Chelsea FC: What Would the Return of Didier Drogba Mean?

Daniel TilukFeatured ColumnistJuly 21, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 06:  Didier Drogba of Chelsea celebrates as he scores their third goal during the UEFA Champions League Group E match between Chelsea FC and Valencia CF at Stamford Bridge on December 6, 2011 in London, England.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

The world's best goalkeeper gesticulating in his solid neon green kit.

An Ivorian legend placing the football on a white spot in his solid royal blue kit.

A short run-up.

Kick.

Gasp.

The ball gliding into the bottom-left corner as the keeper helplessly dives opposite.

Red consternation.

Blue jubilation.

It ended oh so beautifully under the floodlights in Munich, Germany—or so we thought.

"The cup with the big ears" was delivered by Didier Drogba's heroics in May of 2012.
"The cup with the big ears" was delivered by Didier Drogba's heroics in May of 2012.Alex Livesey/Getty Images

According to ESPN FC, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba looks set for a Stamford Bridge revival as a player-coach under Jose Mourinho.

Chelsea's talismanic striker for the better part of a decade received his fairytale ending. The 2012 Champions League final was all the drama one could muster—therefore Drogba's alleged return would almost certainly fall short of the rapturous way he departed.

How could it not?

Any place Drogba went would pale in comparison to what he and Chelsea built together. At 36 years old, there is not another 2012-Champions-League-final ending out there for him. The memories of that night will live on forever, but unless he plans on retiring (which does not seem likely) another stint in west London may prove fruitful for all involved.

So to the question at hand: What would Drogba's arrival in SW6 mean for Chelsea in 2014-15?

As a player, not much in truth.

Many witnessed the Ivory Coast's failure to reach the knockout stages during the 2014 World Cup for the third consecutive tournament, which was due in large part to Drogba's inability to play a full 90 minutes (or his manager's reticence to select him).

Always labelled "the big man for the big occasion," you would be hard pressed to find an occasion bigger than the World Cup.

Drogba's playing role would figure as an impact substitute and occasional starter in cup ties. Much like how Mourinho managed Frank Lampard last season.

Like prodigal father, like prodigal son.
Like prodigal father, like prodigal son.Stu Forster/Getty Images

Fernando Torres, Diego Costa and Romelu Lukaku are all at better points in their respective careers than Drogba; what they may lack in skill or striking prowess they make up for with energy.

The Ivorian scored 10 goals in 24 Turkish Super Lig games last season, so his goalscoring touch has not completely vanished—the main question is stamina.

ESPN FC's report claims there is a one-year playing deal, followed by a coaching opportunity: This is the important caveat. What Drogba cannot give on the pitch, he can give in advice and teaching.

#CFC coaches in 2025: Ballack—Manager (he's German) Drogba—Strikers Lampard—Midfielders Terry—Centre-backs Cole—Fullbacks Čech—Goalkeepers

— Chelsea Talk (@_ChelseaTalk) July 20, 2014

Lukaku and Costa are Drogba prototypes. They are strong, physical and clinical—but neither has been put through the paces set by Mourinho.

Drogba has. His knowledge of what the Portuguese manager wants from his "No. 9" sets him apart. Add his amiable personality and you have the making of a great mentor and striking coach.

Much has been made about Lukaku and his attitude. The Belgian international is petulant, talkative and seems to want Chelsea's starting forward position handed on a silver platter. Football—and especially football with Mourinho—does not work that way. One must earn their place.

Romelu Lukaku has been a frustrating player, might Didier Drogba's arrival calm him?
Romelu Lukaku has been a frustrating player, might Didier Drogba's arrival calm him?Thananuwat Srirasant/Getty Images

The arrival of Costa is sure to send Lukaku the message: "Chelsea still aren't ready to play me," but should the 21-year-old's idol return to London, the process of waiting and learning his position will be much easier to bear.

Costa, for all his hype, was a relative one-year wonder. His 2013-14 Atletico Madrid campaign was the first true showing of his rampant goalscoring ability, so questions still remain about whether he can rinse and repeat.

IF Didier Drogba returns to #Chelsea, my question won't be: "Why is he coming back?" It will be: "Why did he leave in the first place?!"

— Chelsea Talk (@_ChelseaTalk) July 20, 2014

Drogba was also a one-year wonder. At Olympic de Marseille (l'OM), the powerhouse forward registered 32 goals in 55 games for l'OM and led his team to the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) final in their 2003-04 campaign.

Purchased by Chelsea for £24 million at 26 years old, Drogba went on to score 157 goals in 342 appearances for the Blues in eight seasons. One hundred of those goals were scored in the Premier League and a Chelsea-record 36 netted in European competition.

Costa, 25, would do well learning how to play striker in the Premier League under Drogba—they share similar paths to Stamford Bridge, and one would surely want to emulate the success achieved by the other.

One Spaniard in, one Spaniard out it seems for Jose Mourinho.
One Spaniard in, one Spaniard out it seems for Jose Mourinho.David Ramos/Getty Images

Despite all the good Drogba's return may bring, Torres may not welcome this reunion so happily. For all intents and purposes, the Spaniard's Chelsea career was derailed by the African legend.

Being purchased for £50 million, it would have seemed obvious to Torres he was Chelsea's No. 1 striking option when he moved from Liverpool to London in 2011—but the transition was not so simple. Regardless of who was brought before him (and the list is extensive), when healthy, Drogba found a way to bench whomever he was pitted against.

Fernando Torres... pic.twitter.com/aLZh99arMK

— Chelsea Talk (@_ChelseaTalk) July 21, 2014

Torres waited two seasons to get a proper chance, and he has not exactly convinced.

Chelsea, per ESPN FC, have been in talks with Atletico to send the Spanish international back to the club of his youth—and it looks the best solution for each party. Torres would receive a king's welcome in Madrid, and Chelsea would recoup some of the gargantuan fee they paid in 2011.

Mourinho is known to prefer three strikers on his books, so the fourth wheel—should Drogba return—would be Torres.

In the event one of the main three goes down through injury, the Chelsea Academy has three break-glass-in-case-of-emergency striking prospects to plug in: Patrick Bamford, Islam Feruz and Isaiah "Izzy" Brown.

Were Drogba to reprise his west London role, expecting 20 goals from 40 appearances would be nonsensical. The more realistic expectation would be 15 appearances and three goals, but his presence alone would be a virtual gold mine inside Chelsea's dressing room and around Stamford Bridge's terraces.

So yes: It did end oh so beautifully under the floodlights in Munich, Germany—but who here would deny themselves a great comeback story?