Didier Drogba Makes a Welcome Return to the UEFA Champions League
His current side may have just this week dropped out of Europe’s premier club competition. However personally it has been a pleasure to witness the return of Didier Drogba to the Champions League in the colors of Galatasaray. Albeit his absence was short-lived, having departed Stamford Bridge for China last summer only to return to Europe in January to join the Turkish side, his return has been a welcome reminder that the Ivorian striker still has something to offer at this elite level.
In fact, it could well be argued that Drogba would have had a significant role to play at his former club Chelsea in the current campaign had he stayed on beyond last summer. This argument is further strengthened by the current shortage of first team strikers available to the club, a situation which could surely have been made easier by electing to hold on to the very talented 19 year old Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian international was sent on a season-long loan to West Bromwich Albion in August with only an inconsistent Fernando Torres and unfavoured Daniel Sturridge remaining as first team strikers at the club at the time. Chelsea did of course strengthen their forward-line in January with the signing of Demba Ba from Newcastle United, while the largely un-fancied Sturridge left for Liverpool, however I can’t help but wonder what impact Drogba’s presence and leadership may have had on their season. Perhaps most interesting of all would have been Drogba’s working relationship under Rafael Benitez, one which I can only imagine wouldn’t have been without its difficulties along the way.
Didier Drogba has always divided opinion and it can indeed be argued he has often deserved the criticism he has come to receive, however his goal against Real Madrid in the second-leg of the Champions League quarter-final this week epitomised everything that is good and great about the former Chelsea striker. His strength to hold off the 19 year old French centre-back Raphael Varane, and his composure to flick the ball beyond Fernando Muslera in the Galatasaray goal, captured in one wonderful moment the talents and attributes of a player who must surely be considered as one of the more significant to grace the Champions League stage over the past ten years. It was not the first time Drogba had gotten the better of Varane and the Real defence on the night, his physical presence, strength and composure had been causing the visitors a headache throughout the game, and by the time his goal arrived it was well deserved.
Galatasaray went on to win the second-leg 3-2 on the night (eventually losing the overall tie 5-3 on aggregate), and as has more often than not been the case with Madrid in this season’s competition, Cristiano Ronaldo proved the critical difference between the sides. However it was not Ronaldo and his goals at either end of the game which remained in my thoughts following the final whistle, but the moment of brilliance provided by Didier Drogba, offering a welcome reminder that the powerful Ivorian is still an impressive talent capable of creating great moments, and is far from a spent force at the very top level of the game.
As it happens, his fellow countryman Emmanuel Eboue’s equaliser on the night wasn’t bad either.