Chelsea fans who witnessed Didier Drogba’s inspirational appearance as substitute for Cote d’Ivoire in the World Cup yesterday might well have been encouraged to believe it was a sign of what he might bring to the Blues if the rumoured return of the centre-forward from Galatasaray ever really happened.
Sadly, it seems it won’t any time soon. Reports over the weekend suggest that he has signed a two-year deal with Serie A champions Juventus, who are keen to link him up with Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente. Given that the Italian club’s forward line was pretty devastating on the domestic front last season, it can perhaps be surmised that Drogba has been acquired (if the reports are correct) for his experience of success in the Champions League.
Juventus, of course, have recently had cause to rue Drogba’s love of Europe’s premier competition. Last season, he scored for Galatasaray as the Turkish side drew in Turin in the group stage, and then provided the headed assist for Wesley Schneider that beat the Italian side in Istanbul and knocked them out of the competition. The Ivorian obviously impressed Juve enough over the two ties to encourage them to offer him a deal, despite his advanced years.
Are Chelsea really bothered by this? Certainly all the signs were that Jose Mourinho was serious about bringing his former talisman back to Stamford Bridge, albeit in a player/coach type of role that might not have been to the striker’s taste.
It’s hard to believe, however, that Mourinho seriously considered Drogba as one of his three frontline strikers for next season. So losing him to Juventus cannot be a huge blow to his squad formation plans. If he still wants to bring Drogba into the coaching set-up, he can try again in 2016. Or even next year if the striker fails to impress at Juventus.
What this deal may say more about is the parlous state of Italian league football. Serie A clubs are falling behind those from the Bundesliga, La Liga and the Premier League in terms of success in Europe. Only one Italian club has reached the Champions League final in the last seven years. Juventus themselves haven’t got that far in over a decade, and haven’t won the competition in nearly two. Clearly the best team in Italy, they still couldn’t navigate their way out of their Champions League group last season.
Italian clubs once bestrode the European transfer market. Top players from all over the world flocked to Serie A, whose clubs were wealthy beyond the dreams of those from other countries, even England and Germany. But those days are long gone. Now even Juventus – the richest club in Italy now that Silvio Berlusconi can no longer bankroll Milan – are bolstering their forward lines, not with the latest young striking sensation, but with 36-year-olds some way past their best who are available on free transfers.
Chelsea fans will wish Didier Drogba all the best in the black and white stripes of the Old Lady. And will hope that once he’s done there, he comes back to help Mourinho coach the Blues.
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