Top Tier Rewind was surprised and saddened to learn this week that Didier Drogba had retired from football.
Surprised because we thought he’d retired years ago. Saddened because he was f*cking good at what he did.
Which, of course, was banging the ball into the back of the net with the unfettered power and violence of a vindaloo fart.
The man was Alan Hansen’s wet dream: pace, power, pace, power, desire, pace, power, pace, power, passion. If you needed a prototype for a ‘big centre forward’, you’d be banging down the doors of Drogba’s house begging him to spend a few hours in a motion capture studio.
The old cliche goes that When X Hit The Ball, It Stayed Hit. But when Drogba hit the ball, it called the UN and lodged a formal complaint. Things got even worse when he decided to put his head on it. That’s when it got really vicious.
He didn’t so much head the ball as loaf it Begbie-style wherever he wanted it to go. Which was usually the top corner of the goal. When defenders saw Drogba in mid-air, neck drawn back, they quietly moved aside and prepared their excuses. “Sorry gaffer, he just got the run on me. Anyway I’m not sure he was my man in the first place, to be honest. Has anyone got the Jaffa Cakes?”
This weekend, Chelsea take on Spurs, and what better time to celebrate the man. Arguably, the goal that best represented what Drogba was all about came in the 2012 FA Cup semi-final, where the Blues hammered Tottenham 5-1.
More than any other goal, perhaps, it encapsulates everything that he had to offer. The strength to hold off Billy Gallas as if the Spurs defender was a small child trying to grapple with a fully grown ursus arctos. The subtlety to flick the ball exactly where he needed it to be. The speed to burst away from Gallas. And the absolute venom to smack it top bins with his supposedly weaker foot.
Ostensibly, Drogba was right-footed. But if you look back through his highlight reel, it’s striking how many goals he scored with his left. In the Premier League, he notched 19 with his left, 46 with his right and 17 with his head – if that doesn’t show versatility, we don’t know what does. There didn’t seem to be much difference between left and right when it came to thwacking it in.
At his best, Drogba was a terrifying presence. When he drove at a backline, they panicked in anticipation of being either run over or run past. When he was presented with a chance, he scored. He was lethal, a truly great name of the Premier League era.
There’s no arguing with 104 goals in 254 PL appearances, all of which came during a time when the league was far tighter and more focused on defence than it is now. One can only imagine how many he’d have managed had he been around now.