There will come a point in time when I sit down and explain to my children precisely what it means to be a Chelsea fan.
I was told of the Kings Road swagger embodied by that ‘70s team and the legend of Osgood, Cooke, Bonetti and Harris; the sheer numbers of away support in the ‘80s and the rebirth of the club under Hoddle in the ‘90s.
I will tell my children about a certain Russian who has transformed the club, a certain Portuguese manager who was a Special sort of One, the Italian with the eyebrow and the former player who delivered the European Cup.
I will tell them of JT, Lampard, of Cech, Cole and the rest, but there will come a point where I tell them about the greatest and most complete centre forward this club has been blessed with.In an era where the word legend is thrown about far too easily; statues erected for players still plying their trade and footballers deemed too far out of touch with reality there is Didier Drogba.
Players do the odd bit of charity work. Legends build hospitals in their hometown and fly a kid with leukaemia to Switzerland for treatment.
Players keep themselves out of political affairs. Legends stop a civil war in their own country and could win an election tomorrow if they announced their participation.
Drogba the man is unquestionably a league above his peers, a rare breed among the ultra nouveau rich footballer. Shunning the champagne lifestyle to focus on his family and country.
Drogba the player? A tour de force of timing, technique, power, passion and drama. He was the epitome of what every world class footballer should be, someone that delivered consistently on the biggest stage of them all. He is a man driven by the sense of occasion, almost defined by the magnitude of the game or moment: a man who Eddie Newton claimed could simply just raise his game when it mattered. He is the embodiment of Chelsea Football Club.
John Terry before the FA Cup Semi-Final versus Tottenham Hotspurs quipped “Will you look at him, we’re not going to lose today.” Drogba then proceeded to make William Gallas look decidedly average and score one of the great Wembley goals. The rest was history as Mr. Wembley scored the decisive goal against Liverpool in the final and cemented himself in FA Cup folklore.
You only need to see how he speaks about the club, the genuine emotion and heartfelt good bye message to the fans to depict what the last 8 years have meant to him. One of the greatest images of Munich was the embrace of Lampard, Terry and Drogba. It was a full-circle from the demons each have faced from Moscow to this season. Lampard, almost crushed by he who shall not be named this year, Terry for that penalty miss and Drogba for that incident. It was the culmination of a season spent defying logic, defying the critics and defying even themselves at times.
Never has there been a bigger BIG GAME forward. There probably never will be again.
I honestly felt strangely calm as Drogba strode forward to take the biggest penalty in the history of Chelsea. A serene wave washed over me. It was almost like this was his moment. His final. His swansong. An ending that in a way was a microcosm of his entire journey at the club. The impudent short run up, the cultured swing of the right boot and the resulting goal that sent the entire Chelsea end into a place no one thought we would ever tread. European Champions.
That piece of control against Stoke. That spin and volley against Liverpool. That long ranger against Everton. The cheeky near post flick. Those performances against Arsenal. Wembley. Barcelona. Ups. Downs. That Munich header. That Munich penalty. Reducing grown men and women to tears with one penalty kick. How many big moments? How many big goals? How many pieces of brilliance could you write about when it comes to Drogba?
Didier Drogba leaves a legend.
9 finals. 9 goals.
157 goals. 71 assists. 338 appearances. Drogba contributed a goal every other game he played for the club. Every other game.
3 Premier Leagues. 4 FA Cups. 2 League Cups. 1 European Cup. 2 Community Shields. The King of Wembley. 10 (12) trophies in 8 years.
Drogba has absolutely redefined what it means to be a centre forward. He has played against and scored against every top side he has ever faced and defenders of Jamie Carragher’s quality have labelled him “unplayable”:
“If Chelsea get the ball on to Drogba’s chest on the edge of the box and he can bring it down and turn, well, that’s it. You can’t get round him without fouling him, it’s too late to get in front of him, you just have to hope he misses the shot.”
Jose Mourinho once famously said, “Judge him when he leaves the club.”
And we shall.
You can let me know your favourite Didier moment either below in the comments section or on twitter. I am interested in your favourite goal; best performance & best memory. You can follow me on twitter @PlainsOfAlmeria and my personal account @JoeTweeds.
(Thanks to Joe for allowing this to be publishere here at TheChels. The article first appeared on the excellent Plains of Almeria)