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Didier Drogba: Diego Maradona and Michael Jackson were the two stars who impressed me the most

Ex-Chelsea star Didier Drogba has paid an emotional tribute to Argentina legend Diego Maradona, who passed away in November.

The Albiceleste superstar died of a heart attack at the age of 60 and farewell messages across the world have poured in for the former Barcelone star.

Maradona was famous for his dribbling skills and ability to cut open defences during his playing years and helped Argentina win the 1986 World Cup.

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The forward also enjoyed success at club level, winning a number of accolades with Boca Juniors, Barcelona and Napoli among others.

Drogba, who holds Maradona as his role model, also had a great career during his playing years, clinching a number of laurels during his time with Marseille, Chelsea and Galatasaray before his retirement from professional football.

The former Ivory Coast has paid a tribute to the football icon, recollecting his only meeting with him in 2018, which he described as the best day of his life.

“The day I quit my playing career, it was like my childhood dream was over. This ‘little death’ had been hard to live with, because all of a sudden, we find ourselves a little naked, without a horizon, without a goal to reach, without a dream to exceed,” Drogba told France Football.

“There, with your disappearance, it is much more than a child's dream which vanishes, it is the end of ‘my’ football, of the idea that I have always had and of which you were at the same time the symbol, the model and the spokesperson. Football is full of life, daring, mischief and freedom. 

“The funny thing is that my first World Cup match was against Argentina. And that I even scored. On this occasion, I saw you from afar but I had not dared to approach.

“I am shy although it is not always visible. All of a sudden, I, the captain of the Ivorian selection and Chelsea player, felt like a very small boy in front of ‘my God’.

“The only other person who impressed me so much was Michael Jackson. He too, I only saw him from afar, but what a shock!

“In 2008, I almost ran into you for good, but you chose the Africa Cup of Nations period to come visit the Blues! When I knew that you had been able to meet all my teammates while I was in Ghana, I was crazy!

“Finally, I was able to meet you in 2018, on the occasion of the World Cup. I'm not afraid to say it was the best day of my football career.

“I will always remember that you kissed me and said: ‘Drogba, bomba!’ I don't know if you realized it, but I was no longer touching the ground. And it took me a while to come back down. It was a bit like my Ballon d'Or. 

“In recent years, of course, I felt sorry to see you. I thought I could guess sadness and regret in your often lost gaze.

“It's crazy because I only spoke to you for 10 seconds and I still have the impression that I know you so well. Now we'll have to learn to love football without you. It's like continuing to love life after a loved one is gone. Obviously, it is possible, but it will take time. Goodbye Diego, I loved you so much.”