Desmond Kane

Unofficial Didier Drogba ‘testimonial’ made a mockery of Champions League

Desmond Kane

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At least the bromance should hold up from here on in.

Having told the world that "I gave him my heart" before last night's Champions League meet-and-greet between Chelsea and Galatasaray, Jose Mourinho appeared to be sporting a couple of moistened eyeballs when Dider Drogba hugged him and gave him a peck on a cheek seconds before the ball began rolling at Stamford Bridge.

Not sure Ron 'Chopper' Harris would have been caught necking Tommy Docherty back in the day, but this is an age when metrosexual man is encouraged to share his feelings. If only Drogba had expressed himself with such feeling during the match.

Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 outings for Chelsea. If John Terry had departed his team bus dressed as a Chelsea pensioner beforehand, he is unlikely to have been as well received as Didier, who was pictured embracing home supporters, apparently with the healing hands of Peter Poppof rather than Osgood before being handed a silver boot by his former club.

All this adoration reached fever pitch after Drogba went out a Chelsea icon having scored the winning penalty in a shoot-out against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League final. Leave them wanting more, but probably don’t bother coming back with a tepid Turkish mob.

For Drogba, the love-in continued throughout the evening. Which tells you enough about where it all went wrong for him, and a dreadful Galatasaray side. The Turkish team had held Chelsea to a 1-1 draw in Istanbul three weeks ago, but produced an anemic performance in losing 2-0 on the night to tumble out 3-1 over two legs to Mourinho’s side.

They managed to muster one shot on target. Despite being encouraged by 3,000 or so rabid diehards, some of whom looked like extras from Taken 2, too many players were not scared enough by their followers to find some meaningful form.

Galatasaray’s players have a particular set of skills which are very limited. Some them didn't seem to care enough. Including, it must be said, big DD up front for whom the night turned into a lap of honour before his adoring public.

Roberto Mancini’s side were an embarrassment here, worse than the Manchester CIty defeat he presided over in the FA Cup final against Wigan 10 months ago. It is just a shame they somehow managed to see off Juventus at the group stage to reach this juncture. Juve would not have been party to such goings on.

What was supposed to be a competitive match between two blue-chip clubs in the last 16 of world football’s greatest competition, turned into the unofficial testimonial that Drogba never received having left Chelsea eight years after the 'Special One' signed him from Marseille for £24 million.

In a match devoid of any true competitive edge, it probably served to highlight what Drogba once was and where he is now.

In a similar scenario, one recalls speaking to the then Celtic manager Martin O’Neill a decade ago about the Swedish forward Henrik Larsson’s return to Celtic Park with Barcelona.

O’Neill was quick to point out that Larsson would not hesitate to blade Celtic if given the chance. He didn’t.

Larsson came off the bench to score Barca’s third in a 3-1 win much to the dismay of the home supporters. Drogba never looked in the mood to achieve something similar last night.

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If Drogba, 36, had been cutting open Chelsea like the player he was a decade ago, it is doubtful if those home fans would have been so thrilled with his reappearance in West London.

Instead, he managed to balloon a free-kick over the bar in the first half so badly that the ball accidentally flew straight into one of his many tribute banners up in the Gods. Late in the second half he missed a volley that would have been gobbled up when he wore a blue shirt.


Perhaps it all got too much for him, but that in itself is unprofessional. The hugs, plaudits and talk of being part of the Chelsea family would not have come so readily from Mourinho, Terry and Frank Lampard if Drogba had scored the goals that buried his old club.

Drogba seemed to spend the night in splendid isolation. He played up front alone, but that would not have hindered him at one stage against Terry and Gary Cahill.

What last night confirmed is that he is surely unlikely to provide the answer for Chelsea in future years. Certainly not when another veteran Samuel Eto’o, 33, is suddenly producing some stylish performances. His opening goal leaves him as only the 14th player to reach 30 goals in the Champions League.

Mourinho had intimated that he could pick up Drogba in the close season, but surely his time has come and gone.

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A player-coach role might be welcomed by the diehards, but Chelsea should be setting their millions towards landing Radamel Falcao or a Diego Costa this summer.

At the end, there were hugs and kisses between Drogba, and all his former companions. Excuse one for reaching for the sick bag, but last night was not the time nor the place for such shenanigans.

The ITV pundit Andy Townsend had to be reminded that Wesley Sneidjer was only 29 and still a key part of the Dutch squad when he commented that he no longer goes past players the way he used to.

There is more than a feeling that Drogba and Sneidjer are in some form of semi-retirement in Turkey. Sneijder should be representing a loftier club than Gala, but the scent of money in his nostrils affected his decision-making when he departed Inter for life on the Bosphorus.

It was all far too chummy as Chelsea meandered into the quarter-finals with Drogba only too willing to accept the bit-part role. Show me a good loser, and I'll show you a loser.

Drobga has probably polished his legacy at Chelsea by being party to it all, but what the Champions League as a competition stands for was besmirched by the sickly nature of this love-in.

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