Didier Drogba hopes to mark his return to Chelsea with a Galatasaray victory on Tuesday night when he plans to keep his emotions in check.
The 36-year-old, whose final act after eight years as a Chelsea player was scoring the decisive penalty in the 2012 European Cup win over Bayern Munich, returns to his old stomping ground with the UEFA Champions League last-16 tie finely poised at 1-1 after the first leg.
The Côte d’Ivoire striker admitted he would feel mixed emotions when he was asked if he would celebrate the winning goal at Stamford Bridge, if he scores it. “With all the respect that I have for this club, for the fans and for the players, I might not celebrate, but if we win I’ll be happy,” said Drogba, who was speaking at Stamford Bridge.
“I’m really happy to come back and to see some familiar faces. It’s a big game. The Champions League is a big competition and it means a lot for my team. I’ll find a way to play. It’s very difficult to play against Chelsea, but it’s not going to be difficult for me to put myself into the competition mode.
“Now I belong to Galatasaray. I need to be professional. Of course there will be emotions. Like the first leg to see my ex-team-mates and also the Chelsea fans in the stadium was special. But then there was the game and the game as you could see was tough, was good, with high intensity. I think it’s going to be the same tomorrow.”
Prior to the draw in December, Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho hoped for his side to be reunited with Drogba, who netted 157 goals in 341 appearances before leaving for a spell in Shanghai. Mourinho, who signed Drogba for Chelsea from Marseille in 2004, was given a rousing ovation when he made his return to the Blues dugout in August after a near six-year absence and hopes the Ivorian will experience similar acclaim.
It’s very difficult to play against Chelsea, but it’s not going to be difficult for me to put myself into the competition mode.
Didier Drogba, Galatsaray striker, on returning to face his old club
It is anticipated he will, after his decisive interventions in Munich left an indelible mark on the hearts and minds of all Chelsea fans as they became the first London club to lift the European Cup. “To leave Chelsea on a high like I did, if I could do it I would do it again the same way,” Drogba added.
“But then I always say that I believe in destiny and if I ever wanted to play again for this team, I think it could’ve happened a long time ago. As it didn’t there’s no problem with that. I’m really happy at Galatasaray. I’m focusing on this game tomorrow, because for me it’s an important one and I want it to be the best one.”
Mourinho returned to Chelsea with Inter Milan en route to winning the 2010 Champions League and Drogba has no qualms with ending the Blues’ participation in the 2014 edition. “I have nothing to prove to this club,” he added. “Everything I had to prove I think I did it with Chelsea. I come here with another team. I just want to win the game, I just want to qualify. There’s nothing personal against Chelsea, there will never be.”
Drogba has expressed a desire to remain in football when he calls time on his career. Asked if he would like that to be at Chelsea, after reports surfaced earlier this year that Mourinho had offered him a coaching role, he said: “Of course, but just not now. I still want to play.”
Drogba is the main protagonist of a contest which pits Mourinho against his predecessor as Inter boss, the former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini. Mancini steered City to the 2012 Premier League title – City’s first championship in 44 years – and is relishing his return to England. “I did a really good job with Manchester City,” Mancini said. “I’m very happy to play this game, first of all because it’s here in London and after because it’s Champions League.”
A win or a score draw of 2-2 or more would see Galatasaray progress, with Mancini comparing the scenario to the end of Group B, when a 1-0 win over Juventus saw them advance at the Italians’ expense. “We did a miracle in the group because it was really difficult to go through in that group,” Mancini added. “Chelsea have a small advantage. I don’t know if it will be enough to score one goal. Tomorrow we will see what happens.”
The Italian said he would accept Mourinho’s offer, made in Istanbul, of a post-match dinner, on one condition. Mancini added: “If we win, sure. And I’ll pay.”