The return of the king? Well, sentimentally perhaps. But can we really expect much from a 36 year old who has, as Mourinho put it, ‘been on holiday for 2 years’? This does seem like a strange move for both Drogba and Chelsea, but there’s more to this move than meets the eye. It goes further than sentimentality and squad depth.
The man who with his last kick for the club delivered the holy grail to Stamford Bridge, announced shortly after that memorable night in Munich in 2012 that he would be leaving Chelsea. During the aftermath of that announcement, the Ivorian stated that if Chelsea ever needed him back, whether to play or to cut the grass, he would be there. And he’s been true to his word. But it isn’t Chelsea as such who need him, it’s Mourinho.
Following on from his somewhat surprising acquisition of an ageing yet formerly world-class Samuel Eto’o last season, Mourinho seems to find comfort in the idea of having a reliable old cart-horse with the ability to still pack a nasty punch in his midst.
It seems fanciful that Drogba will have anything but a bit part to play over the coming season, on the pitch anyway, particularly with the signing of Diego Costa. There may yet be life in the old Drog, but expecting the phenomenon that left with the Champions League high above his head to return would be a dream too far for even the most optimistic and nostalgic of Blues fans.
As mentioned before, the move does seem a strange one. Aside from staying true to his word, why has Drogba come back? We can all talk about his love for Chelsea and indeed for Mourinho, but in reality this move does very little for his career. Perhaps a swansong back at the club you love is more appealing than an anticlimactic decrescendo somewhere in the US or the Middle East who knows? But after guiding Galatasaray to an impressive Champions League run where they got the better of a very good Juventus side, indicates that Drogba still has something to give.
Mourinho’s intentions with him are unclear, but don’t expect anything like his starring role of yesteryear, despite the Chelsea boss referring to him as still one of the best strikers in Europe. Perhaps a sneak-peak of what to expect however came during the World Cup this summer. For Cote D’Ivoire, Drogba, (half-fit granted) was used as an impact sub, coming on during the second half to terrorise defenders and turn the game to his advantage. It worked a treat. Maybe this inspired Mourinho, and I’m sure most Chelsea fans would welcome the sight of Chelsea’s new number 15 coming on with 20 minutes to go than their number 9. But it’s Drogba’s influence off the pitch rather than on it which caused Jose to come calling.
Either way Drogba’s back (sorry Arsenal fans). But his main influence will come from the sidelines and the training ground. Many Chelsea fans will probably dispute that, but it’s more of a compliment to his behind the scenes influence than a discredit to his usefulness on the pitch.
As a Chelsea fan, I was worried, very worried in fact, that with Lampard and Cole leaving the club, along with the reasonable possibility of Čech either leaving or being dropped in favour of the returning Thibaut Courtois, there were suddenly very few members of the squad who have, for want of a better phrase, ‘undying love’ for José. Losing Lampard and Cole was a huge loss for Mourinho, particularly Lampard. Not only an extremely influential member of the squad but also still very capable of doing a job for Chelsea while resigned to more of a squad player role.
José Mourinho’s list of undoubted allies in the squad suddenly grew pretty thin. We all know the kind of impressionable character he comes off as, but after losing the dressing room at Madrid, there might be a few members of the current Chelsea squad who have their doubts about him. After all, Chelsea finished the season trophy-less and Mourinho now has only the Spanish Super Cup (the equivalent to our Community Shield) to his name in two seasons of management.
The very fact that we describe two trophy barren seasons a massive disappointment for Mourinho is credit to the standards he’s set for himself. Still, for the first time, he doesn’t seem as untouchable as he once was. If Chelsea struggle in the coming season, how long will it be before the likes of Hazard, Oscar, Willian, Matic, Azpilicueta and co begin to lose faith? If Jose goes three seasons without a league title, what will stop the younger players from thinking Mourinho’s a spent force? They weren’t around for his first spell in charge, in fact only Terry, Mikel and Čech remain. But in Drogba, Mourinho has one more big voice in the dressing room who will have his back no matter what, an extremely popular figure at Chelsea who will do his bit to keep the dressing room together in the event of a rough patch. For Mourinho, having Drogba around is nothing but good news.
He needn’t worry too much about giving him playing time. Undoubtedly the Chelsea fans will demand to see their hero every chance they get, but I for one hope that he doesn’t even get on the pitch. His 2012 exit was the stuff of fairy tales. The fact that his last kick of the ball for Chelsea was to win the Champions League is nothing short of being film worthy. Now we’re faced with the possibility of his last kick being a hoofed clearance into row-z at the Brittania on a Tuesday evening with Chelsea 1-0 down. Not quite as poetic is it?
But as I said, it’s not necessarily Drogba’s on field performances that will aid Chelsea most this season. Perhaps slowly settling into a coaching role, expect Drogba to act almost as Mourinho’s assistant at times. Barking encouragement from the bench and rallying the troops when they need it most. Despite this though, when he does get on the pitch, doubt the man for the big occasion at your peril.