Name: Didier Drogba
Date of Birth: 11/03/1978
Height: 6′ 2″ (189cm)
Weight: 14st 5lbs (91.0kg)
Clubs: Marseille, Guingamp
It is fair to say that even by the standards of his own extraordinary life, the 2008/09 was a rollercoaster ride for Didier.
Sidelined for much of the first half of the campaign, the Ivorian bounced back with the arrival of Guus Hiddink to become the Premier League’s most feared striker once again.
His form has continued into the new season under Carlo Ancelotti, with decisive goals coming in games against Hull and Stoke while adding assists aplenty with his rampaging style of play.
A new contract was signed over the summer, taking him to 2012, but it could all have been so different after 2008/09 began with such frustration.
The arrival of Luiz Felipe Scolari into the manager’s chair was greeted with excitement around the squad, but the Brazilian struggled to utilise the injury-affected Drogba alongside the free-scoring Nicolas Anelka, eventually opting to go with the Frenchman alone.
Lacking match fitness, Drogba found it hard to make an impact, eventually doing so against Burnley in the Carling Cup, but a fine individual goal was ruined by its celebration.
Showered by coins from the away end at Stamford Bridge, Drogba reacted, tossing one back into the Shed End, earning him a three-match ban that would further hinder his involvement.
Scolari’s dismissal and Hiddink’s arrival in mid-February sparked a return to form, and the starting line-up for the Ivory Coast captain, and he repaid the Dutchman with a number of vital goals, against Juventus in Europe and Portsmouth at home, before a run of five in four games against Bolton, Liverpool and Arsenal.
His best performance of the season was arguably against Fulham at the beginning of May, combining with Anelka and Florent Malouda to rip our west London neighbours apart.
Four days later Drogba was at the centre of controversy again. Eliminated from the Champions League in injury time of the semi-final against Barcelona, despite having had a number of penalty calls waved away, he did not react well, confronting referee Tom Henning Ovrebo in front of the TV cameras. Again there was a three-match ban, reduced on appeal from four.
It was the second season in succession that Drogba’s European campaign had ended in shame. A year earlier he was sent off in Moscow, minutes before the penalty shootout that saw us beaten by Manchester United.
Still there was one more twist to come, as he powered home a header in the FA Cup Final against Everton, levelling up Louis Saha’s opener for his fourth goal in as many Wembley visits.
A man for the big occasions, nobody has scored more in cup finals for Chelsea, with Drogba having also netted in the Carling Cups of 2005, 2007 and 2008, and the FA Cup in 2007.
That 2006/07 campaign was when it all came together for the 2004 summer arrival, whose pace, strength and aerial power made him the type of forward not seen at Chelsea for some time. He netted 33 times in all competitions.
Although his 15 goals the next year fell short of that number, there were still Goal of the Season contenders among them and had the African Cup of Nations and a recurring knee problem not intervened, he might have matched a total that had made him Chelsea’s highest scorer in a season since Kerry Dixon in 1984/85.
Didier was signed in the summer of 2004 from Marseille where he had been named France’s Player of the Year. A reported fee of £24 million was paid.
The man who spearheaded Ivory Coast to a first World Cup Finals in 2006 moved from Africa to live in France as a young child and played his early junior football at right-back.
He dabbled with various small clubs and even turned down the chance of a trial at Paris St-Germain, preferring to learn his trade before moving onto the big stage.
He did so at Second Division Le Mans before shifting up a division to Guingamp, a club he had been prevented from joining some years earlier due to injury.
It was during this spell in Brittany that Didier first came to the attention of José Mourinho – but after scoring 17 goals in 2002/03 and becoming an international, he had moved out of Porto’s price range.
Olympique Marseille swooped and they did not regret their move. After a gentle-paced start to his career in France, Didier hit full sprint following the move to the big time.
In his second season at l’OM, he netted 18 times in 35 league games and six times as the 2004 Uefa Cup Final was reached, including braces against Liverpool and Newcastle.
In addition to his France Footballer of the Year award, Fifa recognised the achievements with a nomination for World Player of the Year. Mourinho made the player a top target in his first summer of transfer activity at Chelsea – and this time the price wasn’t a problem.
A groin operation forced him out for two months midway through his first season and it took time to reach full power again,though he still netted 10 league goals, and 16 in total.
In 2005/06 his season’s tally was again 16 goals, 12 coming during the successful defence of the Premiership, but before that triumph, there was also adversity.
Following handball incidents in two games and accusations of diving, it took character to respond with an awe-inspiring showing against West Ham at the Bridge in March 2006.
Chelsea came back from a goal and a man down to win 4-1, prompting Mourinho to say:
‘Didier should go home, switch on the TV, listen to the pundits, buy every single paper tomorrow and listen and read to see if the same people who wanted to kill him have now the common sense to say what he deserves.’
Didier captained Ivory Coast in their maiden World Cup Finals in 2006 and found the net against Argentina before returning to Chelsea where he was asked to mould a strike partnership with newly-arrived Andriy Shevchenko.
He found playing with two-up suited as the flow of goals turned into a torrent.
His 20 in the league won the Premiership Golden Boot. His 60 games tally was the second highest appearances in a season in the club’s history.
Now there are over 200 Chelsea appearances to his name, and although he is 31, Drogba looks like giving Premier League defenders nightmares for a few years to come.