Gone but not forgotten: Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka
Former Chelsea strikers Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba graced the Premier League with their skill, goalscoring prowess and no shortage of glorious memories.
Anelka and Drogba have moved on, but will be remembered as two of the greats of the Premier League's recent history.
Nicolas Anelka’s first sight of the Premier League was in 1997, when he joined Arsenal from Paris Saint-Germain. The French striker scored 23 times during his time at Arsenal, appearing 65 times before jetting off to Spain to join Real Madrid.
Anelka later returned to English football on loan to Liverpool. Considering he only scored four goals in his 20 game loan spell, Anelka was fortunate to be signed by Manchester City in 2002. The arrival at City kick started Anelka’s career, he had his most successful goal scoring spell in the blue side of Manchester. Fans were introduced to the ‘butterfly’ celebration every time the Frenchman scored, which was 24 times in the 2003-04 season.
The following season Anelka started clinical, as he left off in the previous campaign. The striker scored the winner in Jose Mourinho’s first ever defeat as Chelsea manager. Although for some reason, he decided to transfer to Fenerbahce in January after scoring seven goals in 19 appearances at City. The £7m deal saw Anelka help the Turkish club win the league in 2005, as he scored ten times in 25 games.
In 2006, English football was reunited with Anelka. However, his goal scoring tally was not quite as good as it was for Manchester City back in 2003, the striker only managed to score 11 times for Bolton Wanderers. After three poor seasons at the club, Chelsea stepped in to snap up the French forward for £15m, where he went on to have his most prolific season, scoring 19 goals.
Premier League icon
Anelka became a Premier League icon after his impressive 2008-09 season; he continued to score goals for the London-based club in the league and Champions League – including his 50th goal for Chelsea against Spartak Moscow. Despite not scoring as many goals in the league for Chelsea in 2010, Anelka stacked up an impressive record in Europe, counting seven goals in nine matches.
However, this proved to be the end of Anelka’s fine scoring run, as he failed to score in Europe, the League Cup and only scored once in the Premier League in nine games. Following this, the striker decided to leave England and join Shanghai Shenhua, a team in the Chinese Super League.
Since leaving the Premier League, Anelka’s first season in the Chinese Super League has been filled with ups and downs. He failed to make his debut on the opening day of the season due to an ankle injury, but then scored in his debut in a 3-2 defeat to bitter rivals Beijing Goaun. Anelka was then named as part of the coaching staff to help the struggling manager at the time, until a new boss came in.
Anelka’s former Chelsea team mate, Didier Drogba, then joined up with the Frenchman as he joined Shanghai Shenhua in June this year. Although Anelka was reportedly interested in a move back to the Premier League months later due to a bust up with a fan after the striker didn’t bow down in front of the travelling Shenhua fans with his fellow team-mates.
Anelka will be solely missed from English football fans all over the country, he appeared in five different football shirts in the Premier League and gave supporters some great memories.
The Chelsea supporters will miss the sight of Didier Drogba more than anyone else; the Ivorian striker was one of the best strikers the Premier League has ever seen, scoring 100 times for Chelsea in 226 appearances.
The signing of £24m saw Drogba arrive in England and he made his mark on his third appearance with a header (the first of many) against Crystal Palace. Following the departure of Damien Duff to Newcastle United, Drogba gained the number 11 shirt in 2006, after wearing number 15 since he joined. The number 11 shirt seemed to have lifted the striker, as he scored 33 goals in one season for Chelsea.
The following season, Jose Mourinho left Chelsea as manager. Drogba reportedly said “I want to leave Chelsea.” He was also allegedly in tears when Mourinho told him he was leaving. Drogba soon regained the trust in the board and fans though, scoring in Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Middlesbrough in October.
In the 2008-09 season, Drogba suffered a string of injuries and struggled to regain fitness, missing games from August to November due to knee problems. In 2009, he scored two memorable goals for Chelsea fans, the first and equalising goal as they went on to win the FA Cup against Everton.
Drogba came on as a sub for Anelka against Manchester United in the Community Shield, but could not help prevent Chelsea from succumbing to a 3–1 loss.
Drogba also had a trademark celebration, like Anelka. The Ivorian’s seemed to be spreading his arms out and pushing them outwards constantly.
He scored his seventh Wembley goal in fantastic style against London rivals Tottenham Hotspur in April 2012 as Chelsea won and went through to the FA Cup final against Liverpool. Three days later, he scored a goal which every football fan will remember for years to come, a goal which gave Chelsea a 1-0 win over Spanish giants Barcelona.
Drogba also practically won Chelsea the Champions League final, after scoring the equalising goal to take the game into extra time, and then scoring the winning penalty.
In May 2012, like his former team mate Anelka, Drogba decided to leave England and rejoin his strike partner at Shanghai Shenhua. So far, Drogba has scored two goals in four appearances for the Chinese outfit.
After many great memories, especially from his final season in English football, Drogba will go down in history and will remain in all football fans recollections for years. Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka are gone, but they will never be forgotten.
By Josh Harris