Country: Cote d'Ivoire
Didier Drogba is an African superstar
and the captain of
the Elephants of Cote d'Ivoire, planning on winning his
first African Cup of Nations in Angola and participating in his second
consecutive World Cup this summer in South Africa.
Born in Abidjan, Drogba left his country extremely early to go and live
with his uncle, a former professional footballer, the man who would be
shaping his discipline and attitude throughout his life. Growing up
around Paris, in Levallois, Drogba signed with them as a teenager and
would later follow their head coach when the latter was recruited by
Le Mans UC72.
Drogba's career is not the fastest route to professional football and he was nowhere near as
precocious as the other man who is synonymous with African football,
Samuel Eto'o. While Eto'o defied every rule concerning teenage prowess,
Drogba was more of a slow starter. The man they used to call "Tito" for his
dictator-like attitude and tendency to always give orders had an
injury-riddled career at Le Mans.
He was recruited by En Avant de Guingamp only on potential and thanks to Marc
Westerloppe's relationship with Guy Lacombe. After a very shaky first
season, he impressed many in his second where he managed to score
seventeen goals and give nine assists thanks to his amazing relationship
with wingers Florent Malouda and Fabrice Fiorèse.
That relationship was so good that he proposed Florent Malouda to the
Elephants of Cote d'Ivoire, saying that if "Brazilians could play for
Tunisia, why couldn't a French West-Indian play for Cote d'Ivoire".
Nothing ever came from that but his friendship continues today at
As soon as he took the Marseille job, Alain Perrin who was coming off a great season with Troyes decided to recruit what he deemed the
best attack in the league. And if Malouda was quickly snagged by
Olympique Lyonnais and Fiorèse by Paris Saint-Germain, Marseille was
dead set on getting the best player out of the three, Drogba.
And that's exactly what they managed to do. Once he arrived in Marseille
to very little fanfare (actually the local press was ferocious with
him, drawing comparisons to eternal laughingstock Ibrahima "Baka"
Bakayoko, calling him Drogbaka before the season started), it took him a
few games to get acquainted before giving the supporters the best
season that they have ever had this side of their centennial.
If their league results were not great, they had a respectable run in
the Champions League and then went to the final of the UEFA Cup, where a
10-man team (Goalkeeper and captain Fabien Barthez was expelled seven minutes in) lost to heavyweights Valencia.
that season, Drogba scored 38 goals in all competitions combined.
Going back to Africa for his vacation, he declared his intention of
staying at Marseilles a few more years.
But that was counting out
Chelsea and more importantly Jose Mourinho who, on his way to winning
the Champions League with Porto faced Marseilles and its striker, so
impressed that he asked him at half-time if he "didn't have a cheaper
cousin he could buy for Porto".
Mourinho wouldn't have to settle for anything less than the real deal.
After arriving at Chesea with only Drogba's name in mind, he put the
pressure on his owner who was more than happy to oblige. Not willing to
negotiate, Marseilles gave out the outrageous number of €38 million
(which was at the time the biggest transfer ever involving a French
club) but to their surprise the blues were willing to dish out the big
Drogba's Senegalese agent, Thierno Seydi was called up and charged of
breaking the news to his client, to explain to him that it was in
Marseilles' interest that he left, after the player's initial refusal to
join the English heavyweights.
Eventually, Drogba would join the Blues and has been playing with them
over the past six seasons, becoming a global superstar in the process.
Aside from being a star player, Didier Drogba is a point of national pride and a
very active man in his country. Him and his teammates were responsible
for getting independent militias and the government back on the
negotiating tables in the middle of a civil war that was burgeoning.
Their intervention nipped the conflict in the bud.
His involvement in campaigns against racial discrimination, fighting
aids and malaria in Africa make him much more than your average player.
Drogba became a United Nations Development Program Goodwill Ambassador
in 2005 and has held camps or UNICEF every summer since.
The next year is crucial for Drogba who is at his most efficient ever
under new coach Carlo Ancelotti. With the AFCON and probably his
personal last World Cup (he'll be 36 in 2014), Drogba will want to
deliver for his country in one of his last chances to build a palmares
with his national side.
FA Premier League (2005, 2006)
FA Cup (2007, 2009)
FA Community Shield (2005, 2009)
Football League Cup (2005, 2007)
UEFA Cup Top Scorer
Ligue 1 Player of the Year (2004)
Three-time Ivorian Footballer of the
Year: (2004, 2006, 2007)
African Footballer of the Year:
Top Scorer: 2007
UEFA Team of the Year: 2007
Cote d'Ivoire all-time
Did You Know?
After Jose Mourinho was fired from
Chelsea and Drogba voiced his willingness to leave, Olympique de
Marseille fans set up a fund, a "Drogbathon" in order to get enough
money to buy him and bring him back to Marseille. After a few months and
seven virtual millions collected, Drogba reiterated his willingness to
come back to Marseille one season and give back to the club what it had