Drogba moved by Chelsea return

Ivorian goes back to former club for the first time while Chelsea manager Mourinho says striker could return for good.

    Drogba moved by Chelsea return
    Drogba has his eyes on a place in the Champions League quarter-finals despite the emotion of his return [AFP]

    Didier Drogba returns to play at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday for the first time since he was a substitute against Blackburn Rovers on May 13, 2012, in a win that saw his team finish sixth in the Premier League.

    Six days later, the Ivorian made his mark on the greatest night in Chelsea's history, and cemented his position as one of the most effective players English football has seen.

    His headed equaliser and winning penalty against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final brought Chelsea the European Cup for the first time, and was his final action after eight years in west London.

    The statistics read that he scored 157 goals in 341 games and won three Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, two League Cups as well as that Champions League trophy.

    But Drogba also became one of the symbols of the new Chelsea that began with Roman Abramovic's money and matured under Jose Mourinho's management.

    And the 36-year-old striker retains a fierce loyalty towards the Portuguese, albeit one that must be put aside as he tries to fire his new club Galatasaray to the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

    Great forward

    "When Chelsea were thinking of signing me it was Mourinho who came to see me," former Marseille player Drogba told the UEFA website.

    It's true that I was a good player in the French league at the time but he made me one of the best in Europe. That's why I, for Jose, was capable of going to the ends of the Earth.

    Didier Drogba, Galatasaray striker

    "He said, 'If you want to be a great forward like Thierry Henry or Ruud van Nistelrooy you have to come and play for me.

    "It's true that I was a good player in the French league at the time but he made me one of the best in Europe. That's why I, for Jose, was capable of going to the ends of the Earth."

    Chelsea hold the advantage of an away goal from the 1-1 draw in Istanbul three weeks ago as they attempt to finish off the Turkish team in the second leg of their last 16 tie.

    "It is a very special moment because I do not know what my reaction will be," Drogba added on the emotions of his return.

    "I am quite apprehensive about it."

    Mourinho – himself in a second spell at Stamford Bridge after being sacked in 2007 – believes that Drogba is still one of the greatest strikers in the world, and did not rule out making a move to be reunited with his former favourite at the end of the season.

    Chelsea's strikeforce of Samuel Eto'o, Fernando Torres and Demba Ba have scored only 22 goals between them this season despite the team being top of the Premier League, and Tuesday may give an indication of how scary Drogba can still be for English defences.

    "His return has to happen one day, when I don't know," Mourinho said.

    "As a player, as a coach, as an ambassador, next year, in four or five years, 10 years, I don't know.

    Free agent

    "But when a person gives so much to a club and a club represents so much to a person, as in this case, I think he has to be back one day…We know he is a free agent at the end of the season but this is not the right moment to speak about this.

    "Is he the same player at 36 that he was at 26? I think nobody is but he's one of the best strikers in the world, that's for sure."

    A Champions League winner with Porto in 2004 and Inter Milan in 2010, Mourinho would dearly love to win it with Chelsea.

    But even if they get past Galatasaray, another of his former teams is likely to be in the way at some stage.

    The Portuguese failed in his mission to take Real Madrid back to the summit of European football, ending three years at Real last summer.

    But the Spanish giants are firing this year, with Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo leading the way, with 11 of his 39 goals coming in six Champions League games.

    Real are effectively through to the quarter-finals, taking on Schalke at the Bernabeu with a 6-1 aggregate lead in Tuesday's other game.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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