Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
It’s been 18 years since Mark Morrison reminded us all – well, those of old enough to have known of him in the first place – that he can still churn out a No 1 track. I am of course alluding to that catchy number, ‘Return of The Mack’. It was something of a guilty pleasure, wasn’t it?
Speaking of guilty pleasures, Jose Mourinho and Chelsea are indulging one of their own, having re-signed Didier Drogba on a one-year deal. And had a track entitled ‘Return of The Drog’ been conceived to mark his return to Stamford Bridge, I reckon it’d have gone platinum in the UK, like Morrison’s hit.
Okay, maybe not platinum, but the near 160,000-strong population of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea would have been swift to download the track – or have their butler do it – such is the affection folk in west London have for the Ivorian.
For many, Mourinho’s decision may seem like a decision influenced by the Portuguese’s romantic side. After all, at 36 years of age there’s not much life left in the old Drog in footballing terms, surely? However, to think that the re-signing of the imposing striker was a non-tactical manoeuvre would be demeaning to the coach.
The self-styled ‘Special One’ confirmed as much when speaking to the media following confirmation that Drogba would be returning to Stamford Bridge on a free transfer from Galatasaray. Indeed, he was unequivocal in stating Drogba’s appointment wasn’t a sentimental one.
‘If you bring him back it is not because he is Didier or scored the most important goal in the history of Chelsea [the goal that effectively won the Champions League for the Blues in 2011-12] or because I read [that] I need an assistant, no’ Mourinho said.
He added: ‘We want to win matches and win titles and Didier is one of the best strikers in Europe. He is still very adapted to the needs of the Premier League and we are thinking about it in a non-emotional way.’
Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances for Chelsea between 2004 and 2012, winning 10 trophies and emerging as the English top-flight’s leading goalscorer in 2007. He is an icon at Stamford Bridge.
Mourinho’s marquee signings this summer are Spanish duo Cesc Fabregas and Diego Costa, two of the best bits of business any manager in any country has done during the current transfer window. But the presence of Drogba in the dressing room alone will spur the west London outfit to achieve great things this season.
Last term, first place in the league changed hands on no less than 25 occasions before Manchester City were eventually crowned champions on the final day. It was arguably the most exciting and close-run title race since the inception of the Premier League in 1992.
The forthcoming season is likely to be equally tight. Arsenal are flexing their newly-developed financial muscle in the transfer market; Liverpool ought to be in there pitching once again, despite the departure of Luis Suarez; City won’t surrender their crown without a fight; and neighbours Manchester United will be a different proposition with Louis van Gaal calling the shots.
However, it was only the lack of a top-class, in-form striker that ultimately held Chelsea back last term. Mourinho has addressed this by recruiting Costa, while Fabregas often played in an advance, No 10-type role for Barcelona so he will offer plenty of impetus going forward, too.
Meanwhile, the voids left following the departures of longstanding favourites Ashley Cole and Frank Lampard have been filled, with Filipe Luis and Mario Pasalic arriving from Atletico Madrid and Hajduk Split respectively.
In the case of Pasalic, 19, he is a long-term replacement for Lampard and, given the Blues’ depth of talent in the middle of the park, the Croatian could go out on loan this season. Conversely, Luis is ready to step straight in at left-back.
Overall, Chelsea look rock-solid. Any deficiencies they had last season won’t be evident this time round. And when Mourinho stated that the re-signing of Drogba was ‘non-emotional’ he meant it.
Make no mistake, when the margins between winning and losing are so narrow, the presence of figureheads like Drogba can tilt the scales in your favour. It is players like the Ivorian that provide that push needed to get over the finishing line in front.
Even at the age of 36, Drogba is capable of being a big hit in his second coming at Stamford Bridge, just like the manager. And ‘Return of The Drog’ could be the soundtrack to a title-winning 2014-15 season for the Blues.
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