Home and Away: Didier Drogba - part two

Earlier in our Champions League campaign we heard from Didier Drogba on famous away games the legendary striker played for us in the competition.

Today the focus turns to his European memories at Stamford Bridge, with Atletico Madrid next on the agenda…

‘Thinking of it I get goosebumps. It’s the night against Napoli here.’

The question put to Didier Drogba is a simple one. Of all the great Champions League matches he was involved in at Stamford Bridge, which one stands out above all the others?

There’s no shortage of options: two winning goals against Barcelona; an inspired performance versus Valencia that made Munich possible; the brilliant brace that downed Liverpool and sent us to Moscow. 

 Drogba celebrates his second goal and our third in our 3-2 win over Liverpool that booked our first Champions League final

But, from his seat in the West Stand where he is conducting this interview, looking out on to the pitch he dominated for so many years, it is the last 16 home leg against Napoli in March 2012 he selects.  

You saw white and blue everywhere and people singing and pushing us to make it,’ Drogba says.

‘Without the fans’ support it would have been impossible to come back from 3-1 down and qualify for the next round. Andre Villas-Boas had left after the first leg, so it was a difficult time, but we managed to find the strength and the energy to come through that moment and turn things around.

‘Those Champions League nights were different. People knew that when they came to play here in the Champions League, it was not going to be easy.’

In 2006/07, and 2011/12 when we were finally victorious in the competition, Drogba netted the only goal against Barcelona in epic Stamford Bridge meetings.

 Drogba fires in the only goal against Barcelona in a Champions League group stage meeting in October 2006

But it is actually a meeting between the two sides when the Ivorian didn’t play that burns brightest in his memory. In early 2005, an extremely harsh red card in the round of 16 first leg at Camp Nou ruled him out of the return fixture against Frank Rijkaard's star-studded side.

I was suspended and I was in the stand, the East Middle, and that was amazing. I couldn’t believe it. 3-0 up in 20 minutes! The atmosphere, everyone was going crazy, and then Ronaldinho did some magic. It was the beginning of a good rivalry.

‘I don’t enjoy watching games in the stands. I want to be on the field, but it’s also good to be in the stands because you see the spaces, everything looks slow, but the closer you get to this green you can’t breathe, you don’t have the time! It looks much easier from up there!’

How often Drogba made it look easy. On big European nights especially he seemed to relish carrying the team, driving us forward, helping us get to the next round. Nobody deserved that win in Munich more than him.

Drogba announced a few days after his star turn in Bavaria that he would be leaving Chelsea. His next destination was Shanghai Shenhua, and from there he returned to Europe, and Champions League football, with Galatasaray.

It was his goal against Antonio Conte’s Juventus in the final group game that secured the Turkish team a last-16 spot. Almost inevitably, they drew Chelsea. Before kick-off, he was given a special silver boot, with his son Isaac by his side, and he spontaneously ran to all four corners of the ground to applaud the singing home supporters.

I have done everything here, so coming back with a different team that I respect a lot, and that gave me the opportunity to play again in the Champions League, was difficult. We still believed we could do it, but Chelsea were better than us so they qualified.

‘I was happy to come back, and the reception I got was amazing. I will never forget that.’

Neither will the Chelsea fans who watched Drogba perform so many footballing miracles forget his incredible impact in west London.