Didier Drogba Return Talk Is Tantalising for Chelsea

Ed DoveContributor IIIJuly 31, 2013

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho raised a few eyebrows when he announced that he "expects" Didier Drogba to return to Stamford Bridge one day.

However, on closer inspection, the notion of the Ivorian veteran making a comeback in West London is actually quite an appealing prospect.

Drogba may be 35 and currently playing for Turkish giants Galatasaray in the Super Lig, but few of the forward’s formidable playing powers have diminished. He still offers an incredibly pertinent physical threat, has the strength and vitality to trouble the most experienced defenders, and possesses a powerful, clinical shot.

While his season last term was fairly stuttering, with a cross-continental departure and a club dispute midway through, the striker still managed to pick up a Turkish league winner’s medal.

He also demonstrated his taste for the big-match environment while in Istanbul, bagging important goals in fixtures against Akhisar Belediyespor, Elazigspor and Real Madrid in the Champions League.

Should he return to Chelsea in a playing capacity, his experience and an uncanny knack for influencing the most important of fixtures would no doubt combine to make him a major asset to the Blues.

It was Drogba, lest we forget, who almost single-handedly won Chelsea their first Champions League.

Against Bayern Munich in that remarkable final in 2012, Drogba scored the late equaliser to take the game past 90 minutes, then bagged the crucial penalty that prised the trophy from the despairing grasp of Die Roten to send it to Stamford Bridge.

It was a performance that guaranteed him legendary status among the Chelsea fans. Drogba’s sheer force of will and relentless desire to win London its first European Cup prompted admiration from Sir Alex Ferguson and Gianfranco Zola among others.

Surely this big-game mentality and elite-level experience could be of use to Mourinho and Chelsea?

Having an African icon such as Drogba around the club would be a huge boost to the likes of Demba Ba, Romelu Lukaku and Victor Moses—all of whom have close roots in the continent. They would be inspired by the return of Drogba and benefit from the experience that he possesses (and they lack).

The case of Lukaku is particularly interesting and it could be he who provides the most compelling reason for Drogba’s return.

Back when he was in Belgium, tearing up the Jupiler League with Anderlecht, Lukaku’s frame, electric pace, explosive talent and aerial threat saw him earmarked by many as Drogba’s natural successor.

At times the similarities between the two were uncanny and no other youngster of this ilk appeared set to capture the imagination quite like Lukaku.

It was no surprise that Chelsea moved to buy him in 2011; the club have always sought to snap up the finest young talent around and knowing that Drogba was charging towards the end of his career, having a ready-made successor seemed to be an ideal fit.

Lukaku’s first season in England, not dissimilar to that of Drogba, was a troubled affair.

The striker struggled to make an impact in the games he did feature in and, as Chelsea's league fortunes faded, he was sidelined as then-manager Andre Villas-Boas made the pragmatic decision that only experience could revive his side.

Last season on loan at West Bromwich Albion, however, Lukaku demonstrated the ferocity and electricity that dominated Premier League defences and showed how he can trouble opposition at the highest levels. Some of his moments of skill were simply sublime and, at times, he bore an eerily resemblance to Drogba in his peerless prime.

Lukaku returns to Chelsea this summer ready to force his way into the first team, intent on replacing the misfiring Fernando Torres and forging his own legacy in West London.

The presence of Drogba could be a wonderful boon for Lukaku. Under AVB, the Ivorian was clearly a threat and a direct challenge to the young forwardthis season, with the pair being 20 and 35 respectively, Drogba's presence can only help the Belgian on the training ground, assist with Lukaku's absorption of some of the game’s finer points and encourage the youngster to emulate him completely.

Any longer-term Chelsea future for Drogba must surely be as part of the backroom team and he can certainly start learning his coaching trade by making an impact in tutoring Lukaku.

Manchester United have recently demonstrated the value of employing team stalwarts beyond their prime years and further embroidering them into the fabric of the club. Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes have both contributed to United’s aura, to the club’s sustained identity and to the development of youth.

David Moyes’ decision to add Giggs to his backroom staff and to bring Champions League winner Philip Neville back to the club in a coaching capacity is a clear indication of the merit he places on retaining a stable structure and a body of personnel who preserve and perpetuate the club’s image and values.

Tottenham Hotspur have done something similar by retaining the retired Ledley King as a club ambassador, while few would bet against Jamie Carragher one day returning to Liverpool in some capacity—a side where the famous "Boot Room" tradition was the ultimate in continuity.

Chelsea, a club often derided for their lack of history and the "quick fix" nature of their recent success, are crying out for some unifying threads of identity that can tie the future of the club to an illustrious past.

The continued presence of Frank Lampard, now an elder statesman but forever stamped in the club's history as a midfield legend, has gone some way to adding constancy and a more permanent quality to Chelsea’s success.

Mourinho will be acutely aware that Drogba, even though his playing days may be numbered, can also be a valuable asset to this young side and an oft-beleaguered team.