Didier Drogba, Chelsea legend and fan favourite, returned to Stamford Bridge for the first time since his move to Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua on Sunday afternoon to see Rafael Benitez take charge of his first game at the club where the Ivorian is so widely adored.
As well as bringing the glory days to Chelsea as a player, he will be as interested as anyone by what has gone on behind the doors of the Champions League winners over the last week, as his former side take yet another dive into the footballing unknown.
Drogba saw many managers come and go during his eight year spell at the club, and was thought to be a key figure in the dressing room through both good and bad times. He and Jose Mourinho were inseparable during Drogba’s early days at the Bridge, and Drogba has much respect for the man that built his career to stardom. Didier freely expresses his love for his former coach and mentor in his autobiography, with Mourinho even writing the book’s foreword.
But total respect is not what new coaches always got from the Ivorian. Both Luis Filipe Scolari and Andre Villas-Boas were subject to much speculation over dressing room unrest before their predictable axe from the dugout, and Drogba was thought to be a major influence in both men being booted out before Christmas.
What impact a hypothetical Drogba loan would have at Chelsea remains to be seen, as FIFA rejected the striker’s request for permission to move outside the transfer window. But it is still an intriguing thought. Could Benitez use Drogba as an inspiration for the current side, much like Arsene Wenger used Thierry Henry for Arsenal last season, or will he and Benitez, not for the first time, fail to see eye to eye, bringing chaos back to the club?
Fans would love to see Drogba return, if only to bring back the memory of the glory days for a brief while, but the players would be equally pleased, especially Frank Lampard and John Terry, who have been surprisingly quiet about recent goings-on.
During the top of the table clash against Manchester City this weekend the fans seemed uninterested in the football and more focused on showing their defiance against both Benitez’s appointment and Roberto Di Matteo’s dismissal.
Drogba had a rare gift where, with his presence and charisma, he could lift the Blues faithful into frenzy and feed off their energy in return. A look back only to the home games in the Champions League last season against Napoli and Barcelona shows as much, where Drogba was the catalyst for such tremendous results.
Whether Drogba returns or not though, it is imperative that Chelsea do find that something new to lift everyone again at Stamford Bridge, someone with that little extra to get the fans believing in their team once more. Who better than the Drog?
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