One of the best African footballers of all time, Chelsea legend Didier Drogba was inducted into the Premier League Hall of Fame in 2022.
|Date of Birth||11/03/1978|
|Place of Birth||Abidjan, Ivory Coast|
|Premier League club(s)||Chelsea|
|Premier League appearances||254|
|Premier League goals||104|
|Premier League assists||54|
|Premier League titles||4|
|Premier League Golden Boots||2|
In July 2004, 26-year-old Ivorian striker Didier Drogba became one of new Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho’s first signings for a sizeable fee of £24m from Marseille.
Having spent just one season at Marseille, scoring 32 goals in all competitions in 2003/04, Drogba arrived on English soil as a largely unknown quantity.
His lack of top level experience perhaps told in his first season at Stamford Bridge, as although Chelsea stormed to the Premier League and League Cup in Mourinho’s first season in charge, Drogba only mustered a somewhat underwhelming 16 goals in 40 appearances in all competitions.
Raw but boasting undoubted potential, Drogba registered 16 goals in all competitions once more in the 2005/06 season, but his goal contributions total of 27 in the Premier League – 12 goals and 15 assists – underlined his growing influence as an all-round striker in Mourinho’s ever-improving Chelsea side who retained their league title with two games to spare.
The 2006/07 campaign would see Drogba truly catch fire, with the Ivory Coast international switching his shirt number from 15 to 11 following the departure of Damien Duff to Newcastle Utd.
Drogba would hit 33 goals in all competitions – more than his total in the previous two seasons combined – and the striker’s 20 Premier League goals was enough to see him land the 2006/07 Premier League Golden Boot.
The pick of Drogba’s 20 Premier League goals in 2006/07 came against Merseyside duo Liverpool and Everton, both of which saw the hitman fire home incredible strikes from outside the area.
Drogba’s exploits were not enough to see Chelsea claim a third consecutive Premier League title, however, with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Man Utd reclaiming their crown, but the Blues did win both domestic cups with their Ivorian star striker netting three goals across both finals.
The ex-Marseille star’s sensational form in 2006/07 saw him named African Footballer of the Year for the first time in March 2007, before finishing as runner-up to Man Utd’s Cristiano Ronaldo in the PFA Player of the Year awards at the end of the season.
After winning the FA Cup and League Cup double along with the Premier League Golden Boot in 2007, Drogba finished fourth in the FIFA World Player of the Year awards behind Kaka, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
After the highs of 2006/07 – with Drogba scoring decisive goals in the FA Cup and League Cup finals and awarded the Premier League’s Golden Boot – the subsequent season proved a disappointing one for the Chelsea hero.
With legendary manager Jose Mourinho exiting Chelsea in dramatic fashion early on in the 2007/08 campaign, Drogba appeared unsettled at the club having shared a close bond with the Portuguese coach.
The former Ivory Coast skipper would endure injury and disciplinary problems during the 2007/08 season, which ended with Drogba red carded for slapping Man Utd defender Nemanja Vidic in the Champions League final as the Blues eventually went down to the Red Devils on penalties in Moscow.
There was to be no immediate renaissance for Drogba in 2008/09, with the Chelsea icon continuing to struggle with injury issues and Brazilian manager Luiz Felipe Scolari preferring French striker Nicolas Anelka in attack in the early part of the season prior to his sacking in February 2009.
The appointment of Guus Hiddink as Chelsea’s interim manager would see Drogba begin to resemble his usual self, and although the Blues finished third in the Premier League, the London side would win the FA Cup at Wembley with their number 11 once again delivering on the big occasion by scoring in the final against Everton.
Having bounced back from a low point in his Chelsea career, Drogba would go on to enjoy his most successful season at the club under the auspices of the Blues’ new permanent manager Carlo Ancelotti in 2009/10.
Winning the domestic Double of the Premier League and FA Cup, Drogba claimed his second Golden Boot with his best ever total of 29 goals in England’s top flight.
Ancelotti had helped breathe new life into Drogba, who provided a fitting focal point for a Chelsea attack which also included the likes of Nicolas Anelka, Salomon Kalou, Florent Malouda, with Frank Lampard utilised to great effect in an advanced midfield position.
Drogba’s winning goal in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Portsmouth in the 2010 FA Cup final – a stunning free kick – ensured he maintained his perfect record of having scored in all six domestic cup finals he had played in for the Blues.
Chelsea were unable to follow up their Double-winning heroics in the following campaign in 2010/11, however, with the Blues somehow failing to accrue any silverware despite continuing to boast a stellar squad which had achieved such heights the season before.
The Blues finished second in the Premier League, relinquishing the title to Man Utd, prompting notoriously trigger-happy owner Roman Abramovich to relieve Ancelotti of his duties shortly after Chelsea’s final league match of the season – a 1-0 away defeat at Everton.
Despite Chelsea’s disappointing campaign, Drogba still managed to put up commendable numbers – registering 26 goal contributions in the Premier League.
At the age of 33, the 2011/12 Premier League season saw Didier Drogba wind down his prime years as a Chelsea player, and although he was not able to contribute as consistently as he had done previously on the pitch – recording just 13 goals in all competitions – he was once again able to inspire the Blues to cup glory.
Making just 16 Premier League starts in 2011/12, scoring five goals, Drogba was no longer the main man in attack for Chelsea with the likes of £50m signing Fernando Torres and the emerging Daniel Strurridge given plenty of game time.
Chelsea endured a torrid league campaign in 2011/12 under new Portuguese manager Andre Villas-Boas, and the ex-Porto boss was eventually sacked in March 2012 with club legend Roberto Di Matteo appointed caretaker manager until the end of the season.
Although Chelsea ended up finishing in a hugely disappointing sixth place in the Premier League, Italian De Matteo was to oversee two famous cup triumphs at the back end of the season, with Ivorian Drogba unsurprisingly taking central stage.
The two-time African Footballer of the Year became the first player ever to score in four different FA Cup finals, with his winner in Chelsea’s 2-1 victory over Liverpool sealing his fourth FA Cup title.
Two weeks later, Drogba and Chelsea would get their hands on an elusive first Champions League title following an enthralling final against Bayern Munich in their Allianz Arena home.
With German giants Bayern hotly tipped to prevail at their home stadium against a Chelsea side which was patched up due to injuries and suspensions, with Ryan Bertrand becoming the first player in the Champions League era to make his European debut in the final.
The Bavarians took the lead in the 83rd minute through Thomas Muller, before Drogba netted one of the most iconic Champions League final goals of all time to take the match to extra time – rising highest to powerfully head home a Juan Mata corner at the near post.
Drogba’s heroics were not over then, with the Ivory Coast legend stepping up to take the decisive fifth kick in the penalty shootout to fire his beloved Chelsea to European glory.
This successful penalty would prove to be Drogba’s last action in a Chelsea shirt before transferring to Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua in the summer of 2012, marking the end of his eight-year spell at Stamford Bridge in which he had won a total of 10 major trophies – three Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, two League Cups and a Champions League.
His association with Chelsea was not to end there, however, with Drogba returning to the club on a one-year contract in July 2014 where he would reunite with old boss Mourinho.
Although Drogba was no longer the player he once was at the age of 36, he was still able to rack up 28 Premier League appearances as Mourinho steered Chelsea to their first league title in five years.
Drogba made the move to the MLS following the 2014/15 campaign, leaving Chelsea for good as a bonafide legend of the club.
Prior to Tottenham's temporary move to the national stadium in 2018, no club player had scored more goals at the new Wembley Stadium than Drogba (8).
A late bloomer, Drogba did not sign his first professional contract with French side Le Mans until the age of 21, which meant he had to work hard to improve the technical aspects of his game in order to reach the highest level.
Always a tremendous athlete with a fabulous mentality which drove him on to continue improving his game, Drogba developed into a complete striker with the ability to dominate defenders.
Providing a focal point in attack, Drogba was adept at linking the play with players in behind him and getting on the end of crosses inside the box with the Ivorian deadly in the air.
He also possessed an extremely powerful shot, as demonstrated in iconic Premier League goals such as those struck against Merseyside duo Liverpool and Everton during the 2006/07 Premier League season.
Drogba’s career is perhaps best defined as a player who relished the biggest occasions, with an incredible record at club level of 10 goals in 10 finals.
Since retiring as a professional footballer in 2018, Drogba has gone on to work in the media as well as dedicate a lot of time to philanthropic ventures.
The Ivorian has appeared as a BBC pundit for major international football tournaments such as the World Cup, and has co-hosted the Ballon d’Or awards in Paris on three occasions – in 2019, 2021 and 2023.
As a philanthropist, Drogba has acted as a Goodwill Ambassador for the United Nations Development Programme, and in 2018 was appointed Vice President of Peace and Sport, an independent organisation which seeks to unite estranged communities across the world.
After Ivory Coast successfully qualified for the 2006 World Cup following a victory over Sudan in October 2005, Drogba made a personal plea to combatants to put down their arms after five years of civil war in the country.
Drogba’s heartfelt request did not fall on deaf ears, with Ivorian nationals settling their differences by taking to the ballot box the following year with a peaceful election process taking place.