A familiar sight at Chelsea fixtures across the UK and beyond for the past eight years (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
As Didier Drogba signs off from the Premier League in style with a memorable impact on the Champions League Final this year every Tom, Dick and Harry, whoever they are, have formed an orderly queue to wax lyrical about the Ivorian forward and his spell with Chelsea.
But hang on a minute, aren't we forgetting all about Didier's baggage?As Didier Drogba lay in wait in Munich on Saturday night, seemingly keeping his head down, waiting for the right "Hollywood" moment to strike and pen a story that would have even Ewe Boll blushing surely not even he could have the drama that he helped spur. After nine years, seven managers and countless billions in investment, Drogba, single-handedly, gifted Roman Abramovich the one title he craved above them all and sparked wild celebrations, including the cringe worthy festivities that their absent captain revelled in following Drogba's graceful penalty to win the tie.
Since joining Chelsea for £24m back in 2004, a fee earned courtesy of his performances for Marseille the previous season, notably in the Champions League and his contribution in a campaign which culminated in the UEFA Cup, Drogba has revolutionised the way we think of the big strong centre-forward. Previously the definition belonged to players like Alan Shearer, Kevin Davies, Duncan Ferguson and maybe even Emile Heskey. Didier had all of their attributes and much more.
Such has been Drogba's impact and influence that he is now labelled as one of the club's greatest alongside other Chelsea legends such as Ron Harris, Jimmy Greaves, Peter Osgood and one of my all time favourites, the irrepressible Gianfranco Zola.
The reason behind why the big, burly centre forward is held in such high regard should be no real surprise to anyone that watches the English top flight on a regular basis. On his day Drogba is simply unplayable. He has the perfect balance of physical presence, touch, fantastic in the air and also a ferocious shot to boot.
I can remember when Kenwyne Jones was first linked with a move to Sunderland in 2007 and reading quotes from George Burley, his manager at Southampton at the time, comparing our new forward to the Chelsea hitman and being genuinely excited by the prospect.
You only have to go back a couple of weeks for what I believe to be a perfect example of what Drogba is capable of. The FA Cup Semi-Final saw Chelsea having to cope with consistent early pressure from Spurs before Drogba turned the game on its head with a stunning goal. Having received the ball with his back to goal Drogba shrugged off the attention of the experienced William Gallas before spinning on the spot and lashing home a thunderous volley past a helpless Carlos Cudicini.
However I couldn't help but notice that as journalists across the country tripped over themselves to worship at the Alter of Drog as the forward announced that he would not be entering into contract negotiations with the club, they failed to really dwell on the one element of Didier's game that caught the eye more often than his undoubted ability - his love for the theatrics.
Of course it would be wrong to chastise Drogba as the chief instigator for the scourge which blights our game; play-acting, diving, cheating or however you wish to label it, but he has certainly proven to be one of the main protagonists over the years. Again, we don't have to look too far back to find some staggering examples of the lengths Didier would go to in a bid to "gain a competitive edge" shall we say. His antics in the Champions League this year caught the Ivorian bang-to-rights, especially his game of peek-a-boo in the tie against Napoli and then the amount of time he spent of the turf against Barcelona. For a man built like the proverbial brick shit-house, the
towering centre-forward is strangely lightweight when challenged. "My word", Wilkins would say, "Stay on your feet Didier".
Whilst thoroughly against all gentlemanly codes of conduct there is no doubt that Drogba's actions of the field, especially against Barcelona, helped his side to victory. His performance frustrated and irritated the much fancied and lauded Barca to a standstill, stifling their rhythm and time on the ball, thus killing their effective possession-football style. Whilst some Chelsea fans may have reveled in his oscar winning performance it only further condemned him in the eyes of the wider footballing public.
It is a shame that once the dust has settled and the mess following the Champions League celebrations has been cleared away the majority of football fans will soon forget his performance in Munich and rather be drawn back to the amount of time the big man spent rolling around the pitch during his eight years in England rather than the unplayable forward he was capable of being and the wonderful goals against Everton, Liverpool and Spurs serving as his legacy.