Why Didier Drogba's Champions League Return Has Added Significance for Chelsea

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistDecember 16, 2013


Chelsea know all about the romance the Champions League can deliver.

The Blues' 2012 success was the ultimate you-could-never-write-it moment, if ever there was one. Now, the man who not only wrote the script but played the starring role on that fateful night in Munich is back for the sequel.

Didier Drogba will return to Chelsea in March for the last 16 of the Champions League, facing his former team-mates for the first time since he slotted home the penalty that sealed a historic victory over Bayern Munich.

When Drogba's current employers Galatasaray dumped Juventus out of the competition last week, it was almost inevitable it would happen.

MUNICH, GERMANY - MAY 19:  Didier Drogba of Chelsea scores the winning penalty against goalkeeper Manuel Neuer during UEFA Champions League Final between FC Bayern Muenchen and Chelsea at the Fussball Arena München on May 19, 2012 in Munich, Germany.  (Ph
Alex Livesey/Getty Images

"As a Chelsea supporter, I would love to see Didier back here and for Didier to leave a fantastic emotion in this stadium [Stamford Bridge]," Jose Mourinho commented at the weekend.

Well, Mourinho has his wish, and the countdown begins now for what promises to rank among the grandest occasions Stamford Bridge has played host to.

Unlike his team-mates, Drogba was never afforded the luxury of a Champions League homecoming. He joined them as they paraded the trophy through the streets of West London, but it wasn't long after that he departed for China and an ill-judged spell with Shanghai Shenhua.

TURIN, ITALY - OCTOBER 02:  Didier Drogba of Galatasaray AS (L) and Giorgio Chiellini of Juventus compete for the ball during UEFA Champions League Group B match between Juventus and Galatasaray AS at Juventus Arena on October 2, 2013 in Turin, Italy.  (P
Claudio Villa/Getty Images

It was those he left at Stamford Bridge who had the honor of walking out last season as European champions. Drogba wasn't forgotten, of course, yet he wasn't around to receive the plaudits, either.

Almost two years would have passed when he graces the Stamford Bridge turf again March 18, when he will finally get his moment.

Drogba may now be wearing the colors of Galatasaray, but his name will echo throughout West London the way it did all those times before. There will be a matter of a Champions League tie to contend with, but let's not kid ourselves, everyone will be there for him.

Similar to when Mourinho brought his Inter Milan team to Stamford Bridge for a last 16 tie in the same competition in 2009-10, the Ivorian's return will be tinged with a sense of an I-was-there occasion.

Indeed, it's the Mourinho factor that only adds to the whole romance and drama of it all. In this season of all seasons, Drogba returns when his former manager is back in the Chelsea dugout.

Just shy of a decade ago, we would have been discussing a Chelsea vs. Galatasaray fixture with the same protagonists—Mourinho and Drogba at the heart of it, alongside fellow club legends Frank Lampard and John Terry.

Come March, it will remain the case, just with Drogba on the opposing side.

For Chelsea fans, however—as bittersweet as it will feel—Drogba's comeback will remind them of the great times Mourinho delivered during his first spell in charge.

It's for that reason Chelsea's current crop must ensure nothing but victory.

MUNICH, GERMANY - MAY 19:  Didier Drogba of Chelsea celebrates with team mates after scoring his team’s first goal during UEFA Champions League Final between FC Bayern Muenchen and Chelsea at the Fussball Arena München on May 19, 2012 in Munich, Germany.
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

The quarter-finals beckon, yet among the many subplots will be the feeling Chelsea can finally bury the ghosts from yesteryear.

"Ten years ago I had a mobile phone that weighed two kilos and today I have BlackBerry," quipped Mourinho after Chelsea's victory Saturday over Crystal Palace, when asked to compare his team from 2004-05 and 2013-14.

"It's the evolution of the times."

By defeating Galatasaray and the past master himself, Drogba, Chelsea can show their own evolution has been for the better.


All quotes collected firsthand unless otherwise stated.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes