Path to greatness

Didier Drogba scored his first Premier League goal against our Saturday opponents, and he also turns 40 this weekend. We look back on the formative years that helped shape a Blues legend.

After opening his account in a 2-0 win over Crystal Palace, Drogba went on to net 164 times for Chelsea across two spells, making him the fourth highest goalscorer in the club's history. And the Ivorian specialised in making his mark on the biggest stage – most memorably in the 2012 Champions League final, when he scored our equaliser and then converted the winning penalty in the shoot-out.

That was one of nine cup final goals he netted for the Blues and helped add to a trophy haul that includes four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, Chelsea Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year, and the Premier League Golden Boot - twice.

Believe it or not, however, he wasn't always destined to play as a centre-forward, as he revealed in an interview with our matchday programme a few years back.

'I was playing for Dunkerque in the north of France when I was 10 or 11,' he said. 'As there was already a striker in the team, I played at left-back. My uncle said, “No, you have to play as a striker and score goals – you can finish well.”

'He moved teams to Abbeville, so we moved to the town as well, and the coach there put me up front. I've played as a striker ever since.'

The uncle Drogba mentions, Michel Goba, was a former footballer in the French Second Division and he was the biggest influence on the youngster. But the player who most inspired him was a man who was the scourge of English football at the 1986 World Cup.

 Diego Maradona scored one of the all-time great goals against England

'Diego Maradona was just a hero for me and the way he was dribbling past everybody was so easy. I just really liked him.

'As you can see, we have a similar build and a similar left foot!'

While he enjoyed Maradona and Argentina's run to World Cup glory that year, the club side he took to his heart was Marseille, who he played for before signing for Chelsea in 2004.

'At the time they had a lot of good players: Jean-Pierre Papin, Chris Waddle, Enzo Francescoli and Eric Cantona. At that time they were one of the best teams in Europe and I always supported them.'

 The dazzling Chris Waddle during his Marseille days

Now, Drogba's career is winding down with American side Phoenix Rising, where he is also co-owner, and he announced last year that 2018 was to be his last as a professional footballer.

But the Drogba name could remain in football for many years to come after his son, Isaac, joined French top-flight club Guingamp's Under-19s squad. He's got big shoes to fill...

Happy birthday, Didier!