Didier Drogba’s contract situation is one of the more baffling scenarios in modern football.
The Ivorian international has been one of the club’s stand-out performers over the past eight years, producing too many match-winning performances to remember for a handful of managers in west London.
Jose Mourinho spotted the potential back in 2004, spending £24 million to bring the player from Marseille to Stamford Bridge.
Few could have predicted the success that Drogba would go on to have during his time in England, and if his time with the Blues has come to an end, there can be no better way than to leave things than with a winning penalty in the Champions League final.
But how can Chelsea consider letting this beast of a striker leave for nothing?
True, Drogba has no re-sale value at his age, and does not owe the club anything after the years of service that he’s given for the club. His medal collection speaks for itself, with three Premier League winners medals, one League Cup, four FA Cups and now on Champions League.
And, if the talisman wanted to leave, then it would make sense to give him the opportunity to walk away on an immense high.
That simply doesn’t seem to be the case though, and whilst both his and his agent’s comments have been spun different ways by the media in the past, the general vibe is that Drogba would like to stay if possible.
The stumbling block would appear to be length of contract. Chelsea are renowned for their one-year contract extensions, something that has seen players reaching the later stages of their careers leave in the past.
Allowing Drogba the opportunity to follow that same path makes absolutely no sense though, because he is still so vital to the clubs cause.
His performance at the Allianz Arena is a great example. Asked to play up-front on his own, Drogba was isolated for large periods, but came alive when the opportunity arose, heading home a sublime equaliser in the 88th minute.
His over-eagerness could have cost the Blues when giving away a penalty in extra-time, but Petr Cech gave the club’s great servant a reprieve, and it was one he gleefully took after 120 minutes, sending Manuel Neuer the wrong way with the fifth spot-kick to send his side into ecstacy.
It’s not like this is the first time Drogba has delivered on the big stage either. In nine finals, he’s scored nine goals and been on the winning side every time but once, when the Blues lost to Spurs in a League Cup final.
His record at Wembley is unparalleled, with Drogba’s recent efforts against Tottenham in the semi-final and then Liverpool in the final helping Chelsea to another FA Cup win.
He's scored eight times in eight ties at the new stadium, always in the last four or better of major competitions.
In all competitions this season, Drogba notched 12 goals from 31 games whilst constantly vying for a starting spot with Fernando Torres. He also missed much of January at the African Cup of Nations, when the Ivory Coast lost in the final on penalties against Zambia.
The point is that, whilst Drogba is the ultimate big game player, he’s also consistent throughout the campaign. His goals record is exceptional over the past eight years, reaching double figures in every season he's been at the club.
He's also made over 30 appearances every year, showing he's still got the longevity to be involved on a regular basis.
And yet, next season, Drogba could be playing for one of Chelsea’s rivals. What is stopping Sir Alex Ferguson or Roberto Mancini from bringing the player to Manchester in the summer and making their own teams stronger? The striker would certainly be an asset for either club, and a cheap one at that.
Both sides would also note the advantage of adding a free agent with UEFA’s new financial fair play rules lingering around the corner.
It’s not just Manchester United or Manchester City who’d be happy to have him though. Any Premier League side would take him, although wage demands would mean he’s a target accessible only to the elite.
What about Europe? Again, it’s only the very best who could afford Drogba, but he’s shown that he’s worth it. PSG have plenty of cash, Juventus are eager to make a splash in Europe once again, and then there is Spanish giants Real Madrid and Barcelona.
All these teams will be rivals to Chelsea in next season’s European Cup, and every team will have a better chance of beating the Blues if they had Drogba in their line-up.
In effect, the Blues would be giving their rivals a fantastic opportunity to strengthen, whilst taking a backwards step themselves.
In Torres, they have a £50 million striker who is yet to find his very best form despite ‘that’ goal in Barcelona. Aside from that, you have Daniel Sturridge, who isn’t Di Matteo’s first choice in a wide position, let alone up-front, and not a lot else.
The message from any Chelsea fan should be simple ahead of planned talks with Drogba later this month. Do everything you can to sign him up, Mr Abramovich.
The message from fans from any other club should be just as clear. Please let him leave on a free.
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