WHO ARE YOU TALKING TO?

By Rob Hobson
In News
Jan 8th, 2008

Didier Drogba would like to leave Chelsea. This in itself is nothing unusual: history is littered with similar instances.Ruud van Nistelrooy was hardly a spent force when he left United two years ago, and his goal record for Real Madrid is still reasonably impressive. It certainly seems as though Thierry Henry had had his head turned by the bright lights of the Camp Nou for some time before Arsene actually cut him loose, although the wily Frenchman timed his blessing well. T14 in Barcelona has been a shadow of the elegant figure that carried all before him at Highbury.

What I can’t remember – and I’m sure United and Arsenal fans will set me straight if memory deals me a dog turd – is these players going on record mid-season to explain that their heart is elsewhere. I won’t blather on about respect… a rare commodity indeed in today’s game. But for someone who has consistently defended the big man, and given him effusive and deserved praise for what he has become in the last two years, I’m starting to wonder if I misjudged him. Not as a footballer, but rather as a man of above-average intelligence.

The thing is this. Drogba is one of those guys who says what he feels. Heart on the sleeve. His efforts to bring his strife-ridden country together are utterly, utterly admirable. His fervent wish to captain his country in the African Cup of Nations is deserving of everyone’s respect, none more so than his club. To that end, he’s encouraged to have an operation early, thus missing even more games for the organisation that remunerates him so handsomely. He triumphantly returns to the bench for a cup tie, gets a few minutes on the pitch, and is sent off to join his national squad with the best possible chance of playing to the limits of his fate-given gifts, which are considerable.

In return, this ambassador for the game sees fit to explain to the French press that he wants to leave; that he’s wanted to go for three seasons; that Mourinho’s exit has underlined that desire; and that “I am not going to speak about my next club”, rumoured to be Milan and presumably a tearful and sweaty reunion with Jose.

It reminds me a little of Peter Kenyon’s announcement to the world that Chelsea need to win Champions’ League twice in 5 years, or that they’re aiming to become the World’s Biggest Club by 2010. What purpose does it serve? Who does it benefit? Who, exactly, are these people talking to? Is Drogba best friends with a Eurosport journalist? If not, why does he feel the need to bare his soul to them? I may walk into my office every morning and feel a familiar sense of dread, depression and misery, but it never occurs to me to tell a stranger. To be honest, it doesn’t often occur to me to tell my nearest and dearest, but that may well be the reason that I get through so much Xanax.

What is it with these guys? Does it not feel “real” to you until you see it in the paper? I can’t think of a more elegant illustration of the twisted reality that star footballers seem to inhabit: the need to make “announcements” to a newspaper. It’s almost as ludicrous as those occasional “Gerrard backs Carragher”, “Carragher backs Gerrard”, “Rooney backs Ronaldo” and so on and so forth. Well, of course they bloody back them. Is this news? No, it’s Dog Bites Man. Give me Man Bites Dog any day. “Gerrard calls Carragher a whiny Scouse no-mark”… now THAT would be news.

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