When Didier Drogba arrived in the Premier League it was with a hefty reputation and an even weightier price-tag. The rampaging savagery he displayed against English teams in Marseille’s European exploits the previous season had put clubs on red alert, and the fact that the new billionaires managed to snare him was of little surprise. Despite helping Chelsea to their first league title in fifty years, the hulking Ivorian struggled to convince even his own fans at the beginning. That is no longer the case.
Despite being a beast of man, there was far too much theatrics. There seemed to be plenty of charging about, until contact with defenders was made, in which resulted in flung arms, and screams of agony: perhaps deemed acceptable in Ligue 1, the Premiership wasn’t buying it.
16 goals (in all competitions) in each of his first two seasons was by no means a disaster, particularly as Chelsea had won the league in both seasons, but it still didn’t quite justify the £24m that Abramovich had shelled out.
While Drogba managed to win over any Chelsea fans that had their doubts, there was still much scepticism from the average fan. Part of it was probably wrapped up in the anti-Chelsea sentiment that still exists today, but not nearly as much as it did during Jose Mourinho’s title winning years.
Since then Drogba has become more and more reliable, more important to Chelsea’s cause, and more destructive in his performances. The potentially loose first touch has become as soft as silence, the sometime wayward finishing has become clinical, and the theatrics have become (thankfully) a much rarer sight to see. What’s more, there is a far broader passing range, the amount of assists he gets is severely underrated (tenth on the PL history list), and he has shoved Frank Lampard away from free-kick duty because he is actually far more capable of finding the top corner.
Fans have really begun to appreciate how good a player Didier Drogba actually is. Certainly if we’re talking about strikers that can hold the ball up, there is no one better in the world. Right now, maybe only David Villa is the only striker who can realistically lay claim to being on the same level as Drogba. Regardless of the style of play, Drogba is capable of adapting, and if in the mood, it is simply up to him how many goals he scores – just ask any Arsenal defender of the last five years.
I think fans get a genuine sense of awe in watching a player single-handedly beat teams. Cristiano Ronaldo did it, and Thierry Henry before him, now it is Drogba’s turn. There is much to admire in the way he beats teams, as the fulcrum of what has become a potent Chelsea front line. There is also however, as much to appreciate in terms of how he has adapted to the Premier League, and listened to the gripes of his critics. The charity work he does in his native Ivory Coast; building hospitals and donating entire endorsement fees (Pepsi) put him in a sort of demi-god status. And there is the work he does for his first professional club; Le Mans.
Drogba has become one of those players that you watch, hoping he will turn it on and run a team ragged, unless he is up against your own team, which is when he becomes one of those few players that you actually fear. In his time at Chelsea, as he as increased his own level of performance to unrivalled standards, he has transformed himself from moody, aloof and whining, to destructive, exciting and admirable. The Premier League, and its fans, are now far more pleased that he is theirs to enjoy all year round.
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