Drogba planning for the future
When Didier Drogba first arrived in England cynicism over his £24million price tag and a run of poor form led critics to question his ability to play in the Premiership. This season, however, the Ivory Coast striker has won over his doubters and paid back his fee in goals, becoming African Player of the Year and gaining a nomination for the PFA Player of the Year award in the process.
Initially a much-maligned figure during his time at Chelsea, Drogba has been instrumental in the Blues' push for the quadruple this season and has been heralded by manager Jose Mourinho for his defensive work, as well as his scoring prowess.
Arguably the best striker in the Premiership this season, Drogba committed his future to Stamford Bridge in November by signing a new four-year deal and caught up with ESPNsoccernet Press Pass to discuss his remarkable season.
Q: This season, you've had to chase a lot of games. Is it a new thing you have to learn how to do?
A: It's something you just have to solve, but you don't control it. When we went 1-0 down against Valencia, I was still thinking that we have to score one goal to go to extra-time. So I knew we were going to score, but I did not know when. We tried to fight and create something, some chances, we try to do our best, but sometimes the opposition is good.
Q: Michael Essien was superb in Spain. How important is he to the team?
A: His contribution for the team is fantastic. He was injured, he didn't play for two weeks and then he came to just one training session and played his game. He's fantastic. He's naturally fit and that's why he was voted best player of the French League, because in midfield he's the best. For me he's physically stronger than most of us too. He's a beast.
Q: The three competitions you're still in, you could all win. Is there a personal preference?
A: There's always one preference, but I don't want to talk about it. I just want to win all four, all three you know, because we've already won the Carling Cup and I have never won the FA Cup and the Champion's League. The league is there to win though and I'll do anything to win it again.
Q: Three games could loom in May against Manchester United. Is it good that you would play them all in quick succession?
A: I don't know if it's good, but if you have to do it then there's no problem. It's very difficult to catch them in the league. They are having a fantastic season and I think we are doing well as well, but they are not first for nothing. They're controlling the season.
Q: Do you think you can catch them?
A: I hope so, but you know anything can happen in football. You never know until the end what's going to happen.
Q: With Liverpool coming up in the Champions League, what kind of semi-final do you expect from that game?
A: I don't know. The only thing I know is that in four years I have played them something like twelve or fourteen times. Liverpool is always a difficult game, it's always a battle and sometimes it's very difficult to see goals. So it's going to be a big, big, big, big game.
Q: Does what happened to you in the Champion's League semi-final [in 2005] still bother you?
A: They deserved to win it, that season was their season. So you can't be still thinking about the past. What's done is done. I don't care if the ball crossed the line or not. They won the Champion's League, so for me they deserved to win it that season, but I hope this season it'll be us.
Q: You must be happy with your season. Did you expect to do so well? You've been progressing every year in England. Was this always going to be your big season?
A: I was expecting to have a very good season, but not as good as now. Every season I've been improving so this season I'm just complete. I'm happy to be on the pitch, happy to play games and feeling well. I know my friends better now and I understand English football better as well. I'm just giving what I can for my team.
Q: Is it normal that it takes one or two seasons to get used to English football. Is English football so different?
A: English football is different compared to what I knew before. For me it took me two seasons to do this now but maybe for someone else it is six months - like Dirk Kuyt, he's doing very well in Liverpool now. For Sheva [Andrei Shevchenko] maybe it's more difficult, but the most important thing is to achieve something. Even if it was difficult, I won two Premierships, two Carling cups and one Community Shield so I think even if it was difficult, it was good.
Q: Do you feel like you're the best striker in the world at the moment?
A: No, I would never say that. It's not for me to say. I'm not watching my games to say I'm the best striker in the world. When I'm on the pitch I'm confident because I know I can try different things and sometimes it will work. My confidence is not about saying I'm the best striker in the world. My confidence is to say I know I can score.
Q: Jose Mourinho likes to deflect attention upon himself. Does that help the players and if so how?
A: Yeah, I think that help us, but the thing is Mourinho knows what he's doing and we know what we are doing as well. So, that's good because we all have the same feelings, ideas and all have the same objectives.
Q: What do you know about football in the USA and the MLS?
A: We played against Washington D.C. and it was very difficult. We also played against the MLS All-Stars and it was not easy to play against them either. Football in the U.S. is improving and they have a lot of players now, you just have to see the job they did in the World Cup. For me they did well. So it's a league that's going to grow up quickly.
Q: What did you think of Beckham's decision to sign with the LA Galaxy?
A: That's his decision and you have to respect what he decided. I'll be happy to see him again [when the teams meet in a pre-season friendly], because I played against him when he was in Madrid and he was fantastic. For me he was the best player when he played in midfield with Zidane and it's good for U.S. football to have him there.
Q: Is the U.S. somewhere you can see yourself living or playing one day in the future?
A: Yeah, why not? I don't know. I've been to Miami, Los Angeles, Seattle, so many places. I think everywhere is nice in America because I think the people are friendly and I like it there.