FourFourTwo's 100 best foreign Premier League players ever: No.5, Didier Drogba

After a slow start the Ivorian powerhouse thrived in England, where his bullish style married technical ability that twice helped him win the Golden Boot. But the striker was about more than just goals – he grew into a hugely respected dressing room leader who came to embody a ruthless Blues side. Former winger Damien Duff recalls his early days

Didier Drogba, Damien Duff

Didier was a man you’d go to war with – a real leader, which I think showed on the pitch. Eventually, anyway. 

It took him a while to settle at Chelsea, probably a season to a season-and-a-half, and it took a while for the punters to take to him for whatever reason too.

Didier just a great guy, the lads loved him in the changing room, and when he went out on to the pitch you could always rely on him – not just for goals but to fight for you, to fight for the team

I can’t really put my finger on why that was the case – maybe he was adjusting to the pace of the game; he was playing in France with Marseille before us, which is a totally different league in terms of quality and energy compared with the Premier League. So maybe he was a bit raw when he first came in that respect, and it took the fans a while to warm to him as well.

But he was worth the wait, obviously. Didier just a great guy, the lads loved him in the changing room, and when he went out onto the pitch you could always rely on him – not just for goals but to fight for you, to fight for the team, to fight for the Chelsea shirt.

Away from the pitch I just remember him bouncing around everywhere – he was a massive joker in the dressing room, just a big personality. There were a lot in that dressing room like that actually.

And then were his goals. We were spoiled back then; Hernan Crespo, Adrian Mutu and Didier; then Eidur Gudjohnsen would play as a false striker, so we had so many brilliant options.

Me being a winger, you didn’t even have to look up sometimes and pick Didier out because you knew he’d be there. He could make a bad cross into a good cross – he really was an unbelievable player.

Interview: Chris Flanagan