We thought we’d never see him in a Chelsea shirt again. But now the return of Didier Drogba – and not just as an assistant coach, but as a player too – looks to be one step closer, after the news emerged that he had contacted Jose Mourinho directly about the proposition.
It would be an undeniably popular move. Drogba is a legend at Stamford Bridge and Chelsea have not had a striker worthy to fill his boots since his departure. But can he really roll back the years and become the Blues’ goalscoring talisman once again?
The intelligent answer has to be no. Drogba is 36 years old, and far from the player he once was. He was a fading force even in his last season or two at Chelsea, despite his ability to score a goal when the team most needed it – as he showed in Munich in his last game for the club. He has played well for Galatasaray, but the Turkish league is quite a step down in quality from the Premier League. And his performances against Chelsea in last year’s Champions League were not those of a striker still able to terrorise top-quality defences. Or even Arsenal’s.
So what would the return of Didier Drogba bring to Chelsea? If he does come back as a player, it will be as a back-up striker to Diego Costa and whoever else forms the Chelsea frontline next season. The prospect of having him on the bench, ready to come on and terrorise Premier League back fours for the last 20 minutes, is an enticing one.
But I don’t recall Drogba being much of cop when used as a substitute. He seemed to need the whole 90 minutes to perform to the height of his abilities. Furthermore, it seems an illogical use of a squad space to squander it on a player who will spend the majority of the time on the bench.
On the other hand, Drogba’s ebullient character was always a plus in terms of squad morale when he was here. He was one of the leaders of the dressing room, a born fighter who inspired others. After the loss of Lampard, Cole and Luiz, Chelsea are – John Terry aside – a team short of characters who can inspire their team-mates.
There has been a suggestion that the Ivorian will return in the role of an attack coach, with some playing time on the side. That would seem to be a more sensible proposition, although it’s unclear how good Drogba is at the coaching side. Great players do not necessarily make good coaches. But it would be interesting to see him take a player like Romelu Lukaku under his wing and teach him how to turn raw promise into the lethal threat that was Drogba at his best.
If Drogba is happy with that role – presumably on a much smaller salary than he was on in Turkey – then this could well be a successful, as well as an emotional, return.