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How brilliant was Chelsea's final master Didier Drogba?

UEFA.com shines a light on 2020 UEFA President's Award winner Didier Drogba's illustrious playing career.

Didier Drogba won the UEFA Champions League with Chelsea in 2012
Didier Drogba won the UEFA Champions League with Chelsea in 2012 Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Former Marseille, Chelsea and Galatasaray striker Didier Drogba was on Tuesday announced as the recipient of the 2020 UEFA President's Award. UEFA.com looks back on a stellar playing career.

Drogba's finest hour: 2012 final highlights

What they say

Watch some of Drogba's best Champions League goals

"Didier is a hero to millions of football fans for his achievements throughout his glittering playing career. He is a leader – a pioneer. I will remember him as a player for his skill, strength and intelligence, but above all for his insatiable appetite to succeed – a trait which is just as present in his desire to help others off the field of play."
UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin

"He’s one of the few players who holds the ball up and scores lots of goals. He has scored nearly one in two for his whole career. He is two types of striker in one."
Samuel Eto’o, former Barcelona, Inter and Chelsea forward

"Drogba did what all strikers should do and that is score in the biggest games. He scored three winners in the FA Cup final, got the crucial goals in two League Cup finals and who could forget what he did in Munich in the Champions League final? At his best, he was unplayable."
Jamie Carragher, former Liverpool defender

"I have always seen Drogba as an example to follow in terms of a centre-forward. Just watching him train helped me. Just seeing him I was amazed. I specifically used to watch Chelsea, just to see Drogba."
Diego Costa, Atlético forward

"Drogba sent me a message recently. I told him that I'm still watching all his goals that he scored years ago."
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang, Arsenal forward

"Drogba – one of the best strikers I have seen. He had everything. Pace, really strong, good in the air; he was amazing."
Gerard Piqué, Barcelona defender

"Without him I wouldn't have enjoyed the personal success I had at Chelsea but also the club would not have leagues and Champions leagues titles to their name. He always produced in the big games. He was a monster in the dressing room and a great friend away from football. It was an honour to have played with him."
Frank Lampard, former Chelsea midfielder and now manager

"I kept saying to people: 'Will somebody please shoot Drogba?' because his performances were unbelievable. He carried their team, I thought, and he kept getting these incredible goals … He is a powerful lad, a massive physique. He has strength and plays every game."
Sir Alex Ferguson, former Manchester United manager

"There are a lot of players with fantastic technique, but they are not leaders. They have not made the most of their careers, because they do not have a strong character, personality or courage. You need all of those as much as technique. Didier has it all. When you find a player who has talent and is unselfish: hai vinto. You've won."
Carlo Ancelotti, former Chelsea manager

Final tally

Champions League icon: Didier Drogba

International: 106 appearances, 65 goals
UEFA club competition: 102 appearances, 50 goals
European domestic competition: 470 appearances, 180 goals

Claims to fame

French leagues
• Arriving in France at 15 to join his parents in Paris, Drogba played for local side Lavallois until he was 18; the club now play at the Stade Didier Drogba, with the player saying: "Having a stadium in France named after a footballer from the Ivory Coast … is a great proof of integration."

• He was studying accountancy in Le Mans when he started playing for them in Ligue 2, but was 21 when he signed his first professional contract in 1999 – the same year that the oldest of his three children with his wife Lalla was born. "Isaac's birth was a turning point in my life," he said. "It straightened me out."

• Helped Guingamp to a best-ever seventh-placed finish in Ligue 1 in 2002/03, scoring 17 goals after striking up a great partnership with Florent Malouda. He had struggled after joining the club midway through the 2001/02 campaign, but was snapped up by Marseille in summer 2003.

Drogba was a losing UEFA Cup finalist in 2004
Drogba was a losing UEFA Cup finalist in 2004©Getty Images

• Reached the 2004 UEFA Cup final in his first season at Marseille (his side lost 2-0 to Valencia), but 19 goals in Ligue 1 earned him the Player of the Year award from his fellow professionals, while 11 European goals persuaded Chelsea to shell out a substantial fee for him. Blues owner Roman Abramovich apparently had not heard of Drogba; manager José Mourinho reportedly told him: "Pay, and don't speak."

• His first Blues season was not his best, though his side won their first English title in 50 years, and Drogba scored in the League Cup final win against Liverpool. He considered returning to Marseille that summer, but Mourinho convinced him to redouble his efforts and his club won another league championship in 2005/06.

• Won the Premier League Golden Boot with 20 goals in 2006/07, and scored 33 in total that season – including two in the League Cup final win against Arsenal, and the winner against Manchester United in the FA Cup final – making him the first player to score for the winning side in both English cup finals in the same season.

• Premier League top scorer with 29 as Chelsea won another title in 2009/10 and then found the net again in the FA Cup final win against Portsmouth.

• Scored his 100th Premier League goal in February 2012 – he was the first African player to reach 100 in England's top division.

Drogba with the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2012
Drogba with the UEFA Champions League trophy in 2012©Getty Images

• Sent off in the 2008 UEFA Champions League final against Manchester United (which his side lost on penalties), Drogba redeemed himself in the 2012 decider against Bayern München, scoring the 88th-minute equaliser and then the winning shoot-out penalty. Sir Alex Ferguson said: "As far as I was concerned, [Drogba] won the Champions League for Chelsea."

• His goal against Bayern was his ninth in nine finals for Chelsea (three League Cups, four FA Cups, two UEFA Champions Leagues); he remains the only player to have scored in three League Cup finals, and also the only man to have registered in four FA Cup finals.

• Left Chelsea to join former club-mate Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua in summer 2012, but returned to Europe with Galatasaray the following January; he won the 2012/13 Süper Lig and scored in another final – the winner in the 2013 Turkish Super Cup game against Fenerbahçe.

• Rejoined Chelsea for a final season in July 2014, as Mourinho resumed command. "It was an easy decision," Drogba said. "I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with José Mourinho again. Everyone knows the special relationship I have with this club and it has always felt like home to me." Won his fourth English title with the club in 2014/15.

• Ended his Chelsea career as the club’s top foreign scorer (164 goals) and the player who has scored the most UEFA Champions League goals with any English side (36). Kept playing until he was 40 in North America, scoring 34 goals in 54 league matches with Montreal Impact and then Phoenix Rising. Finally announced his retirement in December 2018.

• African footballer of the year 2006 and 2009, he scored a record 65 international goals for Ivory Coast, and played with them at three FIFA World Cups. He also steered them to two Africa Cup of Nations finals, but they lost both – on penalties.

What you might not know

George Weah and Drogba in Marseille in 2005
George Weah and Drogba in Marseille in 2005AFP

• Drogba was sent to France to live with his uncle when he was just five, but lasted just a few years before returning to Abidjan. He remembered: "When I arrived in France, I cried every day. Not because I was in France – I could have been anywhere - but because I was so far, far away from my parents. I missed them so much."

• His oldest son, Isaac, is looking to follow in his father's footsteps; once on Chelsea's books, he is currently at one of Didier's old clubs, Guingamp.

• Drogba played a role in bringing peace to his native Ivory Coast, in his role as a United Nations Development Programme goodwill ambassador. He later said: "I have won many trophies in my time, but nothing will ever top helping win the battle for peace in my country." He has done substantial charitable work in the Ivory Coast through the Didier Drogba Foundation.

• Fellow African great George Weah encouraged Drogba to go into politics. Drogba offered Weah encouragement while he was campaigning to become president of Liberia. Weah replied: "Thanks Didier for the support. We are both conscious and aware of the fate of our people. Follow the same path."

• Drogba played for a month in the 2010/11 season while (unknowingly) suffering from malaria; the striker seemed out of sorts when he failed to register in four games, but was only diagnosed after a fever prevented him starting a match against Liverpool (and even then he came on as a substitute).

What he says

Samuel Eto'o and Drogba: the great African strikers of their age
Samuel Eto'o and Drogba: the great African strikers of their ageIcon Sport via Getty Images

"I did not think when I started out that I would have such a long career. It was so quick – everything went so fast."

"The strongest defenders, I never came up against them, but I played them every week in training. When I faced John Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Alex, I looked forward to the weekend."

"It's an honour to be seen as the modern centre-forward. Football has changed; you need to be quick, to repeat runs, play many games. Fitness is the key. I've seen games in different leagues and you can see there have been changes. Strikers have to defend, not only be scoring goals, and create goals."

"When you have Mourinho, Ancelotti, all these managers, and players like Frank Lampard, John Terry, Michael Ballack, Petr Čech, all these guys, you learn a lot. In a dressing room you experience so many things so when I ask if management could be an option, why not? I think I could do well."