It is official. After a successful eight years at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have announced on their official website that Didier Drogba will leave the club when his contract expires in June. The powerful Ivorian amassed an impressive 154 goals in 341 appearances for the Blues, etching himself into Chelsea folklore for years to come. But having shown he can still provide the difference in recent weeks, why have the club taken the decision to allow him to leave the club?
Drogba signed from Marseille for £24 million in the summer of 2004 and instantly became a key part of the Chelsea team that charged to their first league title in 50 years under Jose Mourinho. His domineering attitude and powerful presence gave defenders nightmares and the striker went on to accumulate another two Premier League titles, four FA Cup and three League Cup winners’ medals as well as a Champions League trophy as recently as last Saturday.
His goals propelled him into the hearts of the Chelsea fans but some of his on-field antics won just as many critics during his time in England. Accused of going to ground to easily and a petulant manner, even the most ardent Blues fan will admit to had been frustrated by the Ivorian’s occasional shenanigans. At times he appeared to be among the best in the world but he could just as readily be seen as a sullen striker, unwilling to perform when things did not go his way, and this season has perhaps displayed that more than any.
There was a bright sense of optimism around the club in August 2011 as Andre Villas-Boas began his new job as manager of the west-London club. Charged with the intention of displacing the ageing core of the first team in John Terry, Frank Lampard and Drogba, Villas-Boas found himself outmuscled in a changing room that lacked support for the implementation of change. Drogba found himself on the fringes of the team and his frequently negative body language failed to hide his discontent at this new role within the club.
The Portuguese manager failed to manage the transition positively and was shown the door in February. His replacement, Roberto Di Matteo, turned the fortunes around by reinstating the previously marginalised players. Chelsea managed to end the season on a high, winning both the FA Cup and Champions League with Drogba keeping up his record of scoring in every final he played in for the club. Yet the club now find themselves back at square one; relying on the influential players that they sought to remove. They have now decided it is time to let the influential striker go, and it appears to be justified.
Despite being key to winning the double this season, Drogba equalled his worst goal return in a Premier League season as he netted a measly five times. That is fewer than joint top scorers Daniel Sturridge and Lampard as well as fellow striker Fernando Torres. While his ratio of goals to games in Europe this season was better by far with six goals in eight appearances, it pointed to a decline in the consistency of the striker’s performances.
Of his five league goals this term, just one came against a team in the top half. While Drogba may be able to pull out a fantastic performance when it is required, the evidence suggests that he can no longer maintain the game-winning performances that made him a fan favourite on a regular basis
Drogba was inspirational in the 2009/10 double-winning campaign when he scored 29 league goals, but he has since failed to come close to such figures. As one of the club’s top earners, the harsh reality is that you are expected to perform at your best every week, not only on the big occasions. Whilst such experience is vital in achieving success Drogba has become somewhat of a luxury item; expensive to keep but ready to perform when needed most. However, it is simply not feasible for the club to retain such a lavish player and at 34-years-old his time is now up.
His presence at the club will no doubt be sorely missed and he will not soon be forgotten. It may not have been his finest season as a whole in the Blue of Chelsea, but the original remit for the club’s season was to phase out the ageing members of the squad and so despite his FA Cup and Champions League heroics, Drogba departed.