Paul Parker

Drogba exit can be catalyst for Chelsea change

Paul Parker

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Didier Drogba won't be a loss for only Chelsea, but for the Premier League as a whole

Congratulations to Chelsea. They are now European champions, and no one can ever take that away from them.

Few people, even the most partisan of Chelsea fans, would argue that the victory over Bayern Munich on penalties is proof they are the best team in Europe.

There was more than an element of good fortune in the way they got past Barcelona in the semi-finals and then beat Bayern in their own backyard, but they made their own luck with their hard work, confidence in their abilities and team spirit.

They have earned the right to bask in the glory of their victory — although attention will soon turn to the upcoming European Championships for a great many players in the squad.

However, in terms of their development as a club going forward, they must not shy away from taking the big decisions necessary to challenge for the Premier League title again.

The points difference in this season's table tells you just how far off the pace the Blues are at the moment. They were five points outside of the Champions League places — though winning the trophy made that irrelevant — and a full 25 points off the top of the table. That is quite an alarming drop for a team which won the league the season before last.

The impending departure of Didier Drogba can be the catalyst for the kind of sweeping changes that Andre Villas-Boas failed to make last year.

For so long, Drogba has excelled in his position as the focal point of this Chelsea team. The tactical blueprint laid down by Jose Mourinho is still one which has brought them all of their success, even after the Portuguese coach left the club. It must also go some way to explaining why Fernando Torres has struggled so much in his year-and-a-half at the club.

Drogba is irreplaceable for Chelsea. One look at how many goals he has scored for them in finals tells you that. Over the eight years he has been at the club he has been exceptional. He may have upset his fair share of people with his amateur dramatics and tantrums, but no one can deny the part he has played in making Chelsea one of the best teams over the past decade.

Even at the age of 34, when many thought his best days were behind him, Drogba has still been able to deliver the goods when they needed him the most. It was he who scored the opener in the second leg against Napoli when Chelsea were aiming to overturn a 3-1 deficit from the first leg. It was he who stunned Barcelona with the only goal of their first-leg win against the defending champions at Stamford Bridge. It was he who netted that cracking opening goal against Tottenham in the FA Cup semi-final, and it was he who scored what ultimately proved to be the winner in the final against Liverpool.

There cannot be too many players in the history of the English game who have been so decisive in so many of the biggest matches over such a significant period of time.  His expected exit is not just a loss for Chelsea, but for the Premier League as a whole.

Without a player of Drogba's strength and ability, Chelsea will not be able to replicate that style any more. Whoever the next full-time Chelsea manager is, be it Roberto Di Matteo or someone else, they need to find a new way for Chelsea to play.

The loss of Drogba will be difficult to take, but it can be the perfect catalyst for Chelsea to start a new era just as the old one has peaked with the biggest trophy of all.

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