341 games, 157 goals including nine in finals, and 10 major trophies, stats don’t tend to tell the whole story in football, but with Didier Drogba, now departed from Chelsea, they almost do.
He may not have had the craft of Peter Osgood or the vision of Gianfranco Zola, but Drogba's legacy at the club is every bit as strong as previous Stamford Bridge heroes. With his brute strength, exquisite technique, strength of character and undying will to win, he represented everything great about the Chelsea side of his era. A side who may have lost battles but steadfast refused to lose the war, a side who won every major honour available to them in Drogba’s spell at the club.
The balance of power in football in London shifted during this time and if one man personified that shift it was Drogba. The summer of his arrival Arsenal were reigning champions, a great side who went the whole 2003/2004 league season undefeated. In the 8 years that followed they have won a solitary FA Cup, (back in 2005), whilst Drogba has helped Chelsea to become the first London side to win the European Cup, as well as winning 3 League titles 4 FA Cups and 2 League Cup triumphs. Year in year out he terrorised and bullied a succession of Arsenal defenders, year in year out he scored goals against them seemingly at will.
There were also occasional downs, the sending off in Moscow, his performances under Luiz Filipe Scolari, the Barcelona semi-final in 2009. Critics will point to his occasional theatrics (though this is a malaise of the modern game rather than specific to Drogba) and argue that whilst he represents everything people admire about modern Chelsea, he also represents everything they dislike. However, these were far outweighed by the highs, the two golden boots, the league titles, the first goal at the new Wembley (and all the ones that followed) and finally, fittingly the winning penalty to bring the European Cup to the Bridge for the first time.
Drogba is a player who Chelsea fans will tell their grandkids they saw the way the more mature Chelsea fan talks of the Championship winning side of 55 and the greats of the late 60s and early 70’s.
His greatest moment in a Chelsea shirt is far too hard to choose, but aside from constantly stamping himself on the big stage if there is one goal that typifies Didier Drogba then it came away at Everton in December 2006. Chelsea needed a win to keep up with Manchester United at the top of the League, but with the score level at 2-2 going into injury time it seemed that two vital points had been dropped. Cue Drogba from fully 40 yards out to unleash, a thunderous, unstoppable half volley over a stranded Tim Howard.
Didier Drogba: brute strength, exquisite technique, strength of character and an undying will to win.