Didier Drogba undoubtedly goes down as a footballing icon across the globe and has forever left his imprint on the world of football – through his goals at the death, bullying of some of the worlds greatest centre halves, establishing himself at what would now be seen as an old age and his self created legacy – no one had a career like Chelsea’s highest scoring foreign player – Didier Drogba.
A quick recap on Didier Drogba
He was born in Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 1978 and began his professional career in France at Le Mans.
Didier boasts an incredibly illustrious career – he is a four time Premier League winner, four time FA Cup winner, three time league cup winner to name a few and perhaps the most memorable of all; Didier played a crucial role in Chelsea’s 2012 European campaign which resulted in the Blue’s achieving long awaited Champions League glory on the 19thMay 2012, in what will forever go down as one of, if not the, most iconic nights in the clubs history.
Le Mans (1998- 2002)
Didier studied accountancy at university in Le Mans and subsequently changed clubs to join Le Mans and become an apprentice.
His start to his career was far from plain sailing; Marc Westerloppe, Didier’s coach at Le Mans, stated that that “it took Didier four years to be capable of training every day and playing every week”.
His lack of academy training and experience, which is practically unheard of in this day and age, was clearly an area that Drogba had to adapt and work on in this early stage of his career.
As Didier approached this challenging junction of his career, his time donning the orange and red stripes of Le Mans would be the Ivorian’s final club spell before his career became green lit.
Drogba enjoyed a brief but successful spell at Guingamp, scoring 24 goals in 50 games for the side. This led to his move to Ligue 1 outfit Marseille.
He only spent one season at Marseille, but this ultimately consolidated his name in European football; through scoring 19 goals that season and winning the UNFP Player of the Year award. His physical prowess and dominating play style caught the eye of those across the globe.
It is also important to note that he showed prolific form in the Champions League during his time with Les Phoceens. Didier ultimately made his name known and earned his move to Chelsea for a club record fee of £24 million.
Didier frequently declared his love for Marseille and their fans for the duration of his career, showing the sheer impact his successful 12 month period at the club had on his career.
This classic sky blue shirt of Les Olympians is a kit clamored over by many a retro football shirt collector, with Didier ultimately presenting this shirt from his only season at Marseille to the church before the 2004 UEFA Cup Final; in which his side lost 2-0 the Valencia.
Chelsea (2004- 2012 & 2015- 16)
One of Europe’s hottest and most exciting managers in Jose Mourinho made his impact at Chelsea by signing one of Europe’s hottest and most exciting strikers in Didier Drogba in the summer of 2004 – looking back on it, Drogba’s career seemed bound for success.
Although Drogba was young and inexperienced, Mourinho’s faith in him could never be questioned. The rumour that he turned down world renowned footballing icon Ronaldinho in favour of prizing Didier from Marseille only supports this idea and many Chelsea fans will be forever grateful that transfer decision worked out the way that it did.
Undoubtedly the club where Didier shone the brightest, Drogba led Chelsea’s from the front in the club’s most successful era.
Didier notched 16 goals in his debut season in West London, in which the blues claimed their first ever Premier League title. Mourinho’ put all of his trust into Drogba to lead the line in his debut season; a risk that ultimately paid off. The self-acclaimed ‘Special One’ and his side won back-to- back Premier League titles and broke records along the way – such as in the 2004- 05 season breaking the Premier League defensive record by only conceding 15 goals; a record that still stands to this day.
But there’s no use being successful in defense if you can’t score goals – which Drogba ensured wasn’t the case. He outlasted and outperformed many big money signings along the way that Abramovic’s Blues continued to make, with Mateja Kezman, Hernan Crespo and later on Fernando Torres, to name a few that failed to deliver regularly at the top end of the pitch.
In the 2006- 07 season, Drogba scored an astonishing 33 goals in all competitions; becoming the first Chelsea player since Kerry Dixon to reach thirty goals in a season. It was in this season that Drogba claimed the number 11 shirt from the departing Damien Duff and made it his own for the remainder of his glamorous Chelsea career.
Of course, it was the number 15 for Didier that features on one of Chelsea’s more iconic shirts of the 21st century – the 2003- 05 white away shirt with a royal blue stripe down the middle. It was in this shirt that Drogba scored his iconic long range goal against Everton and remains a valued collectors item for many (even myself!). It was Fly Emirates and Samsung that provided so many instant classics for Chelsea fans, with this one undoubtedly an all time favourite.
In his first instance of being fingertips away from Champions League glory, however, it did not work out quite how his European story magically ended.
Chelsea were pitted against fellow Premier League giant Manchester United, in an all English clash in Moscow to crown the 2008 Champions League winners.
Deep into extra time, Drogba lashed out at defender Nemanja Vidic, and was ultimately sent off. This game went to penalties and resulted in one of the most painful moments in Chelsea history; ‘Captain, Leader, Legend’ John Terry slipping and missing his all important penalty. Manchester United went on to win the shootout, thanks to an Edwin Van der Sar save on Nicolas Anelka’s tame penalty.
Drogba’s most prolific season for the Blues was in 2009/10, in which he regularly featured in the black and fiery orange striped away shirt – a colour scheme in which the club hadn’t typically opted for, it was in this season that Didier hit hot form.
He went on to win one more Premier League trophy with the club and rounded off his time with the club – with his last kick of a ball – by slotting the penalty against Bayern Munich to crown Chelsea as the ‘Champions of Europe’. In what was a campaign Chelsea quite frankly shouldn’t have won, due to the inexperienced Roberto Di Matteo at the helm of an aging squad, Chelsea defied odds again and again in one of the most memorable Champions League wins of all time.
Didier Drogba is undoubtedly one of the greatest football players to drape on the famous navy blue of Chelsea and that ‘Samsung’-sponsored strip will live long in the memory for Blues fans everywhere.
Shanghai Shenhua (2012- 13)
In what seemed to be the twilight of Didier’s career, Didier stuck true to the continued blue theme of his career and joined Chinese outfit Shanghai Shenhua, who undoubtedly boosted sales of their patterned dark blue Nike shirt, in what promised to be an exciting era for Chinese football. With various Chinese sides signing big names within the footballing world, Didier featured alongside former Chelsea teammate Nicolas Anelka.
Drogba’s move was made after the expiry of his Chelsea contract, in a move he claimed was ‘Nothing to do with money’ and instead ‘represented a new challenge.’
Many players, such as Oscar and Carlos Tevez, made moves to Chinese clubs during this era. However, it now seems to be a thing of the past as regulations are in place to prioritise the growth of young Chinese players to secure a brighter future for their national sides.
His spell was short lived; he left the club only a year after he joined, to return to European football.
Galatasaray (2013- 14)
Didier returned to European football with a bang, by scoring 20 goals in 53 games for Turkish outfit Galatasaray. Signed alongside Wesley Snejder, the pair provided proven top level experience to the side.
In what has become one of Europe’s all time iconic shirts, Drogba hauled on the red and orange with the aim of spearheading a side seeking league glory. In a similar vein to his time at Le Mans, the sight of an orange and red blur became a defenders worst nightmare in the Turkish Super League.
He instantly made an impact – scoring a bullish header typical of the man just five minutes into his debut after coming off the bench. He continued to score regularly in a league where fixtures came thick and fast, including braces against Mersin Idmanyurdu and Elazigspor respectively.
His most memorable goal and performance for the side sums up his career and status – a Champions League goal to provide his underdog side some hope.
He scored a backheel against Real Madrid in a crucial quarter- final game for Galatasaray – in which a victory would have landed the club their first ever European semi- final. Unfortunately for Gala, it was Drogba’s old boss Mourinho that would dash their European hopes in this fixture; knocking the side out with his all star Real Madrid.
Drogba’s side ended their season with Super Lig joy, as Galatasaray surpassed Fenerbace’s 19 as the highest in Turkish football. Once his successful and memorable spell in Turkey was over, Drogba returned home for one last time.
Chelsea (2014 – 15)
The big man returned for one final hurrah at the club he cemented himself as one of the most iconic forwards of his era. The 36 year old was reunited with his former boss Jose Mourinho – who brought him to the club in his first spell. Poetic, right?
Mourinho described him to still be ‘One of the best strikers in Europe’ and by providing valuable cover to his eventual replacement, the brute force that is Diego Costa, he helped his club reach Premier League glory. Didier won his fourth and final Premier League with the club.
The Ivorian was hoisted above his teammates heads and carried off in his final game for the club – a tribute fit for a king.
Didier rounded his career off with short stints in America, representing Montreal, Arizona United and Phoenix Rising respectively; before finally calling it a day on his illustrious career. A career spanning over 20 years across multiple different continents, the Ivorian seemed to defy odds wherever he went.
A career that just about had it all; controversy, defying expectations, heartbreak and success, the Ivorian led a stellar career at the top level of European club football.
Having deservedly earned the unofficial title of ‘The Ultimate Big Game Player’, this just about sums up the level of responsibility he carried on his shoulders; this is why, when it mattered most in Munich, Chelsea fans across the globe knew that it was ‘Written in the stars’.
For another player shirt profile, click here.
What’s your favourite ever Didier Drogba shirt?