Football

Who will replace Didier Drogba?

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Higuain is a top La Liga striker (©GettyImages)
Higuain is a top La Liga striker (©GettyImages).

Chelsea forward Didier Drogba handed the Blues the most sought-after of parting gifts - the Champions League trophy. But, he also leaves the Stamford Bridge side with the more uncomfortable problem of finding a replacement.

Whoever takes on the role of Chelsea striker next season faces an almost impossible task. Drogba saw his paymaster Roman Abramovich shell out £50million on Fernando Torres and £30million on Andriy Shevchenko, but yet the Ivorian could not be dislodged from the Chelsea starting lineup.

It was never clear whether these signings were to compliment Drogba, or to replace him, but now the Ivorian departs on his own terms, and Abramovich may have to open the chequebook once again.

Drogba is leaving, but his luckless teammate Torres remains, and deserves the opportunity to play next season. For the past 18 months he has survived on the memories of his great Anfield performances. Stamford Bridge is yet to be treated to such clinical, world-class displays, but the Spaniard should be given a final chance.

He had shown signs of a return to his old self towards the back end of this season - brief glimpses, but glimpses nonetheless. Forwards should relish competition, but perhaps with Drogba departed, Torres may feel more comfortable in the role of number one striker.

But, if Abramovich does reach into his pocket once again, Torres may not get such a luxury, and the Russian owner is likely to explore other options this summer. The sooner the uncertainty surrounding Roberto Di Matteo is sorted, the better for Chelsea and their summer transfer shopping list. Should Di Matteo stay, Torres may find his opportunities limited, as the interim boss kept the Spaniard on the sidelines much to his own personal disappointment.

With or without Di Matteo at the helm, Chelsea are likely to consider signing a new striker. There's not a great deal of options, but with some shrewd negotiations the Blues could secure a high-quality frontman.

Top of their list should be Gonzalo Higuain. Marginalised at Real Madrid, and overlooked in favour of Karim Benzema, Higuain could be the perfect Stamford Bridge striker.

Sharp, savvy and a lethal finisher, Higuain notched 22 La Liga goals last season despite only starting 18 matches. The Argentinian has been linked with a move to the Premier League for the past few years, and is still only 24 years old.

Jose Mourinho may be reluctant to sell, but with Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo holding down regular starting places this season, Higuain may be forced to look elsewhere for regular first-team football, which could open a door for the Blues.

Another La Liga target is Atletico Madrid striker Radamel Falcao. The Colombian frontman was only signed from Porto last summer, and was linked with a move to Chelsea when his former-boss Andre Villas-Boas was in the Stamford Bridge hot seat.

Since arriving in Europe in 2009, Falcao has hit more than 100 goals, and there is no reason to believe he wouldn't continue such form at Chelsea. La Liga's third top scorer this season, Falcao has the pedigree and reputation to replace Drogba, but Atletico are keen to hang on to their frontman after only one season in Spain.

Drogba has had his say on the Colombian and he approves. "I know he's a very good player but that's not for me to decide," he told the Daily Telegraph.

"The only thing I know is we have very good strikers here already. Everybody knows Fernando [Torres] is a very good player," said the Ivorian. "He's been through difficult moments here [but] it happens to everyone."

So Drogba is backing his teammate, but Chelsea may look at Manchester City's squad and feel the need to strengthen anyway. Other options include Porto striker Hulk and Napoli forward Edinson Cavani. Both are talented finishers and Hulk could operate out wide for the Blues, allowing Torres to play up front.

None of these options are cheap, and Chelsea could save some money by placing their faith in a signing tipped to replace Drogba last summer. The seemingly forgotten man, Romelu Lukaku, was bought from Anderlecht for £18million, and has hardly been given a look in at the Bridge.

The Belgian forward said he will "never forgive" Villas-Boas for sidelining him from the moment he arrived in west London, but next season represents a new opportunity.

The 6ft 3in striker is still only 19, and came from Belgium with a big reputation, having already scored 33 league goals. Although his first season has been one to forget, Lukaku has the ability to fill Drogba's boots - his first start, on the final day of the Premier League season against Blackburn, saw the striker pick up the man of the match award.

Drogba's legacy at Chelsea means whoever takes over the role next season will need a fast start and bags of confidence. The Ivorian himself is backing Torres, but notes that Chelsea will need to strengthen to compete next season.

"I know next season he's [Torres] going to improve," said Drogba. "Chelsea is in good hands with Fernando. Of course we will need new strikers but Torres will do the job."

It remains to be seen what "job" that is. So far, Torres has largely been confined to the bench, and his post-match Champions League criticism hinted at his displeasure at this role. A new signing might see Torres head for the exit door.

Drogba departs a club legend and a European champion, adored by the Chelsea fans as much for his work-rate and fighting spirit as for his goals. Torres has the ability to match Drogba, and he will probably get the opportunity to prove it next season.

But with Drogba gone, Chelsea will need to sign a new striker - Torres, Sturridge and Lukaku do not inspire confidence just yet, and surely would not be enough to fire Chelsea into Premier League contention by themselves.

To replace Drogba Chelsea need a Manchester City-type signing. Higuain, Cavani or Falcao are the prime candidates. But who will get the job?

Who do you think Chelsea should sign to replace Drogba? Or should they keep the faith with Torres? Join the debate and leave your comment below...

Topics:
Didier Drogba
Football
Chelsea
Premier League
Fernando Torres
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