Petr Cech has showered Didier Drogba with praise following the former Chelsea striker’s induction into the Premier League Hall of Fame. The Ivorian has become the second Blues player to receive the honour after Frank Lampard.
The 44-year-old, who first joined the west London club in 2004 from French outfit Marseille, is now among an elite bracket which recognises the competition’s greatest players. Drogba’s 104 top-flight goals in 254 appearances and four Premier League titles now ranks him alongside the likes of Thierry Henry, David Beckham and Steven Gerrard.
Although, for the former Blues striker it wasn’t a smooth ride to the top-flight. Upon his eye-watering £24m arrival at Stamford Bridge, Drogba struggled to acclimatise to the English game.
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He scored just three goals in his opening eight Premier League appearances and, naturally, doubt was cast over his future at the club. Jose Mourinho was forced to briefly pull Drogba from the firing line due to injury but, upon his return to the starting XI, he quickly roared into gear.
Speaking to the Chelsea club media, Cech detailed the early stages to Drogba’s time in west London and how he almost fell at the first hurdle. The Blues’ Technical and Performance advisor wrote: “He started slower than some people expected.
“I think it was the difference between the leagues, because the Premier League was far more physical, and the referees had a different approach to it. You had to find a way to beat your opponents. Some teams at that time were really physical, with bigger, taller players than him.
“He also injured his groin at the beginning and that held him back a little bit, but the moment he got going, nobody could stop him. The machine started, and it didn’t stop until he retired. We all know how he became a legend in this club, this league, and in world football.”
The principle of Cech’s recollection can be applied to Romelu Lukaku’s misfortunes this season. The 28-year-old, who faces a growingly uncertain future having been booed off in Chelsea’s loss to Arsenal, can use the former Chelsea goalkeeper’s words of wisdom to turn his career around in west London.
Similarly to Drogba, Lukaku ‘started slower than people expected’. However, should the Belgian look to follow in his footsteps, he faces a transfer decision first.
The Athletic have outlined that Paris Saint-Germain ‘have the resources’ to secure Lukaku’s signature. But, they ‘haven’t yet given up hope’ on extending Kylian Mbappe’s time in the French capital, despite persistent rumours linking him with Real Madrid.