Was Didier Drogba overrated?

Mohamed Salah equalled Didier Drogba's longstanding record for goals scored by an African player in the Premier League last weekend, when he contributed to the obliteration of Watford in scintillating style.

Salah's feat has put Drogba's achievements into sharper focus, with the Chelsea legend's legacy being simultaneously scrutinised and celebrated as one of his grandest feats has been overtaken.

Certainly, while Salah stands on the brink of eclipsing his Prem record, Drogba's overall standing in the African game ought not be diminished.

Does the towering Ivorian get the credit he deserves for his triumphs for club and country, or have his contributions in the biggest of matches for Chelsea led to his international failures being ignored?

Didier Drogba Chelsea Manchester United FA Cup final 05192007

As the only player in history to score in four FA Cup finals, the Ivorian became virtually synonymous with the Wembley showpiece, and forged a reputation as a player for the big occasion, the closest thing to a guarantee in a final setting.

Of course, nothing is ever that black and white. While Drogba's eminence and legacy is, for many, cast in stone, even the perception of him as utterly dependable in finals did not always hold.

In fact, if one considers international football to be the pinnacle of pressure, underpinned as it is by the expectation of an entire nation, then the former Chelsea man's crown and status begins to sit a little less easily on his now-shaven head.

While he so often proved the difference maker in finals at club level, his adventures in the colours of Ivory Coast were a little less glorious.

Manchester United Chelsea FA Cup 2007 Didier Drogba

It would be reductive – and also unfair – to lay the underachievement of the Elephants’ Golden Generation at his feet alone. However, by the same token, it is impossible to absolve him completely, especially when, on a personal level, he underwhelmed when it came crunch time in the 2006 and 2012 editions of the Africa Cup of Nations.

Against Egypt, he missed an open goal on 77 minutes after being set up by strike partner Arouna Kone, volleyed a back-post cross over the top while unmarked in stoppage time, and saw his penalty saved in the shoot-out that Ivory Coast went on to lose.

Against Zambia, he fluffed the chance to win the match in normal time, firing a 70th-minute penalty over the bar as Chipolopolo made history in Gabon.

If one excuses him on the grounds that Egypt went on to retain the Afcon title twice over, affirming their greatness, then how can one parse the failure six years on, when every index pointed to the Elephants as unmistakable favourites?

Didier Drogba (L) vies for the ball with Zambian defender Hichani Himoonde during the African Cup of Nations final football match between Ivory Coast and Zambia

He just seemed to completely lose his composure in those key moments, playing the occasion rather than the match itself.

It may seem nit-picky, but it is all the more relevant both because that generation would ultimately fail to touch the sky, and for the very specific nature of Drogba’s failure.

Were it more diffuse, it could be chalked up to little more than variance.

As it is, it just serves to highlight the peculiarity of international football, especially as there do not appear to be any technical or tactical reasons for the dichotomy of output.

Even the man himself, asked to explain his miss in 2012, told the BBC he could not remember the moment specifically. “The only thing that I remember is that we lost the final,” he offered unconvincingly.

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This is not to re-litigate Drogba’s legacy in terms of impact in finals.

After all, 10 goals in 12 finals is impressive in its own right, only marginally less so than the oft-parroted “10 in 10”.

What it does, though, is frame the great man within a more nuanced context: the king of the FA Cup final never quite hacked the Afcon in the same way.