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Didier Drogba: Premier League's loss should be China's gain

Didier Drogba’s arrival in China can’t come soon enough for Nicolas Anelka.

The Frenchman, who spent four seasons with Drogba (pictured) at Chelsea, joined Shanghai Shenhua in January.

However, his influence has been minimal and the club currently sits just a point above the relegation zone in the Chinese Super League.

Drogba’s decision to quit Chelsea in favour of a big-money move had been speculated for several months before his exit and his departure is in line with the growing trend of players heading east for one last hurrah and one last big payday.

Unlike some of his predecessors, the Ivorian’s lucrative deal comes at a time when he still appears to be at the top of his game.

Drogba has been named as the top goalscorer of the 21st century, just ahead of Miroslav Klose and Ruud van Nistelrooy.

The list, compiled by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), take into account goals, scored in both international matches and international competitions, such as the Champions League or Copa Libertadores.

Continued prowess

If there was any doubt as to his continued prowess, Drogba then went on to inspire Chelsea to Champions League victory, scoring crucial goals in the semi-final and final and slotting the winning penalty in the shootout that broke Bayern Munich hearts.

It will remain as the crowning glory on a glittering career that started late; Drogba only signing his first professional contract at the age of 21, for Ligue 2 side Le Mans.

After a couple of difficult seasons, he was sold to Guingamp for £80,000 but failed to make an initial impression. It was not until the 2002-2003 season, where he scored 17 goals in 34 appearances, that his true potential finally became apparent.

His sharpness infront of goal helped Guingamp to finish seventh in Ligue 1, a record for the club. It also attracted the attentions of French giants Olympique Marseille, who paid £3.3m to acquire his services.

Despite only spending one season there, Drogba is remembered as a Marseille legend. He scored 32 goals in all competitions, was named as player of the year in France and helped Marseille to the UEFA Cup final where they lost to Rafa Benitez's Valencia.

A £24m move to Chelsea in the summer of 2004 would herald the start of a period of unparalleled success for both him and the club.

Under the tutelage of manager Jose Mourinho, Drogba would develop into one of the world’s best strikers, collecting almost every major honour in the game along the way.

Global soccer phenomenon

His eight seasons at Stamford Bridge brought three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and finally, one Champions League.

He also won the Premier League golden boot twice, in 2006-07 and 2009-10. He has scored a total of 55 times in 85 appearances for the Ivory Coast, captaining his country since 2006.

His status within his home country as a global soccer phenomenon has also allowed him to broker peace in a nation ravaged by years of civil war.

Sir Alex Ferguson has recently said that Chelsea will be significantly weakened in the coming season by his absence, attributing the London club’s Champions League victory almost solely to Drogba.

He is expected to arrive in Shanghai on Saturday, where he takes on a challenge of an altogether different nature.

If he can bring to China even some of the magic with which he has lit up the Premier League over the past decade, £200,000 a week may end up looking like a bargain for Shenhua.

By Andrew Wade

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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