Monday, October 4, 2010
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I Could Have Joined Gunners and Won Nothing
DIDIER DROGBA believes it was his destiny to sign for Chelsea - not Arsenal.
So, boy, doesn't he owe fate a big thank you?
The Drog came close to joining the Gunners in 2002 when he was an up-and-coming starlet in French football.
But Arsene Wenger failed to seal a deal and two years later the Ivory Coast striker was putting pen to paper in a £24million transfer at Stamford Bridge instead.
And since then Chelsea have won three league titles, three FA Cups and two League Cups while Arsenal have managed, er, just the FA Cup.
To rub salt into Wenger's wounds, the Blues star has also become the scourge of the Gunners.
He has smashed 12 goals in as many games in all competitions against them.
Drogba, 32, said: "I don't know if Arsene Wenger regrets it - you will have to ask him.
"But remember he did have Thierry Henry!"
The Ivory Coast hitman, who has gone on to score 136 times for Chelsea, confessed he almost moved to North London.
He said: "Arsenal was a team with a lot of French players and players from the French League.
"Sylvain Wiltord, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Robert Pires... the French used to joke Arsenal were the 21st team in Ligue 1.
"And then I heard Arsene Wenger was interested in me.
"But for some reason it didn't happen and I didn't sign for Arsenal, I don't think it was my destiny.
"I honestly believe if things don't happen, it is for a reason."
Modestly, Drogba even claims Arsenal's fortunes may not have fared any better if he had joined them.
He added: "You don't know that - I don't think one player can make such a difference.
"At Chelsea it's about being a team and that's why we have enjoyed so much success - because we are a team, not because of me.
"But everyone respects Arsenal and what they are doing - for them to be at this level with so many young players, so many new players, is not easy."
Chelsea play Arsenal at the Bridge tomorrow with both sides keen to bounce back from Premier League defeats to Manchester City and West Brom last Saturday.
Drogba says he is desperate to lead the Blues charge after seeing the side's 100 per cent start go at Eastlands - and continue his hot scoring streak against the Gunners.
He said: "I am looking forward to it and will try my best to keep that record going but I know it won't be easy.
"I've had some games when I've really struggled against Arsenal - but I hope this won't be one of them. We need to win.
"All I care about is winning - it's so important we do that after losing at City.
"We knew that one day we would lose. We will lose other games during this season but as long as we finish top of the league then it doesn't matter."
Drogba is clearly hungry for more success and believes he can carry on playing for at least three more years.
He insisted: "I want to go on year after year after year, for as long as I can. I don't feel 32 and I'm not setting any limit on myself.
"I'm enjoying my football and I feel I can still improve, I don't see why I can't still be playing at the highest level when I'm 35."
Drogba was speaking at the inauguration of a stadium in his honour in Paris.
His first amateur club Levallois have named their ground after him, understandable after the fourth-tier side received a cheque for 700,000 euros from Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich when Drogba signed in 2004.
Drogba was 21 when he signed his first professional contract at Le Mans.
And he did not really start to blossom until the 2002-03 season when he hit 17 goals in 34 appearances for Ligue 1 side Guingamp. The following year he joined Marseille in a £3.3m deal and 12 months later was signing for Chelsea for more than seven times that amount.
Drog said: "I'm very proud of what I have achieved and I'll never forget the people here.
"My four years at Levallois were the most important of my career, this is where I learned all my values in football.
"This club helped me build my career and it's why I'm playing at such a high level today at Chelsea.
"I want the children here to know Didier Drogba started here with nothing but succeeded - and so can they.
"This is a fantastic facility so instead of going on to the street doing bad things, they can come here and play football and try to do good things."
And maybe Arsene Wenger might come along and sign you... surely he will not want to miss out again.