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Where does Didier Drogba stand among Africa's all-time greats?

While many ageing greats gently slide into obscurity as they reach the end of their playing careers, Didier Drogba has continued generating headlines for his on-field contributions right up until the end.

If, as he has said it will be, the current season proves to be the last of his storied playing career, the 40-year-old has certainly ensured he's gone out with a bang.

Only last month, the former Chelsea superstar made headlines with an outrageous 40-yard free kick for Phoenix Rising as he led the club to their first playoff victory.

It was a strike that followed on from his awesome effort against LA Galaxy too last term, and made news across the world, and served as a reminder of one of the finest talents Africa has ever produced.

With Drogba having played perhaps the last match of his professional career, the question of his legacy, his standing, and his status among Africa's all-time greats deserves reconsideration.

Certainly, few of the continent's stars have achieved anything close to what Drogba has during his playing career.

The two-time African Footballer of the Year won four Premier League titles at Chelsea - where he was voted the club's greatest ever player - and was also the key protagonist in their historic Champions League victory in 2012.

He was a player for the big games, and had a decisive hand in four FA Cup wins - no player has scored in more finals - and also won three League Cups.

No African player has scored more Premier League goals than Drogba, who won the Golden Boot twice, and he left Chelsea as their top scorer in the Champions League and having netted more goals than any foreign player in the club's history.

During a late-career stint at Galatasaray, he won the Turkish title in 2013, and ends his career on a high with Phoenix Rising's 2018 USL Western Conference success.

On three occasions he made the Africa Cup of Nations Team of the Tournament - despite never winning it - and remains the Ivory Coast's all-time top scorer with a whopping 65 goals.

The forward has other accolades and achievements which cannot be listed here, and there's almost no African player who can compete with him for undiluted success at the highest level.

Who are the exceptions?

Nwankwo Kanu won a swathe of honours but was a peripheral figure during Arsenal's Invincibles season, and managed just four goals across two title-winning seasons with the Gunners.

Geremi Njitap and Seydou Keita also accumulated significant honours at club level, but both were utility men within sublime teams, rather, perhaps, than genuine key stars in their own right.

Yaya Toure does rival Drogba, both for his impact in the Premier League - albeit not as profound - and in the Champions League, which he won twice with Barcelona.

Certainly Toure boasts the AFCON title that Drogba does not, even if he can't match his compatriot's force of character.

He's a joint-record four-time African Footballer of the Year, and he also broke new ground with Manchester City - notably as, arguably, the outstanding player in their title triumph of 2012.

However, Toure can be accused of failing to build on that success at club level - a UCL semi-final in 2016 is their best continental return - while he would only play one more key role in a title-winning campaign after that maiden success of 2012.

Perhaps Mohamed Salah, Sadio Mane or Riyad Mahrez, in time, could approach Drogba's considerable honours haul, although for now, they remain in the veteran's shadow.

In terms of natural ability, Drogba couldn't compete with a player like George Weah, the only African - to date - to win the Ballon d'Or, but in truth, the Liberian's career wasn't adorned with anything close to the honours that Drogba enjoyed.

Weah suffered, at international level, by playing for a nation who could never produce a supporting cast to match his quality, while his timing at club level denied him the top prizes.

Two Italian titles is a meagre return for a player of his quality, with Weah arriving at Milan after their seasons of success in the early 90s.

Jay-Jay Okocha and Abedi Pele are players whose natural talent eclipsed Drogba's, but who never came close to matching his sustained levels of success.

Perhaps the only player who can rival Drogba in terms of impact at the highest level of the sport is Samuel Eto'o, and certainly, a strong case can be made that the Cameroon great's career has eclipsed that of his rival.

Certainly, while Drogba won the UCL with Chelsea in 2012, playing a key role in the final, Eto'o was a three-time winner with Barcelona and Internazionale.

He was an integral part of those successes too, scoring in two finals - one in a man of the match performance - and winning plaudits for the way he adapted his role in Jose Mourinho's success with the Nerazzurri in 2010.

He's a four-time African Footballer of the Year, the only player to match Toure, and won major titles across two major European leagues.

Perhaps decisively, Eto'o's Cameroon side - a Golden Generation in itself - won two AFCON titles and clinched Olympic gold, coming in stark contrast to the failures of the Elephants during Drogba's tenure.

Twice, he was top scorer at the AFCON - in fact, no player has ever scored more in the tournament - and he's the all-time top scorer for both Mallorca and Cameroon.

Certainly, Drogba retires as an African player with an almost unparalleled career behind him.

Greater than Eto'o? The debate will continue...

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