Through all the diving, bickering, whining, general playacting and unnecessary drama, Didier Drogba proved once again Saturday night in the Champions League final that he has an immeasurable amount of ability.
In Munich, we saw the best of the Ivory Coast international. Drogba played a role against Bayern Munich that very few players in the world are capable of. He alone led the line for a side that was essentially playing for a draw and relying on one moment of magic from their striker to win the game.
Drogba's header in the 88th may not have won the game, but it did lead to the penalty shootout where Drogba finished off his work from 12 yards out.
It was no surprise. Drogba has played in nine major finals for Chelsea and scored in eight of them. The only final he didn't score in was the '08 Champions League final in which he was sent off for a petulant kick at Nemanja Vidic in extra time.
Chelsea lost that game on penalties without him.
That's the problem with Drogba. In finals, he is fully focused and performs at his best. Rarely does he dive or playact when the magnitude of the situation is elevated like it was in the Champions League final. Yet, during the rest of the season he detracts from his own game by taking part in the pantomime aspects of football rather than concentrating on the task at hand.
Even if you discount this tumultuous season for the striker—he didn't even register in the top 22 for scorers in the Premier League—Drogba's inconsistency in front of goal is startling.
In 2010-11, he finished 15th. The year before, he led the league comfortably with 29 goals. In 2008-09, he didn't register in the top 25. In 2007-08, he finished tied for 24th with eight goals. He was at his best again the year before, leading the league with 20 goals. He was 10th in 2005-06 with 12 goals, while his first season he registered 10 goals for 15th overall.
Taking last season out of the equation, Drogba's totals over the last eight seasons include leading the league twice (his only top-10 finishes) and finishing outside the top 20 twice.
It would be short-sighted to view Drogba's goal record and discount everything else he offers to his team. Few professional footballers boast the balance between physical strength, athleticism, speed, technique, instincts and all around football ability that the 34-year-old does.
Throw into that his excellent work rate and ability in defense, and Drogba's talents are greater than any other striker of this generation. Just like Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, Drogba can take over teams in attack. Unlike Ronaldo and Messi however, Drogba is a force at the other end of the field as well.
He can dominate the best of defenders, as his cup final record proves, but that consistency isn't there when he faces off against lesser opposition. Against Bayern Munich, Drogba showed off his best side for Chelsea. When he plays on a week-to-week basis in the Premier League, however, his performances do not always live up to expectations.
You can't expect any player to be at his best every single time he steps on the field, but on sheer talent alone Drogba should have been a greater factor over the years. We saw the best of Drogba Saturday night, and while fans will now be reveling in his performance, I can't help but lament a career that never reached its full potential.
Drogba is a world-class striker. I put him comfortably on the level of Robin van Persie, Falcao, Wayne Rooney and Sergio Aguero. However, I can't help but question his passion and determination, because if he had really wanted to, his career could have reached the heights of a Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.
A world-class striker, a "clutch" performer and dominant all-around player in his day. Regrettably, Didier Drogba will never be a great in the annals of history despite having every opportunity.
If there were ever a case to classify attitude as a talent, Drogba is it.