless of where he plays his football next season - but the fact is that our hearts will always be his. This is a man who has shared our pain and experienced the same ecstasy that we have felt. Where he goes will be revealed in time, but if it earns him one final, big, fat and juicy pay-check, then I think I join every Chelsea fan across the world in saying it is well deserved. There is certainly going to be a void next season - a great, gaping hole that only time to help close.

Didier Drogba joins Gianfranco Zola and Peter Osgood as one of the three greatest players to have ever worn the famous blue jersey of this club. It is safe to say there will never be another like him.

Goodbye Didier. Forever a Blue, forever a legend.

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A fantastic read, as per usual, Al. Nothing less than brilliant can be used to describe your writing skills.

However, I do have one minor gripe. You've posted this in the 'Articles' sub-forum, not the one titled 'Dissertations'.

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A fantastic read, as per usual, Al. Nothing less than brilliant can be used to describe your writing skills.

However, I do have one minor gripe. You've posted this in the 'Articles' sub-forum, not the one titled 'Dissertations'.

Haha, really appreciate that mate :D

Beautiful Alex, just beautiful. Really sums up his 8 years at Chelsea

Thanks buddy. Difficult to write emotively about football at times because of the issue of perspective; but in this case of Didier Drogba it is an easy task.

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That was a fantastic read ! I always feared that this Chelsea team (Our golden generation) was going to end up being JUST a great domestic side. I think it would of been horrible to have said in future to children asking about the Drogba-Lampard-Cech-Terry years that they won everything but the European cup. They've done it now and we can now say this Chelsea golden era won everything domestically and European wise !!!!!

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Brilliant article! Thanks, BlueLion!

I'm sad, happy and scared at the same time. Sad because one of the greatest players to ever wear the blue jersey left the club, happy because he did it as a champ, just like you mentioned, and scared because I don't know if we'll ever again have the opportunity to support such an amazing player and such an admirable man.

Thank you for everyting, Didier!

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so much has happened in just one week. from winning ucl to watching drogba , kalou and bosingwa leave the club. its just sinking in. the fact that i will never be able to see drogba in a blue shirt again is just sinking in. :(

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