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Didier Drogba Leaves Chelsea - What's Next For The Blues And Their Ivorian Legend?

Adithya Manjunath |
May 24, 2012 | 1:02 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Didier Drogba, Chelsea's powerful forward from the Ivory Coast, has decided to leave Chelsea, as his contract expired at season's end.

Drogba scored a total of 157 goals in 341 appearances for the club, while also assisting 71 goals in the eight seasons he played for the Blues. His last contribution to Chelsea was a penalty kick that won them the coveted Champions League, the only trophy that had eluded Chelsea in the Roman Abramovich-owned era...until now.

Drogba celebrates with the coveted UEFA Champions League cup. (rayand/Wikimedia Commons)
Drogba celebrates with the coveted UEFA Champions League cup. (rayand/Wikimedia Commons)

Drogba, signed on for a sizable in 2004 by Jose Mourinho, was one of many players that came to Chelsea as part of a spending spree that saw them transform from a club that remained in mid-table obscurity to a powerful club that challenged for trophies on multiple fronts.

Interestingly enough, Mourinho was criticized by many for spending too much on Drogba (£24m) in a market that was not as inflated as it is now. When reporters said to him that he had paid too much for Drogba however, he retorted, "Judge the price when he leaves the club".

Eight seasons later, few can question the price Mourinho paid, as Drogba has proven himself to be worth the £24million over the course of his tenure as Chelsea's talisman striker up front, terrorizing world class defenders in clubs all over Europe.

Many believe that the career of Phillipe Senderos, a Switzerland International who was seen as a top defensive prospect for Arsenal FC, was ruined by Didier Drogba's exploits as a forward. Not only did Drogba batter Senderos in defense leading to Chelsea's victory over Arsenal on more than one occasion, but Senderos fell out of favor with Arsene Wenger after he never seemed to regain his confidence once he faced Drogba.

Jamie Carragher, the experienced Liverpool centre back, called Drogba "unplayable." Carragher said, "As a defender, if a player scores against me, I usually think there is something I could have done. I'll identify a position I could have taken up. I'll identify the flaw that let them in."

"The only different ones are Drogba and Henry. You replay a goal, and sometimes there was nothing that could be done. You can't get around him without fouling him, it's too late to get in front of him, you just have to hope he misses the shot. The same if he leaves you behind to go one on one with the goalkeeper.

Liverpool favorite Jamie Carragher, who struggled to guard Drogba. (Danny Molyneux/Wikimedia Commons)
Liverpool favorite Jamie Carragher, who struggled to guard Drogba. (Danny Molyneux/Wikimedia Commons)

In Drogba, Chelsea had an unstoppable force up front that was responsible for a sizable portion of its goals. It didn't matter if Drogba didn't score them or provide an assist. By just moving around in the box and being a constant threat, Drogba not only gave himself numerous opportunities to score, but gave space to his teammates who didn't have to deal with defenders trying to keep up with the Ivorian.

That being said, after eight full seasons at Chelsea, Drogba's time at the club has come to a close at the right time, for both Drogba, himself, and Chelsea, as well.

At 34, while Drogba proved over the course of the last season that he still could play at the highest level of English football with 13 goals and four assists, as he grows older, it will clearly become tougher for him to keep up with the sheer pace of the English game.

Leaving on a high note as Chelsea has just finished a surprisingly successful season, where it pulled off the FA Cup-Champions League double, is probably the best way for Drogba to say goodbye to Chelsea and the English Premier League.

Also, Fernando Torres, Chelsea's record £50m signing, did not have a memorable first full season at the club, as his growth was hindered by the experienced Drogba's presence. Torres was never given enough opportunities to prove his class as a forward.

Both Andre Villas Boas and Roberto Di Matteo were clearly left confused before every game as to whether they should play safe by playing Drogba, a player in his eighth season at the club, or use Torres, who was sensational at Liverpool but had yet to find his form in London. 

Torres will be counted on to fill the void left by Drogba. (rayand/Wikimedia Commons)
Torres will be counted on to fill the void left by Drogba. (rayand/Wikimedia Commons)

Giving Torres valuable playing time will not only give him a better chance to find his feet, as Di Matteo discovered in the latter stages of the season, but will also hopefully back up his steep price-tag that has seemed to affect his form at Chelsea. 

Drogba gave the Spaniard his full backing after announcing his departure, stating to BBC Sport that "next season is going to be Torres' season," in spite of his difficult start with the club.

While this might mean the rest of Chelsea's squad will have to get used to assisting Torres up front instead of Drogba, Torres has proven both at the club and international level that he is a quality player who can bang in goals on a regular basis, and there is no reason for him not to do so at Chelsea.

But in Torres, Chelsea has one of the few strikers alive today that could fill the huge void left by Drogba, and that is the best they can hope for at the moment. Torres, at his best, can be stopped by few defenders, and Chelsea must give him enough opportunities to prove his worth, and to prove that he can keep Chelsea at the top, competing for multiple trophies as they have been in the recent past.

While Drogba's sheer power and determination made up for the lack of elegance in his play, he got the job done for Chelsea - playing an important part in every trophy they've won in Abramovich's time as owner. He must and will be regarded as a legend with the club for what he's helped them achieve.

Drogba's departure signals the start of a new chapter in Chelsea's life as one of Europe's giants, and at the same time, ends a memorable eight-year interval in the Premier League.

However, Henry's departure at crosstown rivals Arsenal proved to be just as big of an affair (if not bigger), and Arsenal did just fine without him; this example, if anything, proves that Chelsea will also do just fine without their Ivorian talisman.

As for Drogba, the Premier League will never be the same without him. He will remain successful wherever he decides to go, whether it be China to join Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua, Italy to join Juve, or to join Samuel Eto'o at Anzhi Makhachkala, simply because of his drive to do well as a player, wherever he goes.

He will also always remain a Chelsea FC legend for spearheading the Blues' most successful side in their 107-year history and simply for being one of the best forwards to grace the Premier League.

Reach Adithya by email, or follow him on Twitter.



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