As far as exits go, Didier Drogba’s from Chelsea was about as emphatic as it gets. With literally his last kick of the ball in a Chelsea shirt, the Ivorian won the club’s first European Cup, sweeping home his penalty to beat Bayern Munich on their own patch. Not even Zinedine Zidane bowed out with such aplomb.
Although, that might not have been Drogba’s farewell to Chelsea after all, with the 36-year-old on the brink of a return to Stamford Bridge, as per Alan Smith of the Guardian. At a time when Jose Mourinho is casting aside his "Old Guard," he has called on a favour from an old friend.
On the face of it, the signing of Drogba would be completely out of sync with Chelsea’s transfer market strategy this summer. Some question why he would risk tainting his legend after ending his first spell at the club in such a special way two years ago.
But on further analysis, Drogba’s return to Stamford Bridge makes sense for both player and club.
The striker’s return comes at a time of transition for Chelsea. Club stalwarts Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard have been ushered out the Stamford Bridge back door, as Mourinho looks for his "New Guard."
The departure of both Cole and Lampard has freed up significant space in the club’s wage budget, facilitating the signings of top-level talent like Cesc Fabregas, Diego Costa and Filipe Luis.
But while the Blues clearly needed strengthening on the pitch, Mourinho also recognized the need for spirit in the dressing room. And that’s where Drogba comes in.
Wherever Mourinho has succeeded, he has had full control of the dressing room. He has a way of relating himself to his players, almost bringing himself down to their level whilst still holding an aura over them.
The footage of Marco Materazzi sobbing on the shoulder of his manager following the 2010 Champions League final—Mourinho’s last game in charge of Inter Milan—illustrated just how emotionally attached players can become to the Special One.
Like so many of the best coaches, Mourinho finds a way to connect with his players. An archetypal Mourinho team isn’t just tactically drilled, but completely committed to its manager.
Mourinho’s final season at Real Madrid stands as his biggest failure to date. Key players, like Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos, turned against the Portuguese coach, eventually freezing him out of the Bernabeu.
Now at Chelsea, Mourinho needs allies. It’s central to his ideology as a coach. He already has one in John Terry, who has signed a one-year contract extension with the Blues, and in Drogba he will have another. The striker will bring a sometime difficult Chelsea dressing room in line with Mourinho’s way of thinking.
Of course, there is also a symbolic slant of the Ivoirian’s second coming. By re-signing Drogba, Mourinho is correcting a mistake made by others besides himself (namely Roberto Di Matteo, Roman Abramovich and Bruce Buck).
Having just secured his status as one of the greatest players to have ever played for the club, Drogba should never have been allowed to leave Chelsea. His future at Stamford Bridge should have been guaranteed. Drogba is a Chelsea legend and should have been looked after by the club.
“When a person represents so much to a club and when a club represents so much to a person - and that’s the case - I think he has to be back one day,” explained Mourinho ahead of Chelsea’s Champions League clash with Galatasaray last season, as per Sky Sports.
“Undoubtedly he is one of the most important players in the history of the club - that is not a doubt. I think all Chelsea supporters will agree with that.” Indeed, Drogba’s second coming will be greeted as such at Stamford Bridge.
From the player’s perspective, there is also logic behind a return to Chelsea. Drogba will have the chance to end his career at the club where he is loved most. Plus, if the Guardian report is to be believed, the Ivorian will be guaranteed a coaching role at Chelsea once he retires from playing.
Mourinho will be well aware that the Drogba of now is a very different player to the Drogba of old. At his peak Drogba was the quintessential big-game player. In nine cup-final appearances for the Blues he scored nine goals, tallying up 157 goals in eight years at Chelsea.
At 36 years old, Drogba’s days of winning Champions Leagues almost single-handedly are probably behind him. But that’s not to say that he can’t still be of use to Mourinho.