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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 July, 2004, 12:37 GMT 13:37 UK
Can Drogba succeed at Chelsea?
By James Copnall
BBC Sport, Abidjan

Didier Drogba
Drogba's transient upbringing could suit Chelsea's title ambitions

Didier Drogba's historic move to Chelsea - which makes him Africa's most expensive player - has been greeted with scepticism in some quarters.

After all, US$44 million is a huge sum for the Ivory Coast international, who only sprung to most people's attention last season.

Drogba's European performances in 2003/4 - scoring 11 times in continental matches - was what attracted Chelsea's interest.

New Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho was hugely impressed by Drogba when Marseille faced off with Porto, Mourinho's former club.

But Drogba's detractors will say that the Ivorian's success has been over so short a period that it is difficult to predict with certainty that he will be a hit at Chelsea.

He is better than Christian Vieri, Michael Owen or Alan Shearer
Senegal defender Habib Beye

The profile of the transfer means Drogba will be under immense pressure to deliver the goods in his very first season.

That could be a herculean task for a man who was a reserve at French second division side Le Mans just three years ago.

The futile struggle of Senegal's El Hadji Diouf to make an impact with Liverpool, after an US $18m move from French club Lens, is a prime example of how it could turn out for Drogba.

However, I am going to stick my neck out and say the Ivorian will be a huge star at Chelsea.

He's quick, strong, extremely good in the air, able to hold the ball up and has developed a real marksman's touch in front of goal.


In the last two seasons, he has been splendid. First, he scored 17 times for fledglings Guingamp.

Then, following a $7.3 million transfer to Marseille, he shone in European competition and scored 18 goals in the French league, which led to his being crowned as France's Player of the Year.

"I played against him every day in training," said Senegal and Marseille defender Habib Beye.

"So I can tell you he is very good indeed.

"It is not because he is a friend of mine, but I believe he is better than Christian Vieri, Michael Owen or Alan Shearer."

Off the pitch, Drogba has the maturity to fit in at Chelsea and cope with the demands placed on highly paid footballers.

The Ivorian arrived in France at the age of five, and moved from town to town as he followed his uncle, Michel Goba, a journeyman footballer.

That experience has given Drogba the precious ability to fit in easily wherever he goes.

Drogba even had to adapt when he came back to Ivory Coast to play for the national team, the Elephants.

"He is not particularly Ivorian, but everyone likes him," is the verdict of Jean-Claude Djakus of the Ivorian Football Federation.

"He is calm, listens a lot, and doesn't act like a star."

But whether he wants it or not, Drogba's move to Chelsea will mean he has to play like one.

Drogba joins Chelsea
20 Jul 04 |  Chelsea

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