Identifying the Next 10 Didier Drogbas in World Football

Mitch DrofstobCorrespondent IApril 18, 2011

Identifying the Next 10 Didier Drogbas in World Football

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    Scott Heavey/Getty Images

    Chelsea’s Didier Drogba is a bit of a phenomenon. Few players have ever existed like him, the combination of brute strength and glorious finesse.

    Traditionally, managers have combined a smaller nippy striker, with a taller striker able to hold the ball up and head it in from close range. Drogba is a hybrid of both these designs, able to hold the ball up with ease and powerful in the air.

    But the captain of the Elephants is also fast, able to take free kicks and accurate from close and long range.

    Add his ability to take set plays into the melting pot, and it’s no surprise that he was last years Premiership Golden Boot winner. The £24 million Chelsea paid for him in July 2004 has been money well spent.

    But Chelsea’s No. 11 recently passed birthday No. 33. The West Londoners, the Ivory Coast, and the world of EPL lovers do not have much longer to appreciate Drogba’s skills.

    This article breaks down a list of 10 players who might be able to at least try to emulate his style of play, and perhaps reach his level. In alphabetical order, in case you’re wondering.  

Jozy Altidore

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    Since being drafted 16th in the MLS 2006 Superdraft, behind some far-from-household names, Altidore’s career has shown plenty of promise, but has been tinged with an underwhelming goal record.

    The New Jersey boy impressed at the New York Red Bulls, scoring 15 in 37, despite just being drafted.

    This promising introduction encouraged Villareal to break the record for the amount spent on an MLS player, to bring him to Spain for €7.4 million.

    Since then, he’s been largely unimpressive, spending time on loan at Xerez, Hull City, and now Bursaspor.

    Still only 21, he has a lot of similar qualities as Drogba, particularly his strength, but he needs to start scoring goals in order to become more like the Ivorian, and less like Emile Heskey.

    Still, Altidore can console himself knowing Drogba had barely established himself as a footballer (let alone a good one) when he was 21.

Demba Ba

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    An odd inclusion, but West Ham fans might argue he has been far better than Drogba has this season.

    Since joining the Hammers, he and Thomas Hitzlsperger have breathed new life into a West Ham side that looked headed for the drop.

    So far, his Premiership record is better than one in two, and if he maintains that until the end of the season, West Ham will more than likely stay up.

    He has the resilience, the power and scoring ability of Drogba, although he’s not as good as the Ivorian. Compared to the often lackadaisical Carlton Cole, Ba has the ‘nuisance’ factor; you just know for a fact that he is going to work hard, and few defenders will be completely confident about playing against him.

    He has scored goals wherever he’s played, and could be someone to watch in the future.

Khouma Babacar

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    It’s difficult to read much about Babacar without being lost amongst the online FM11 anecdotes that people have bragged about. Apparently, in the game that knows all, he’s pretty special.

    In the real world, the Senegalese striker signed for Fiorentina in 2008 after impressing while playing for Pescara. He made his first team debut in January of last year, at just 16 years old.

    He has scored in both the league and the Coppa Italia, although not as many goals as FM promised he would.

    Regardless of that, TotalFootballMadness draws comparison with Drogba, and says of him: The young striker is known for his good ball control and strong shot power. He also has a sudden burst of speed which leaves defenders trailing behind.

Mario Balotelli

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    Take one part Didier Drogba, and three parts impudent little boneheaded kid, and you get Mario Balotelli, one of the most frustrating but brilliant footballers in the world today. Drogba has the occasional moment, but nothing compared to 'Super Mario.'

    Balotelli has the potential to be a world beater in the same style as Drogba. He has the control, the finesse, the power in the air, the strength, and boy, oh boy, can he hit a free kick. But he is a magnet for problems.

    Just this year, ignoring all the problems he had working with Mourinho, it’s been a disappointing season off the field for the young Italian. He’s had trouble settling in Manchester, he disrespected a lot of world footballers–namely Jack Wilshere, the PFA Young Player of the Year–by claiming he hadn’t heard of him.

    Last month, in a European tie against Kiev, he had an allergic reaction to grass and had to be subbed off. In the following match he was sent off, and then confronted the Kiev fans. And let's not even mention his inability to put on a bib.

    On the field, considering he’s still young and it’s his maiden season in English football, he’s done pretty well.

    Once he has sorted himself out psychologically, Manchester City and Italy will have a potential Drogba-betterer on their books.

Andy Carroll

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    Liverpool’s No. 9 is perhaps the closest player to Drogba so far on the list. Looking at Drogba’s key qualities; his strength, heading, finishing and intelligence, they’re all shared with Carroll.

    It was unfortunate for the former Newcastle forward that his transfer was so expensive, and he replaced someone also so expensive, because it distracted just how good of a player Andy Carroll could be for Liverpool, and for England.

    The only major difference in Drogba and Carroll that I can see, in terms of their game play, is the taking of set pieces. While Carroll probably can take a decent corner, he’s so strong in the air that it would be nonsensical even to consider it.

Jay Emmanuel-Thomas

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    Arsenal’s young star may be the next English player to break out into the first team, following in the footsteps of Jack Wilshere, and to a lesser extent Kieran Gibbs.

    Currently on loan at Cardiff, the striker is still acclimatizing himself to his role as a goal scorer, having moved around the pitch trying to find the best position for his game.

    When asked where he should play, Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger replied: "Jay can play anywhere.

    His main assets physically are much like Drogba. He has a long, but well built body, which in turns makes him strong and quick. His time spent switching positions means he is also a very capable passer, and tackler of the ball. This all combines excellently with his hardworking attitude.

    He’s not typically someone who would stand over the set plays, and being 6’3’’ he is definitely more of a threat in the box than out. His trickery with the ball is likely to win a lot of free kicks, though.

    He’s had a slow start to life on loan at Cardiff this season, scoring two goals in 12 appearances, but he is only 20 and still has a lot of time to develop his game.  

Bafétimbi Gomis

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    Gomis is often referred to as ‘Baby Drogba’, a nickname he himself probably doesn’t appreciate, but it tells you everything you need to know about the strong, tall French striker, and why he is on this list.

    Thought of as a very high quality, but not world-class, striker in France, the nickname creates a somewhat false impression.

    Unless he goes through the same ‘quality spurt’ that Drogba went through at around the same age he won’t hit the same level as Drogba, but he’s certainly a player worthy of his nickname.  

Hulk

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    Givanildo Vieira de Souza, or Hulk as he’s more impressively known due to his resemblance with Lou Ferrigno and his last club in Japan’s all-green kit, is an impressive player.

    Able to occupy the wings and attack, his strengths are his strength, his speed, and like Drogba, his free kicks. He also has an incredibly powerful shot, more akin to Roberto Carlos than Drogba. His only real weakness in comparison with Drogba is his aerial ability.

    At 24, he has a lot of room for improvement, but already has an impressive scoring record for Porto. Chelsea might consider bidding for him when Drogba does hang up his boots.

Romelu Lukaku

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    If Gomis had it bad being christened ‘Baby Drogba,’ someone who has far more pressure on his shoulders is Anderlecht’s impressive 17-year old striker Romelu Lukaku. Despite his tender age, everywhere he is labeled ‘the new Drogba.’

    In fact, when I asked my friends on Facebook who they thought the new Drogba’s of the world are, almost everyone said Lukaku.

    It’s hard to argue with the statistics, or the logic. While Lukaku doesn’t look like the set-play taker that Drogba is, he’s 6’3’’, probably the most powerful 17-year-old in world football, and has an outstanding goal scoring record for Anderlecht.

    He was the top scorer in the league last season, and is naturally playing for the Belgian national team.

    Anderlecht have valued him at over £20 million; don’t be surprised if he does move to one of Europe’s elite this summer.

Lacina Traore

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    One young player who might have a chance at outmuscling Drogba in the air is fellow Ivory Coast striker Traore. The 20-year-old striker makes 6’2.5’’ Drogba seem small; Troare stands at 6’8’’.

    Of course, Drogba would beat him in a foot race and Traore will probably never be a team’s first choice free-kick taker.

    But akin to Crouch and no doubt inspired by Drogba, he has nimble feet for a tall player, and at twenty will be building his strength gradually.

    Who knows, the two of them might be a brilliant but brief combination for the Ivory Coast!