Easily the most surprisingly fascinating aspect of Didier Drogba’s sensational return to Chelsea is just how sharply it has divided the club’s fan base, between those overcome with emotion and excitement at having ‘The Drog’ return home, and those rather more unsentimental buggers, fraught with concern over the rationale and implications of his signing. The following is a fictional debate between two Chelsea supporters. I think it nicely summarises the dichotomy in the club’s following this deal has created….
Fan A: Isn’t it great? The legend has returned! The king has come home! The most fantastic, iconic player in the history of Chelsea Football club is back for his encore. I can hardly wait.
Fan B: I’m not sure. He’s obviously not the player he was. Even before he left the first time, he wasn’t the player he was. And why ruin the perfect ending to a club career?
A: What? How can you not be excited? And how can it not be a good thing having him back in the dressing room? That winning mentality he brings along with all that experience of big games and winning trophies for the club, he’ll bring up everyone around him.
B: But for the first time since he left, we were now finally in a position where we looked set to win things in a post-Drogba era, this could’ve/should’ve been the season where other young players at the club stepped up and sourced that ‘winning mentality’, themselves.
A: But he’ll hardly be a part of the first team, there’s no chance that he’s arriving at the club this time around expecting to be the main man, or the leader on the pitch. Plus, what an inspiration to the younger players to have a legend like Drogba in training every day!
B: Well, given I doubt that we’ll start the season with four strikers at the club, and let’s be honest, Fernando Torres is going nowhere on his wages, I don’t see how ‘inspiring’ it will be to Romelu Lukaku to have his place in the squad taken.
A: Lukaku was probably not going to be a part of the squad anyway. Jose clearly doesn’t fancy him as a player and I’m not surprised he doesn’t like his attitude either, he’s got a big mouth, and he should learn some humility. Drogba has an affinity and a love for the club that Lukaku clearly doesn’t – he’ll be far more of an asset.
B: Of course, heaven forbid that a young player should articulate some confidence or express an unwillingness to be a reserve. No matter how much of an asset Drogba proves to be, in one year he’ll be gone and Lukaku, having completed another loan spell, will be an even better striker, even more estranged from the club and even closer to the end of his contract i.e. less saleable. And who’s to say the hole in the squad Drogba left the first time around won’t be there again – it was hard enough getting over him once.
A: I don’t see any reason to think Jose’s work with this new group of players should be interrupted by Drogba’s return, only augmented. The man embodies the kind of indomitable spirit he must be trying to inspire among this new generation. A lot of the current players never got to work him – they would do well to watch and learn
B: If we’re to move forward we can’t constantly stay in the past with players trying to imitate the previous generation of stars at the club. Legends like Drogba and Lampard and Cole aren’t manufactured through emulation – they’re born through necessity.
A: But even the best players have their heroes. Drogba’s achievements with Chelsea turned us into the club which the likes of Oscar, Hazard and Costa were desperate to join.
B: But these guys should be aiming to be a better side than the one Drogba was a part of. We’re a bigger club now than we were when Drogba was in his prime, we have a better squad and more top class talent, and if these players aren’t motivated enough already to achieve that, then I don’t know what difference one returning player can make.
A: Regardless, what a player to bring on in big games, on European nights and obviously, against the Arsenal. He might have lost a bit of strength and speed but as Jose said, we wouldn’t have bought him back if he didn’t still have the quality and the character to deliver on the big stage.
B: Granted he could still be a useful squad player but it sounds to me like some fans are delusional as to how good he still his. You won’t convince me a youthful, powerful and motivated young player like Lukaku wouldn’t be a more useful option to have on the bench.
A: Well I think you’re joyless, unromantic cynic with no appreciation of history or tradition. When Drogba comes off the bench to score the winner against Arsenal and you’re jumping for joy, you’ll be feeling pretty stupid.
B: If I cared about history I’d go and support Liverpool – what I care about is the future of this team. Even if we win the league this season, until Lukaku has finally returned and the team have seamlessly moved on from Drogba’s second departure, I remain unconvinced that this was a smart signing.
In my opinion, both men make excellent cases. I think it’s possible the emotion of the player’s return might be preventing some genuine concerns from being seriously considered, Let me know in the comment section which side of the argument you’re on – is this a inspired addition to the squad or a step in the wrong direction?