DROGBA – OUT WITH A SLAP?

By Rowan Farnham-Long
May 23rd, 2008

If there was ever an example of 90 minutes pretty much summing up a whole season, we witnessed it in Moscow on Wednesday evening. In an eight month season which has, it seems, lasted a life-time, the Champions League final was the exclamation point on the campaign.

We started slowly, looked disorganised and out of sorts, and then when the chance came, we took it. Lampard’s goal was perfectly timed, and then we started to play. And we played well.But in the end we fell short. Not due to incompetence, lack of effort or nerves, but because of sheer bad luck. We saw everyone fight (no pun intended) until the last minute of extra-time and the dreaded penalty shoot-out, but in the end, it wasn’t to be. That’s football eh?

A season which has seen a momentous team effort and two fingers raised to adversity ends with a momentous team effort and two fingers raised to adversity… as well as a certain C. Ronaldo of course.

But while the team strived together, one renegade decided to do things his way. A completely pointless argument over a throw-in led to a completely pointless scuffle which led to a completely pointless red card for Didier Drogba, who said goodbye to his Chelsea career in his own way.

Less of going out with a bang, more going out with a slap.

The Ivorian striker has been touting himself around the continent for some time now, and while he is undoubtedly one of the best strikers in the world right now, we saw the frustrating side of him in the Luzhniki Stadium.

He rolled around, he moaned and whined, and he barely got involved bar that one shot which hit the woodwork. He was Didier Drogba from a few years ago again.

Now compare him with another boy in blue, no, man in blue, from the other end of the pitch. Step forward John Terry.

He was the complete antithesis of Drogba and was everything we were looking for on the night. It was what we’ve become accustomed to, it was what he does best, it was almost totally effective.

JT was a rock at the back, a threat at the other end from set-pieces, the perfect captain. And then, in what Graeme Souness called ‘big balls time’, he showed his absolute bravery, bottle, courage and dedication. With a chance to win the European Cup with just one penalty kick, the centre-back barged his way to the front of the queue.

While Drogba no doubt cowered in the showers (or perhaps made his way to the nearest airport: destination Milan), Terry made the journey from centre-circle to penalty spot. But playing after dislocating his elbow a little under two weeks ago, it was his foot which let him down. And the rest is history…

While immediate forgiveness was waiting for Terry as he made his way back to his team-mates, Drogba may not find us fans offering atonement as quickly. If this is how it ends for him at Chelsea, his reputation will forever be tainted by that petulant attack on Nemanja Vidic. Of course we won’t forget the good times, the goals, and the sight of Rafa Benitez as the giant forward slid on his knees towards the Spaniard, that night at the Bridge.

But he could have been the one who delivered the European Cup. Who knows? If he had been on the pitch for the full 120 minutes, penalties may not have been necessary. If it had gone to spot-kicks, maybe Terry wouldn’t have had to bite the bullet. If he had shown what he was capable of rather than what frustrates us so much about him, it could have been a different story.

And now there’s nothing he can do. Drogba is expected to leave, along with a few other faces (may I suggest deux irritantes Florent and Nic?) in the summer and then we start again.

The tale of Moscow is over and it didn’t have a happy ending for us. So now we start a new book immediately and forget about the prequel. Maybe this one will have a better title too.

The Quadruple anyone?

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