Love him or hate him, Didier Drogba has been one of the greatest players to ever play for the Blues (and one of the best ever in the Premier League). The polarizing star has had a career full of epic highs and deep lows. However with the hiring of new coach Andre Villas-Boas, a new era begins at Stamford Bridge that may signal the end of the 33 year old’s time in London.
Last season was a mixed bag for the Ivorian. He scored 11 goals in the League and two in the Champions League bringing his total to 13, which is remarkable considering his age. Drogba’s physical fitness can’t be questioned as he continued to be as threatening as ever in front of the net.
However, during the second half of the season, Drogba’s playing time became interrupted with the arrival of Fernando Torres. The Spaniard was often chosen by Carlo Ancelotti to start while Drogba warmed the bench before coming on as a substitute. Even with the Spaniard struggling to find the back of the net, Chelsea continued to start him over Drogba which could only have frustrated the volatile striker.
Didier Drogba, a fan favorite of Stamford Bridge, now enters the final year of his contract. In his time with Chelsea, Drogba has become the sixth highest scorer of all time for the London club. While he has had his fair share of injuries, Drogba was the second highest scorer on the team last year and looks like he still has a lot to offer.
Yet with the arrival of Villas-Boas, it is widely known that above all else, finally winning the Champions League is all that owner Roman Abramovich seems to really care about. As a result, changes need to be made with a squad that is full of starters entering the twilight of their careers. One of the biggest needs Chelsea may have is looking for a new forward as a long term replacement for Didier Drogba. Numerous elite strikers have been linked with Chelsea like Porto’s Radamel Falcao who may want to follow his old coach Boas. Atletico Madrid’s Sergio Aguero has increasingly looked ready to make an expected move to a top European club like Chelsea.
Chelsea has also been involved with the sweepstakes for Santos’ Neymar. The hyped Brazilian sensation who has been built as the protégé of Pele has Chelsea and several other clubs willing to pay his exorbitant transfer fee of over 40 million euros. Romelu Lukaku, the 18 year old striker from Belgian club Anderlecht, has been widely expected to make his way to Chelsea as well after being often compared to none other than Didier Drogba. With Chelsea expected to make one or more deals this summer, Drogba looks like he’s going to face more competition in the starting eleven. Judging by the Fernando Torres inclusion, Chelsea may lean towards playing their new additions more often over the experienced Drogba.
Over the summer, two teams have emerged as frontrunners to sign Didier Drogba. The Turkish club Galatasaray S.K., have been linked with Drogba since the end of the season as they would like to have him partner up with their new signing Johan Elmander. More recently, Drogba’s former team, Marseille, has shown increasing interest in welcoming back their star striker who had a successful year for them in 2003-2004. Drogba himself has stated that he would only leave Chelsea to return to the Stade Velodrome since he shares a mutual admiration for the club and its fans.
Vincent Labrune, the president of Olympique de Marseille, admitted on Tuesday that they could sign Drogba as long as changes are made on their roster. He explained, “The question would be whether in terms of salary – not a transfer fee – Marseille have the means to pay Didier Drogba for four years and the answer is ‘yes’,”. “Though only if we had some departures [from the squad].”
However, despite outside interest, Chelsea are reportedly ready to fight off Drogba’s suitors. Negotiations have already been held with the forward’s representatives and formal discussions over a one year extension are to begin when he returns to pre-training for Chelsea next week. Ultimately, it will be up to Didier Drogba to decide where he wants to close out his career.