Thursday, November 26, 2015 9:24 am
Chelsea great Didier Drogba has challenged his former team mates to dig deep and show the mental fortitude that will restore the club’s place among the Premier League’s elite.
The champions have made a miserable start to the season and languish sixth from bottom after losing seven of their opening 13 league matches.
The green shoots of recovery are visible, however, and Drogba is hoping Saturday’s 1-0 home victory over Norwich City in the Premier League and the 4-0 win at Maccabi Tel Aviv in the Champions League on Tuesday are a sign of things to come.
“It’s been a difficult first part of the season but even if the season finishes like this they will still remain my team,” the former Ivory Coast striker told Reuters in an interview.
“Chelsea will remain a big club. It’s not just because you have a bad day that you are going to ruin what you did before.
“In life you go through these kind of moments but you have to show that you have the character and ability to change this and come back stronger,” added Drogba.
“They’ve had two wins in a row and now the club is going in the right direction.”
Drogba, who has just ended his first season in Major League Soccer with the Montreal Impact, is justifiably proud of the feats he accomplished during nine years at Chelsea.
In two spells at Stamford Bridge he won the Premier League four times, the FA Cup four times and the Champions League in 2012 when he scored a late equaliser against Bayern Munich and then converted the winning penalty in a memorable shootout.
Drogba scored 164 goals in 381 appearances for Chelsea and their fans, in 2012, voted him the club’s greatest ever player.
Not bad for a man who was in tears and could not even bear to pack his suitcase when he was told the Londoners had agreed to buy him from his beloved Olympique Marseille in a big-money deal in 2004.
“That’s the greatest thing about my story,” said Drogba. “At first it was like, ‘No, I’m not ready, I don’t want (to go) and then a few years later you sit back and you realise, ‘Yeah, actually it was the best move’.
“The most important thing in my whole time there … was that I was surrounded by very good people. It goes beyond football. We created something strong at the club, it is kind of an identity that will always link us all together.
“We love this club, all the players who have been there. You speak to someone like (former Brazil defender) Juliano Belletti for example, he speaks highly about Chelsea, about his time there,” added the 37-year-old Ivorian.
“Nicolas Anelka as well,” said Drogba of the former France, Real Madrid, Arsenal and Manchester City forward. “He was saying to me he had his best years of football at Chelsea, the most enjoyable times he had were there.”
In his new autobiography ‘Commitment’, published by Hodder and Stoughton, Drogba says Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has promised him a role at the club once his playing days are over.
The Ivorian formed a dynamic partnership at Stamford Bridge with former England midfielder Frank Lampard, who now plays for New York City FC, and Drogba is certain the pair will link up again at the club in some capacity in the future.
The two men are close friends but there was one unforgettable fallout when Chelsea needed to beat Wigan Athletic in the last game of the season to win the 2010 Premier League title.
Lampard was the designated penalty taker while Drogba was trying to win the Golden Boot as the league’s top scorer.
Chelsea were awarded a first-half spot kick and the pair argued like bickering schoolchildren before Lampard finally got his way and hammered home the penalty.
“I think it was the only time me and him had an argument but he knew I was right so he gave me an assist later,” laughed Drogba who went on to score a hat-trick as Chelsea romped to an 8-0 victory.
The Ivorian also engaged in frequent on-field disputes with former Germany and Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack about who should take direct free kicks from scoring range.
Drogba rocked back in his chair and let out a loud roar of laughter when reminded of his altercations with Ballack.
“It was a nightmare,” he joked, “but I love Michael. We laugh about it sometimes.
“Things happen in football and when you sit back and look at it again you’re like, ‘Football is crazy’. But it’s the desire to win, the competition, the desire to help the team win, that creates these kind of moments.
“It’s good, it shows passion and loyalty to the club.”