This time last year, when we were coming to terms with the prospect of José Mourinho managing Chelsea for a second spell, there were two schools of thought: 1) that Mourinho and Roman Abramovich were the Burton and Taylor of football – star-crossed lovers made for no one else but themselves; and 2) that Abramovich was failing to recognise, what anyone with bitter experience of a failed romance will tell you, that it’s never the same twice.
Gareth from The Office had the right philosophy when he told colleague Rachel: “I don’t usually do sloppy seconds.” So, if Chelsea could do it once before with Mourinho, why not with Didier Drogba, who is strongly rumoured to be (i.e. he is) in negotiations to return for a one-year contract at the club.
Having just jettisoned Frank Lampard at the age of 36, bringing back Drogba at the same age seems somewhat contradictory. But he is Mourninho’s totem: in eight years at Chelsea he scored 157 goals including that winning penalty in the Champions League Final – and I’m sure his hunger for goal is still way above that of Fernando Torres.
But with Chelsea still hanging on to youth and under-21 product like a cartoon villain holding a sack of squirming kittens over a raging river, you have to ask the question – when will this young talent that the club has invested in ever get its chance?
What was the point of fighting for Romelu Lukaku’s signature at the age of 18, then sending him out on prolific goal-scoring loan spells at West Brom and Everton, if you’re not prepared to develop him in the Chelsea shirt he was signed to wear? Granted, whenever I’ve seen him wear the shirt in early-season, pre-loan matches, he’s failed to impress, but that’s not the point. And if he’s simply not what the club wants, why not cut the losses and just sell him?
Likewise Patrick Bamford, another forward and future England prospect. Since joining Chelsea from Nottingham Forest in January 2012, the-now 19-year-old has been loaned out to MK Dons twice and Derby County for most of last season, racking up a decent goal tally in the process.
Understandably, Bamford is being eyed up by everyone’s favourite footballing used car dealer, Harry Redknapp, for QPR, and Wolves are believed to have expressed an interest.
But what a waste if Bamford was to leave. If he’s good enough to get first team action elsewhere, why is Chelsea – whose three recognised strikers scored just 18 goals between them last term – not making use of him? Especially when their squad is starting to get thin again under UEFA Fair Play compliance, and also when England needs to use the post-World Cup vacuum to sort out its longer-term pipeline.
The prospect of Drogba coming back to Chelsea is purely romantic, as much as it has practical value. We would love to seem him back at the club in some capacity, and even in coaching. But as a substitute for younger, fresher, even home-grown talent? It’s time to let the youth do the talking. Chelsea needs them, England needs them.
Returning to the top of this post, the other point to make is – well, are sloppy seconds ever any good? Chelsea may have gained a good return from Graeme Le Saux coming back from Blackburn in 1997, and Nemanja Matic’s return to the club last year is looking like he should never have been let go to begin with.
But a word of caution: bringing back one of your goal heroes isn’t always a good idea: Peter Osgood – the King of Stamford Bridge – returned to Chelsea in 1978 for one final season at Chelsea. The club were relegated at the end of the season and Ossie – who bore an uncanny resemblance to Torres – retired from the game altogether.
Given Drogba’s illustrious past, you’d hate him to have a less than polished return. At his best, he was invincible for Chelsea. There’s no escaping the equestrian analogy here – he was a cross between a thoroughbred racehorse and Sir Galahad’s steed bearing down on defenders. At his worst, though, he could be pathetic, negative, prone to diving and just as likely to feign injury to get taken off during an indifferent performance or frustrating game.
That’s not the Drogba we’d want to see again at the Bridge, and bringing him back at the tail end of his playing career would inevitably heighten the risk of that being exactly what we’d get. I just hope both Drogba and Mourinho know what they’re getting back into…
By Ashley | July 24th, 2014