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Why Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic Could Not Rival Didier Drogba as a Chelsea Legend

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Why Even Zlatan Ibrahimovic Could Not Rival Didier Drogba as a Chelsea Legend
Associated Press

There are cult heroes in modern football. And then there is Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

There are legends at Chelsea. And then there is Didier Drogba.

"Ibrahimovic? It's impossible," said Jose Mourinho in the Mirror this week when asked about the possibility of Chelsea signing the Swedish international.

As the man who has worked with both Drogba and Ibrahimovic, Mourinho would probably have the same response if asked about Ibrahimovic emulating Drogba at Stamford Bridge.

Even for a man of Ibrahimovic's talents, it would be a difficult task.

Martin Meissner/Associated Press

Leaving the practicalities of a such a notion to one side for a moment—Ibrahimovic will be 33 years old this year, of course—his character alone would divide opinion enough at Stamford Bridge.

And as history has shown us, Ibrahimovic isn't around along enough with any club to win over the doubters—not that he would concern himself too much with that fact, anyhow.

The striking statistic from Ibrahimovic's career is that he has won more caps for his country (96) than league appearances for any one club, despite turning out for the likes of Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan and now Paris Saint-Germain.

He enjoys to move does Ibrahimovic, and legacies at one club aren't built around a nomadic existence. It doesn't allow fans to emotionally attach themselves.

Shortcomings in his character or not, though, Ibrahimovic would still have a lot to do if he were to live up to Drogba's brilliance at Chelsea.

As the club travels to Istanbul this week to face Drogba's current side Galatasaray, it reminds us of everything he achieved for the Blues during his eight years.

Osama Faisal/Associated Press

Indeed, it's rather apt he should come up against them for the first time in his career in the Champions League—the competition he all but won the club single-handedly in 2012.

"It's a strange feeling [to be playing against Drogba]," said Mourinho, when discussing the game with the media at the weekend. "But we know him, we know him well. So, if you know him well, we know that for him, no friends during the game.

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"Just before the game, big friends and big respect for a real legend of this club. After the game, the same. During the game, we have a job to do and he has his own nature. By his nature, he wants to win, he wants to score and that's normal."

Mourinho and Chelsea fans know that all too well after the Ivorian spent season after season terrorizing opposition defences.

He was the man for the big occasion, scoring in all seven major domestic cup finals he played in for Chelsea, winning six of them.

By the time he departed Chelsea, Drogba's tally for cup-final goals stood at eight—not including his header in the Champions League—while he also has the record of being the all-time leading goalscorer in League Cup finals with four.

It's a remarkable record and one that outlines the rich legacy he built in west London.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

There were times when Drogba appeared his own worst enemy, causing controversy over apparent playacting or infamously swearing into TV cameras after a perceived injustice against Barcelona in the 2009 Champions League semifinal.

A year before that incident, he saw himself sent off in the Champions League final for slapping Manchester United's Nemanja Vidic. There were just three minutes remaining in extra time, and when the game went to penalties, John Terry missed the decisive spot-kick—a spot-kick, it was later revealed, that would have been taken by Drogba had he been on the field.

Matt Dunham/Associated Press

Drogba had the ability to bounce back from his setbacks, however. While he played a big role in Chelsea losing the 2008 final, he would play an even bigger one in the Blues winning the Champions League in 2012.

It's the greatest success in the club's history, and every moment from that night in Munich is dominated by the image of Drogba—such was his influence.

The Ivorian is a match winner, in much the same way Ibrahimovic has proved throughout his own illustrious career.

Where they are different is that Drogba is a man who takes the game to the opposition, grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns and seizing the initiative. He pulled Chelsea out of enough holes during his eight years.

Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Ibrahimovic is the focal point in a much different way. The team he plays for must be about him. He knows the talent he holds, and such sacrifice shown by Drogba down the years isn't a notion that has entered his repertoire.

Some clubs can afford to embrace that, but not Chelsea. The Blues may rank among the extremely rich, but they are a team built on the very industry that made their owner, Roman Abramovich, a man of considerable wealth.

Sure, the money has helped, but they've grafted their way to success this past decade.

Artists are welcome at Stamford Bridge, but it's that little something extra that Drogba gave which is what will always be held most sacred.

 

*Stats via ESPNFC.com.

**All quotes taken first-hand 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.

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