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Didier Drogba: The Ivory tower Chelsea will miss

Last updated on: May 25, 2012 08:34 IST

Didier Drogba: The Ivory tower Chelsea will miss

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Norma Godinho

Drogba's arrival at Chelsea coincided with the club's best phase, reaching its zenith with the recent Champions League triumph. His departure from Stamford Bridge, says Norma Godinho, will leave a void that will be hard to fill.

After 341 team appearances, three EPL titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and, finally, the elusive Champions League crown, Didier Drogba brought down the curtain on a trophy-laden career at Chelsea on Tuesday when he announced he would be leaving the club after eight years at West London.

Drogba was the star on Saturday night when he scored a late equaliser before coolly slotting home the decisive penalty in the shoot-out.

The Ivory Coast striker, popularly known as Didi among teammates, will leave the West London club when his contract expires at the end of June. His exit will certainly leave a void Chelsea will find hard to fill.

Following his announcement to quit the club speculation is rife that he will move to Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua.

Rediff.com traces Drogba's rise in Chelsea colours over the years.


Image: Didier Drogba of Chelsea celebrates scoring their second goal during the UEFA Champions League against FC Porto at Stamford Bridge on September 29, 2004
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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The start of what turned out to be a glittering career at Chelsea began when he was brought to Stamford Bridge from Olympique Marseille in 2004 in a 24m pound deal.

Physical play has always played a huge part in the EPL, and Drogba's physique and quicksilver reflexes were perfect for a new, emerging Chelsea.

It took him barely a season to make his mark on the English football scene. He scored 16 of his 157 goals in the 2004-05 season that helped Chelsea clinch the Premier League title.

That same year, he helped the Blues lift the Carling Cup by beating Liverpool 2-3, he scoring in extra-time.

Over time, then coach Jose Mourinho's faith in the Ivorian kept growing and Drogba repaid the faith shown in him by scoring match-after-match.


Image: Didier Drogba celebrates after scoring a goal in 2004
Photographs: Ben Radford/Getty Images

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Didier Drogba: The Ivory tower Chelsea will miss

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Drogba gradually turned into a goal-machine for Chelsea. In the 2005-06 season, again, this fourth-highest goal-scorer for Chelsea, came good as he danced around the pitch, foxing defenders.

With 16 goals yet again, Drogba almost single-handedly led a 'boring' Chelsea to their second successive Premier League title.


Image: Didier Drogba of Chelsea blows kisses to the crowd after scoring his team's second goal during the Barclays Premiership match between Chelsea and Sunderland in Sept 2005
Photographs: Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Tags: Chelsea , Drogba

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Didier Drogba: The Ivory tower Chelsea will miss

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Failing to clinch the 2006-07 Premier League title, Chelsea were gunning for FA Cup glory.

The Blues faced EPL champions Manchester United in the 2007 FA Cup final and nothing less than the trophy would do for Mourinho's men.

Drogba started from where he left off in the Premier League and Carling Cup final (he scored two goals -- a record 28 in he season -- to pip Arsenal to the title).

A man for finals, he again showed his class. The Ivorian who made it count in the end. 116 minutes into the match and still there was not a goal scored.

Then, in a moment of magic, and with just four minutes of extra-time remaining, Didi latched on to a Lampard pass and sent the ball past Edwin van der Sar to deny Manchester United an FA triumph.


Image: Didier Drogba of Chelsea beats Edwin Van der Sar of Manchester United to score their first goal during the FA Cup Final match
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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Didier Drogba: The Ivory tower Chelsea will miss

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This was the season that saw the sacking of Jose Mourinho after Chelsea's poor start in the Champions League. It had Drogba in tears, and he expressed his desire to quit the club, only to later say he is 100 percent committed to it.

And he proved his commitment by becoming the highest scorer for Chelsea in the Champios League, with 17 goals, after scoring two in the 2007-08 semi-final to put Liverpool out of the competition and book a place in the final.

The Champions League final was not a very memorable one for Drogba, who courted controversy when he slapped Manchester United's defender Nemanja Vidic in the 117th minute. He was sent off for violent conduct and, in the process, became only the second player to be sent off in the final after Jens Lehmann in 2006.

Three months before this controversial final, Chelsea lost the 2008 Carling Cup final to Tottenham Hotspur despite taking the lead through a Drogba free-kick in the 37th minute.


Image: Didier Drogba of Chelsea celebrates with the trophy following the FA Cup Final against Manchester United at the Wembley Stadium in 2007
Photographs: Phil Cole/Getty Images

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Four seasons into the EPL and Drogba was the man for Chelsea. He grew in stature alongside the club and became widely respected among teammates and opponents alike.

But this proved to be one of the most frustrating seasons for the Ivorian. A knee injury made him sit out for the first three months, and as the season progressed he was shrouded by one controversy after another.

On recuperating from the injury, Drogba didn't waste much time in finding the back of the net. But he also found himself on the wrong side of the game's laws.

His first misdemeanour was registered during Chelsea's shock loss to Burnley in a League Cup tie. He reacted after giving Chelsea the lead in the 27th minute, and, as he celebrated in front of the Burnley fans, a coin thrown from the visiting supporters appeared to strike him. He responded with a one-finger salute and then picked up the coin and threw it back into the crowd.

He received a three-match ban following the incident. An injury lay-off and the match bans kept him out of then coach Luis Filipe Scolari's good books and Anelka became the more favored striker.

But on Scolari's sacking and Guss Hiddink at the helm, Drogba's career received a revival of sorts. It rained goals for him and Chelsea in 2009. He found the net on four occasions during the Champions League to put his team into the semis.

The FA Cup was now becoming his favourite championship and he showed this by scoring the winner against Arsenal to book a berth in the 2009 final.

In the FA Cup title-decider, Chelsea were a goal down after Luis Saha put Everton ahead but guess who came to the Blues' rescue? Yes, the man himself. Drogba slotted in the equaliser and Chelsea eventually clinched the title after a 2-1 win. It was his sixth goal in a major final for Chelsea.

Drogba's season might have ended on a high but not after some drama. Didi got himself into a soup when he ranted at the referee for making decisions that went against Chelsea during their lost Champions League semi-final vs Barcelona.

UEFA subsequently handed him a six-game European ban with the final two games suspensions. The ban then was cut by one match after the club appealed to lessen the punishment.


Image: Didier Drogba of Chelsea gestures towards referee Alan Wiley in 2008
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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Didi was in sublime touch in the 2009-10 season, scoring 11 goals from eight matches and in the process tallied 100 goals for the Blues.

He inspired Chelsea to the Premier League title after pumping in a hat-trick in Chelsea's 8-0 win over Wigan. His fine form in the EPL and 29 goals against his name, Drogba was duly awarded the Golden Boot, his second.

He continued to play an inspiring role for the Blues. A few days later, Drogba's 59th-minute free-kick fired Chelsea to a win over Tottenham in the 2010 FA Cup final, handing them their first league and cup double.


Image: Didier Drogba of Chelsea takes a photograph on his mobile phone as he celebrates winning the title after the Barclays Premier League at Stamford Bridge in 2010
Photographs: Clive Mason/Getty Images

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Drogba continued from where he left off the previous season. His form in front of the goal was stellar, scoring in most matches and making first team appearances.

Not only did he find the net regularly, he also played a part as a team man, coming good with 15 assists and Nicolas Anelka being the main beneficiary.

Chelsea eventually finished the season nine points behind Premier League title winners Manchester United.


Image: Didier Drogba of Chelsea (second left) celebrates in 2011
Photographs: Scott Heavey/Getty Images

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Scoring in crucial matches, a concussion, rejecting a new deal, Drogba and his fans saw it all in this season.

In what became his final year at Stamford Bridge, Drogba scored his 150th goal for Chelsea against Aston Villa. This goal saw the Ivorian become the fourth highest scorer for the Blues.

He also went on to record his 100th English Premier League goal for Chelsea, becoming the first African to hold the distinction.

His goals spree helped Chelsea book a place in the FA Cup final against Liverpool. Didi became the first player to score in four different FA Cup finals, when he scored the winner in Chelsea's 2 -1 triumph over Liverpool, earlier this month, to give the Blues their fourth Cup title in six years.

Even though Drogba didn't feature much in former coach Andre Villas-Boas's scheme of things, he still delivered when it mattered.

Most recently, his 34th goal in the Champions League, a Chelsea record, helped the Blues defeat Bayern Munich over penalties and win their first European title.

His 88th-minute header forced the game into extra-time and it was the Ivorian who struck the winning penalty in the shoot-out for a fairytale ending.

English football may not have seen a more talented and loyal footballer. In 2004, when Drogba was bought by Mourinho in a 24m pound deal, the coach was branded insane. But Mourinho told his critics 'Judge Drogba when he leaves the club'.

Need we say more!


Image: Didier Drogba of Chelsea celebrates as he scores their second goal during the FA Cup final against Liverpool
Photographs: Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

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