Didier Drogba is leaving Chelsea. There’s no doubting that he still has a lot to offer in football and hence to Chelsea FC too. Though he’s 34, he’s nowhere near the end of his career. He’s physically fit and technically sound and more than anything still has the burning desire to succeed and achieve. Especially after his heroics in the last 3 months that won us the FA Cup and the most coveted Champions League, many wonder why are Chelsea letting Drogba leave? Does Drogba want to leave Chelsea? Or Chelsea not keen to hold him back? Or these parties want to extend the contract but unable to come to terms?
Didier has been such a great servant of the club that the notion of him leaving just doesn’t make sense. Why would you let someone like Didier leave? He’s scored more than 150 goals for the club and has scored in so many important games and has given some great memories. Above all, he’s still on top of his game. He scored in the FA Cup semi final and final. He scored in the champions league semi final and final. He balied us out when we were staring at another champions league heartbreak with couple of minutes left on the clock. He took the most decisive kick in the shoot out to hand us the bloody trophy. Why would you let Didier Drogba leave?
In simple terms, Drogba wants a new challenge and if he has to stay at Chelsea he some expectations. On the other hand, Chelsea want to refresh the team. Drogba’s expectations in terms of money and role cannot be matched by Chelsea FC. That’s because Chelsea are at a stage where they need to revisit their aspirations and ideologies and hence their squad.
Drogba wants to stay with Chelsea FC but he wants to stay on his terms. His terms being a 2 year contract at a higher cost and a continued key role in Chelsea’s progress and success. Now you can’t ask for official confirmation for such things. These are based on popular news stories which we consume as near-truths that we can use to make our opinions.
Drogba loves Chelsea FC. I can’t doubt that one bit. He probably is more emotionally attached to and connected with Chelsea FC than most of the other players that have played or playing alongside him. He has had several ‘like-swings’ with Chelsea over his career. When he joined Chelsea, he did so very reluctantly. In fact, he was honest to say that he didn’t like Chelsea in the beginning and he had longed to go back to Marseille. It was his relationship with Jose Mourinho that was instrumental in creating the bonding for him wih Chelsea FC. When Jose left, Drogba was visibly upset, disappointed and even inconsolable. At that time, he was strongly rumoured to leave as well. I think the most important period of the resurrection of his love for Chelsea FC came under Guus Hiddink. That’s when he recovered his joy for playing for Chelsea FC and it has continued and improved ever since.
Drogba is an emotional man. He needs to be happy personally in order to be on top of his game. He needs to trust and respect his manager. If he does that, he walk through fire for his manager. He loves the Chelsea support. He has long been a crowd favourite at Stamford Bridge and the support in general. He knows that he’s loved by the Chelsea fans and he’s the first one to acknowledge the support as well. So there’s no doubt that he loves Chelsea and loves to continue to play for Chelsea FC.
Drogba is leaving because we are unable to come to a conclusion on meeting his terms and conditions. An improved two-year contract with a promise of the continued role and significance in Chelsea is too big an ask even for the man of Drogba’s calibre and trackrecord for Chelsea. The way I would love to see this develop is here: Drogba to get a one-year contract and let Torres lead the line for Chelsea, while Drogba can be our plan B and can continue to contribute to us in developing the likes of Lukaku and Sturridge. Unfortunately, Drogba does seem to want a 2-year or 3-year contract with an expectation to continue being first choice striker for Chelsea.
I don’t see that happening because of one important reason – ‘the squad needs a refresh’. Drogba personifies this Chelsea team in many ways – spirited, determined, dogged, physical & skillful. His mental strength and physical strength are more important in his game than his technical strength. So true for Chelsea too. This Chelsea team has also made a name for itself based on its spirit and determination than skill and creativity.
Real Madrid made a similar refresh of the squad when Jose Mourinho came in. Raul, the legendary striker had to make way for Higuain and Benzema. In his last season which was injury-ridden, Raul still got 7 goals and 3 assists in 11 starts. He wasn’t done. Even with Schalke, he had scored 40 goals and 13 assists in 2 season. But still Real Madrid moved on and they were right. Barcelona did the same thing with their legends like Ronaldinho and Samuel Eto’o. In his last season at Barca, Eto’o had 39 goals and 6 assists in 49 goals, and he was only 28 then! So it is by no means a bad thing or an act of ingratitude. Drogba leaving Chelsea does have some hidden benefits for Chelsea.
I’m not being less grateful here. I think most would agree with me that while our methods have earned all possible trophies from premier league to champions league, we are frowned upon because we don’t produce the brand of football that’s universally acceptable, particularly for such an expensively assembled team. But I don’t mean our approach so far was flawed. In fact, our approach so far has made perfect sense for a club that’s come into the big league wanting to create history. and history remembers success more than anything. In the first 8 seasons under Roman, we have won 3 premier league titles, 4 FA cups, 2 league titles and 1 champions league title – with key contribution from Drogba in all 10 of them. So no one can fault our means.
But I think we have reached a stage where we need to turn a page and move ahead. More than ever before, we have joined an elite group of clubs – clubs that have won every significant thing on sight. It’s a great time to refresh and adopt a new identity for the club.
Much of Chelsea’s approach to its playing style comes from Drogba, his presence and his
strengths. If Roman wants to see Chelsea play a different style of football the first change he needs to do is replacing Drogba. And that’s why, in my opinion, Fernando Torres was brought in at such a high cost despite the financial fairplay constraints. That’s why a grafter like Juan Mata was brought in too. That’s why a ball playing Brazilian defender in David Luiz was brought to replace more static Carvalho and Alex. And that’s why we have more Brazilian-Spanish presence in the dressing room now. And this presence hasn’t really turned into an on-pitch influence yet. The reason is we have Drogba and he will be our saviour.
In a game like the champions league final on Saturday, if Torres had started instead of Drogba, I can guarantee that Chelsea would have attacked much more. That’s because you need play ball and attack if you need goals from Torres. On the other hand, Drogba can create a goal out of nothing. He’s pure magic. He can score goals for you no matter how you play. So he certainly gives us a cushion and comfort to sit back because he will get a chance and he will score. And we have come to a point where we need more than success to satisfy ourselves.
It’s a bit like the Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’ if you’re familiar with that. He says human needs and the nature of needs graduate as soon as the current needs are fulfilled. If one is struggling to afford food, clothing and shelter, then that and that alone remains his priority. As soon as they become affordable his needs now graduate to a higher plane. He wants safety and security. Once he achieves that he wants love, friendship and intimacy. Once he achieves that, he looks for esteem – respect by others, status, recognition and prestige. In my view Chelsea FC have been going through these exact phases.
Just before Roman took over, when the club was facing dire consequences, nobody would have cared about our playing style. Same can be said about the relegation battlers in the last few weeks of the premier league. Their need to stay up is the prime motive. Rest everything comes later. After Roman bought Chelsea, we wanted to steady the ship which we did with the trophies. With the champions league win we have a come a full circle. Even before the champions league win, the club’s needs have moved on. Trophies are always important but the key shift was from ‘how many’ to ‘how’.
Chelsea clearly want a different identity in the footballing world than the one it has now. Chelsea want to be respected, admired and adored. To fulfill this desire or need, we need to adopt a different style and approach to our football. Our team is certainly capable of producing any style of football even today but it’s just that the presence of Drogba certainly wants to go for the safer and less-risky methods than the more attacking, cavalier approach.
We can’t be underdogs. For the kind of investment that has gone into the club and with the kind of players that we have on our rolls, we can’t be calling ourselves underdogs. We should be on a par with any team on any patch and take the bull by its horns and tame it to win the trophy. That’s what I think the club wants ‘now’. My emphasis on ‘now’ because that’s a new requirement as we have been collecting trophies.
Exactly why did we buy a £50m Fernando Torres when we had a goal machine in Drogba? Because we wanted to move in a different dirction. Torres was bought exactly with those expectations. As it’s been brought out by interview, there was probably a promise of building the team around Torres and getting the best out of him. I know I could be shot for this but I’d still say it: ability-wise Torres is the best player in our team. If you want to get the best out of his ability, you need to have players that will get the best out of him. It’s not Kalou, Sturridge or Malouda. It’s Mata. It’s Modric. It’s Silva. Those kind of players that love the ball. You will see Chelsea buying more of those kind of players because that’s the way we want to go.
Fernando Torres has my sympathy for what’s happened to him here at Chelsea. From being a world class striker he’s been reduced to a second fiddle benchwarmer who starts in matches that don’t matter and gets ignored for the real big games. In his interview with Guillem Balague, he’s talked in detail of his life at Chelsea. I hope there was no mis-translation because Guillem is a Spanish native that speaks good English and is also a decent journalist.
This season I have felt things that I never had before. I’ve felt like they treated me in a way that I didn’t expect, not in the way that was spoken of when they signed me. We’ve had a lot of talks and we’ll talk about my future at the end of the season because the role I’ve had this season is not for me, nor is it the one I expected to play when I came here. I’m not comfortable. A victory like this one against Munich does compensate, but I want them to tell me what is going to happen in the future. Football has been fair on us, on me. Now I do feel like football is worth it but I’ve been through a difficult time. The worst in my career. And I don’t want to go through it again.
I don’t know. There have been a lot of ups and downs, there’s been many times when I’ve felt lost, I wasn’t sure what to do. I felt like I didn’t know where I belonged. I’m eternally grateful to my family who have been by my side and also for the support of the owners who have stuck by me. And especially to the fans, if it hadn’t been for them this season I would have given up. The ideal situation for next season would be for someone to tell me what is going to happen and what sort of role I will have within the team, what my duties are, what they expect of me and then judge whether it is worth it.
You can see this in two ways. One is badly-timed interview when we have not even finished celebrating the champions league win. The other is, this is a perfectly-timed interview as discussions with Drogba are happening this week to conclude on his future. Or this could just be desparation.
In a way, I’m happy that Torres is unhappy. For a £50m striker earning a big pay packet, he has to be restless, impatient and hungry to contribute. That’s exactly what he’s done. I wish he’d spoken to the club instead of speaking to Guillem. But my guess is, he’s done that many times already. Look at his timing. When he joined, Carlo Ancelotti was going out. No time to integrate him into the team properly. And the Andre Villas Boas comes and difficult times again. And then Roberto di Matteo comes in and has a job to do and a point to prove. When things didn’t happen, none of these managers where in a position to be patient. All of them went back to the good old, tried and tested successful short cut that is Didier Drogba.
Truth be told, we still haven’t learnt to use Torres to his full potential. We haven’t understood how he moves, where he moves, where he wants the ball, when does he want to pass-move-collect – we haven’t yet uderstood him. I personally fully reject the notion of Torres having to adjust to our system. Because it is our system that needs to change, not Fernando Torres. Any team that has a player of his calibre and cost will try to see how it can get the best out of such a player. And the reason why we haven’t managed or bothered is that we have an escape route via Didier Drogba. The reason why Shevchenko didn’t click was also because Drogba filled in for the team’s deficiencies. I’m not saying Drogba is the problem. I’m saying Drogba has been the solution, the very easy and simple solution to not make the big leap ahead.
What has happened in Chelsea is that we have got ourselves so well synced with a very special breed of striker in Didier Drogba. Strikers in the mould of Torres is common. Strikers in the mould of Drogba is very rare. He’s a very unique gem. And we’ve got so used to playing with Drogba that it becomes difficult for us to work with the usual and common breed of strikers that include Shevchenko, Anelka, Torres and the likes. And this needs to be broken because there won’t be another Didier Drogba. There’s only one.
Hence I’d say, Drogba leaving Chelsea is not necessarily a bad thing. This is a great opportunity to change the way we play, to change what we expect from our players and to re-establish Chelsea FC to take the club into a new era.
Frank Lampard says Drogba is his hero. Drogba is a hero for all Chelsea FC fans. He is undoubtedly a legend of Chelsea FC. He is my hero too. He’s given so many incredible memories to me that I always cherish and rejoice. The reality is that, having won everything prestigious in club football, now we need to move ahead with aspirations bigger than winning trophies and probably that’s why when we thought we had completed the full circle with the champions league victory, Roman Abramovich said, “This is just the beginning”.