Didier Drogba has hailed Diego Costa as his successor at Chelsea, even if the Brazilian’s troublesome hamstrings mean that Drogba will be more than a mere reserve this season.
After two years away from the club, Drogba rejoined Chelsea this summer and, while he has only started once so far, he will continue to get chances while the club manage Costa’s workload, holding the new signing back from playing more than one game a week until his fitness problems are resolved.
Despite that, Drogba – who started instead of Costa against Schalke in the Champions League match on Wednesday – has been very impressed with the man who could replace him, saying he was precisely the player Chelsea were looking for.
After two years away from the club, Drogba rejoined Chelsea this summer but has found himself as second-choice centre-forward. Costa, who cost £32m from Atletico Madrid, scored seven goals in his first four games and Drogba admitted that the Spanish international was the man Chelsea needed.
“[Costa] is very good,” Drogba said, praising the speed with which Costa has settled. “For him to start the season in England, coming from Spain which is a very different league, and to recreate the same thing he was doing at Atletico is fantastic. He’s really good and he’s enjoying playing here and being with us. That’s the best feeling he could have. He’s the striker we needed this season.”
While there are similarities in style between the two – they are both muscular, aggressive and direct – Drogba pointed to another comparison. “Like me, he came to this level a little bit late, it is really good.” Drogba was 26 when he signed for Chelsea from Marseilles. Costa is 25.
“When I look at [Costa], I can see the desire to win every challenge, to score goals,” said Drogba, who could have been talking about himself. “He’s hungry for goals and that’s the best thing for a team like us.” Drogba showed no sign of frustration at the fact that Costa will likely be the first choice this season, although he will certainly get games, given Costa’s injury concerns. Drogba made his first start of the season against Schalke and was replaced by Costa with 16 minutes left, but was pleased with his display as he tries to shake off an ankle problem.
Chelsea 1 Schalke 1 player ratings
Chelsea 1 Schalke 1 player ratings
1/22 Thibaut Courtois
Hardly worked until forced to make an impressive stop from Kevin-Prince Boateng before the break. Could do nothing with Klaas Jan Huntelaar's leveller. 6/10
2/22 Branislav Ivanovic
As attacking as ever from full-back, provided a great ball in to Cesc Fabregas. 7.
3/22 Gary Cahill
Fairly comfortable night but Julian Draxler skipped by with ease on one first-half occasion. 6.
4/22 John Terry
Reliable as ever on his 600th start for Chelsea. Booked for kicking the ball away - and into the Schalke goal. Late effort cleared from under the crossbar. 7
5/22 Filipe Luis
Maiden start in a Chelsea shirt and an assured performance from the Brazil left-back. 6.
6/22 Nemanja Matic
Usually rock-solid but was caught on the back foot more than once by the impressive Draxler. 6.
The Brazilian's inclusion allowed a more advanced role for Fabregas. Usual workmanlike display. 6.
Played in a wider role to allow Fabregas to operate through the middle. Started well but not enough influence. 5.
9/22 Cesc Fabregas
Opened his Chelsea account in the early stages but could have been booked for a challenge in the build-up. Fluffed his lines when presented with a great second chance and caught out for Schalke's equaliser. 7.
10/22 Eden Hazard
Pulled the strings once more and can orchestrate many more successful nights for Chelsea on this display. Faded slightly in the second half but had two good chances to win it late on. 8
11/22 Didier Drogba
His last kick in Europe for Chelsea before tonight was the winning penalty in their final win over Bayern Munich, tonight the experienced striker could not find the back of the net but came very close on the hour. 6
12/22 Ralf Fahrmann
Made a bizarre attempt to clear Willian’s cross with his feet, and looked uncomfortable dealing with crosses. 5
13/22 Marco Hoger
Pinned back by Willian in the first-half, the right-back grew into the game after the interval and looked more assured. Booked for time wasting late on. 6
14/22 Kaan Ayman
Dealt well with Drogba, and was largely untroubled. 6
15/22 Roman Neustadter
Solid performance, and cleared Remy’s shot off the line in the closing stages. 6
16/22 Christian Fuchs
Made important first-half tackle to deny Drogba, and got forward more in the second half. 5
17/22 Kevin-Prince Boateng
Had a few decent efforts from range, as the former Portsmouth midfielder did his best to make things happen from unfamiliar deeper role. Booked for clumsy foul on Hazard. 6
18/22 Dennis Aogo
Usually a full-back, the German international struggled with Fabregas’s movement in central midfield. 5
19/22 Sidney Sam
Disappointing – thrashed at a few shots and over-elaborated when in decent positions. 5
20/22 Max Meyer
Impressed with his energy and willingness to take players on. 6
21/22 Julian Draxler
Schalke’s best player by a distance – looked a cut above with his pace and direct running. Unfortunate not to score in the first-half at the end of a powerful burst, and set up Klaas-Jan Huntelaar’s goal following a similar run. 7
22/22 Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Took his goal superbly having endured a frustrating evening up until that point. Didn’t do much besides scoring, but that’s always been the Dutchman’s game. Booked for dissent in the first-half. 6
“It’s good to be back,” Drogba said. “Most importantly, it’s good to play without pain. And that’s what I’ve been looking for, for the past few weeks, to play without pain. I got a chance to start and despite the result, which was not the best, I’m quite happy with the way my ankle reacted to this kind of effort.”
At the age of 36, Drogba knows that he will not play every game this season but understands his role. “Yes, it is different,” he said. “But when I signed to come back here I knew that. I can only work hard and show the manager, like I did on Wednesday, that I can play pain-free and improve my condition.”
However much Drogba does play, he has another role at Chelsea too, setting the standards which made him so successful in his first spell at the club. “Even if the team is young, you can see we have quite a lot of qualities, and experience in the game as well,” he said. “Yes, I’m here to help but I’m also here to show, if I can say that, to show them the spirit. Even if I don’t have any doubt about their desire to win, I’m here to help and I will give what I can.”
Chelsea have changed since Drogba left, though. When they face Manchester City on Sunday afternoon, Frank Lampard will be on the other side. “I can’t wait to see him, my partner in crime,” Drogba joked. “It’s a pity that I’ve come back and he’s not here any more. But I know for sure I will be happy to see him again.”
Drogba expects that the travelling Chelsea fans at the Etihad Stadium will give Lampard the respect he deserves, as “part of the history of this club”, although Drogba, having faced Chelsea with Galatasaray last season, knows it will be “difficult” for Lampard too.
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