ASK any Chelsea fan about Didier Drogba and there’s always a flurry of emotions that follow. Which fan wouldn’t be excited as the Ivory Coast striker used to terrorise defenders in the Premier League with his aerial strength and powerful runs. Drogba scored 164 goals in 381 appearances for Chelsea. He has won four Premier League titles and four FA Cups. And at the age of 34, Drogba converted the winning penalty to give Chelsea their first Champions League trophy in 2012. Starsport’s T. AVINESHWARAN spoke to the legend during his recent meet-the-fans session at Sunway Pyramid.
Starsport: This is your second visit to Malaysia. How was your first in 2011?
Drogba: I only have great memories here. We arrived, trained and played a pre-season match against the Malaysian selection. In that season, we ended up winning the Champions League. Coming back to Malaysia is quite special to me.
Starsport: You’ve terrorised many big teams – Arsenal, Liverpool and Manchester United – during your time in the Premier League. What’s your motivation?
Drogba: The best way to enjoy football is to perform in these big games. I prepared myself mentally. I will always find solutions and anticipate difficulties in these matches. I will always envision how I’ll face a defender. How do you get past him? I always want to be ahead of them. Training days are usually intense because I want to be ready for these games. It’s like every chance is the last one – you have to take it.
Starsport: Speaking of defenders, maybe you can tell us some of the best defenders you’ve faced?
Drogba: Throughout my career, I’ve played as a lone striker against two centrebacks. I’ve cherished some encounters not because I was having fun but because they were tough. These centrebacks help you improve. The players I loved playing against were (Jamie) Carragher, (Nemanja) Vidic, (Rio) Ferdinand, (Carlos) Puyol and Gerard (Pique). During my days in Chelsea, centrebacks like John (Terry) and Ricardo (Carvalho) were great defenders. Training against them improved me as a striker.
Starsport: Chelsea lost the Champions League final to Manchester United in Moscow in 2008 but four years later, they won it by beating Bayern Munich in a thrilling tie in Munich. How did that feel like?
Drogba: My approach in Moscow was not right. In 2012, when we got to the knockout phase, I changed the way I played. I wanted to win the trophy for Chelsea. I gave even more than what I used to. I wanted the “smell” of the final, I wanted to see the Cup again. I wanted to win it. That approach certainly helped me.
Starsport: What do you have to say about Maurizio Sarri?
Drogba: I’m quite happy with him being in Chelsea. He’s making the team play attractive football. This side will only improve under him. I know it’s only his first season but I believe he’ll give us lots of success.
Starsport: Who is Chelsea’s best player right now and why?
Drogba: It’s Eden (Hazard)! He has the ability to make defenders go crazy and can scare them too. He knows how to create for his teammates. Every touch of his makes a difference. You know something is going to happen when he has the ball. That’s why he’s one of the world’s best players.
Starsport: You are known for your longevity in the game and you only retired at 40. How did you keep terrorising defenders even after the age of 35?
Drogba: As you get older, your physique will not be at its best. However, you have the brain and you can work to improve it. Mentally, you need to tell yourself that you’re not as fast as before but you still know how to score goals. The goals I scored at the age 20, I can still do them at this age. I just need to know when and how to replicate them.