How Influential Is Didier Drogba's Presence for Chelsea Football Club?

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How Influential Is Didier Drogba's Presence for Chelsea Football Club?
Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

Everything has history. Meaning, contrary to popular sentiment, Chelsea Football Club have one.

In the west Londoners' 110-year past, no player has meant more than Didier Drogba. Arguments could be made for any number of footballers, Gianfranco Zola probably his major rival, but the sheer number of trophies and goals, plus the manner in which both were collected, leave the venerable Ivorian in pole position.

Congruent with long-standing reports during the month since Jose Mourinho's sacking, French publication L'Equipe (link in French) announced on Wednesday that Drogba would return to Chelsea once more—abandon his post with the MLS' Montreal Impact, retire from football and become a member of interim manager Guus Hiddink's coaching staff at the entreaty of Roman Abramovich.

FREDERIC J. BROWN/Getty Images
The Montreal Impact want Didier Drogba to stay. Chelsea, however, need him to leave.

The 37-year-old, in the report's aftermath, took to his official Twitter account and proclaimed: "Lovely to receive these messages but I have not yet announced my retirement and am still in discussion with [the Montreal Impact] about my future."

Presently a member of the Quebecois side, nothing new has surfaced since Drogba's personal announcement, but he did provide confirmation that talks were indeed ongoing. This suggests, at some point in the near future, the Blues' most important player will return to Stamford Bridge—Abramovich usually getting what he desires.

A late bloomer, signing his first professional deal at 21, Drogba's reluctance to retire is entirely understandable. Montreal gave up concessions to other MLS clubs in acquiring the Ivorian, which could plague his decision. Furthermore, scoring 12 goals in 14 appearances for the Impact last season proves more is in the proverbial tank—but arresting one's playing career is the simplest way to nullify a contract.

Chelsea, who had the best of Drogba, realise his importance to their brand. Perhaps it's happenstance, but the Blues haven't won an English league title without the Ivorian since 1954/55.

Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Didier Drogba's playing career was littered with trophies and individual honours.

Clive Mason/Getty Images
Is now the right time for Didier Drogba to consider coaching? Probably, but retirement is a huge step.

In a new era with superstars and mega salaries, finding players who understand a club's ethos is near impossible. Drogba's comprehension of west London's footballing culture, his rapport with the fans and his own amiable, affable personality made him the cornerstone of Chelsea's golden generation.

How that energy would translate as "coach Didier" is yet to be seen, but last season under Mourinho, Cote d'Ivoire's former captain was essentially a player-coach.

Diego Costa was the Portuguese manager's first striking option, leaving Drogba with the task of boosting morale, oiling whatever problems arose. He was the cool "big brother" who spoonfed Mourinho's message to younger players like Eden Hazard, Oscar (who gave up his No. 11 shirt) and Kurt Zouma but who also knew the remaining veterans from his previous seasons.

A gregarious statesman—who, in conjunction with his national team-mates, helped facilitate peace during the first Ivorian civil war in 2006—his unique aura (if it could be quantified) is distinctly lacking in Chelsea's current dressing room.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images
Maybe Jose Mourinho's biggest oversight was allowing Didier Drogba to leave west London.

The case could be made that with arguably their greatest-ever footballer and his brand of infectious leadership, the Blues' porous opening act could have been avoided. Drogba went to Canada after winning a domestic double, and within months, the Stamford Bridge he left had fallen into disrepair.

If his third coming is merely a matter of time, despite his clear attributes, one cannot expect miracles. Construction is a longer process than deconstruction: It takes weeks to build a house, just minutes to burn it down.

For Chelsea supporters, for Chelsea's players and for Chelsea's board, the club legend must be part of their future. His presence would ease the burden on all parties and ideally foster a sense of much-needed community.

Oft labelled the big man for the big occasion, Drogba's biggest occasion is yet ahead.

 

*Stats via WhoScored.com; transfer fees via Soccerbase where not noted.

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