By Greg Stobart
SHREWD DROGBA SIGNING WILL BOOST BLUES
Didier Drogba was offered longer and more lucrative contracts by others clubs, but the Chelsea legend could not refuse the opportunity to return home.
The Blues confirmed on Friday the return on a one-year contract of the man described by Jose Mourinho earlier this week as the scorer of the most important goal in the club’s history.
A man who scored 157 times in 341 Chelsea appearances and was voted as the club’s greatest ever player by fans in 2012.
That was months after what appeared to be Drogba’s game in a Chelsea shirt, when he scored the equaliser against Bayern Munich and then struck the winning penalty in the 2012 Champions League final.
Now he has snubbed interest from the MLS and Italian giants Juventus to win more trophies at Stamford Bridge.
There is no such thing as a token signing for Mourinho and the Portuguese’s influence in Drogba’s decision to return was obvious in the club’s official statement.
“It was an easy decision. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with Jose again,” Drogba said.
“Everyone knows the special relationship I have with this club and it has always felt like home to me. My desire to win is still the same and I look forward to the opportunity to help this team. I am excited for this next chapter of my career.”
Mourinho believes Drogba still has plenty to offer both on and off the pitch and told him as much in persuading the Ivorian to come back to west London and ‘make more history’.
At 36, Drogba’s powers may have waned, but he will still expect to be second choice striker behind €44 million summer signing Diego Costa, with the futures of Fernando Torres and Romelu Lukaku again in doubt.
Drogba will see plenty of action as Chelsea fight on four fronts next season, with Mourinho’s priority to win the Premier League title.
The Portuguese won two league titles in his first spell with the Blues, and in Drogba he has re-signed a player who was pivotal to both of those triumphs and knows what it takes.
His influence on the younger players and new signings with no Premier League experience cannot be underestimated. Drogba is not just a winner, but he is a Chelsea winner.
You can see why Mourinho wanted Drogba back. Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole have both left the club this summer, as has another experienced player in Samuel Eto’o.
The possible departure of goalkeeper Petr Cech means that John Terry could be the only remaining player from the spine of Mourinho’s original Chelsea team.
But now he is joined by Drogba, the ultimate big game player who scored nine goals in nine finals for the Blues, winning three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and the Champions League in eight years with Chelsea.
What better influence for team-mates with less trophy winning experience and for youngsters being brought through from the Under-21 squad?
Just a week ago, Mourinho claimed that Chelsea’s business in the transfer market was complete and that no more signings would follow Costa, Cesc Fabregas and Felipe Luis to the club.
Yet as is so often the case, Mourinho threw the media a curveball.
You can rarely take Mourinho’s words at face value - but he means it when he says he still believes Drogba can still make a massive impact at a club where he is already an idol.
KOEMAN PICKS UP THE PIECES AFTER SAINTS EXODUS
Ronald Koeman tried to insist earlier this month that Southampton are not a selling club, but the Dutchman has been unable to stop the summer exodus.
Luke Shaw has signed for Manchester United while Adam Lallana and Rickie Lambert have moved to Liverpool.
Dejan Lovren is on the verge of a €25m switch to Liverpool and right-back Calum Chambers is set to join Arsenal in a €20m deal.
It won't stop. The only jewel left in the crown is Morgan Schneiderlin, with the midfielder a target for Arsenal and Tottenham.
Schneiderlin is, understandably, increasingly desperate to follow his team-mates out of St Mary’s and fears getting stranded in a relegation battle this season.
The asset stripping, which started with the departure of manager Mauricio Pochettino to Tottenham, has left Southampton financially secure but they now a little over a month to build a squad that can survive in the Premier League.
It is unclear exactly what Koeman was told when he took the Saints job in June but a promising team - Southampton finished eighth last season - has been ripped apart and their new manager has been left to pick up the pieces.