Chelsea: Is Diego Costa the Heir Apparent to Didier Drogba?

Daniel Tiluk@@danieltilukFeatured ColumnistJanuary 28, 2014

"King" Didier Drogba, as described by Jose Mourinho.
"King" Didier Drogba, as described by Jose Mourinho.Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

Flashing back 10 years ago: France's Ligue 1 was set ablaze by a relatively unknown striker from the Ivory Coast named Didier Drogba. The powerhouse forward registered 32 goals in 55 games for Olympique de Marseille (l'OM) and led his team to the UEFA Cup (now the Europa League) final in their 2003-04 campaign.

The would-be Stamford Bridge legend was purchased by l'OM in the summer of 2003 for £3.3 million; after one season at the Stade Velodrome the Ivorian's value had multiplied just over sevenfold. Having played against Drogba in the previous year's Champions League group stage, newly installed Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho led the charge to buy the striker for a then club-record fee of £24 million in July 2004.

The 26-year-old went on to score 157 goals in 342 appearances (including the Charity Shield) for the Blues in eight seasons; one-hundred of the tally was scored in the Premier League and a Chelsea record 36 netted in European competition.

As an integral part in the acquisition of three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and the Champions League, it becomes easy to announce Drogba's fee was money well spent.

Upon leaving the club in 2012, the void left by the African legend has yet to be filled. Fernando Torres hasn't been the £50 million man he was bought to be, while the likes of Demba Ba and Samuel Eto'o at this stage of their careers can't hold a candle to the Ivorian, so the question becomes: "Who's next?"

Will the young Belgian be given a shot?
Will the young Belgian be given a shot?Richard Heathcote/Getty Images

As Mourinho has returned to Stamford Bridge, when he looks at the Chelsea books he should see one glaring replacement for the striking style he implemented during his first stint in west London.

Romelu Lukaku and Drogba's styles of play are similar but not mirror images. The former likes to win headers, run in behind defences and is always looking for through passes.

The latter was more of a wrecking ball. Controlling long balls rather than always looking to flick them, posting centre-backs up and linking play with his teammates. Drogba was more in-tune with the game; but that's to be expected as Lukaku's only 20 years old.

Nonetheless, Mourinho might look at the young Belgian and think: "He's not ready yet, why not sell him on and get a player who's ready to come in."

Wanting to buy his own players is a reasonable thought for a manager to have (as job security seems to run on a weekly basis nowadays); but being sensible—Lukaku should be given the chance to prove his worth at Stamford Bridge; but as is so often the case, business might prevent that from happening.

Is Costa Mourinho's answer to the past?
Is Costa Mourinho's answer to the past?Denis Doyle/Getty Images

"Business" comes in the form of La Liga side Atletico Madrid.

Much like Drogba in 2003-04, Diego Costa is taking his respective league by storm. The Brazilian-born forward has scored 23 goals in 29 appearances this season and has shown no signs of slowing.

Having played against the striker as Real Madrid manager, Jose Mourinho is well versed in the forward’s movement, ability and adaptability to the English game.

The Portuguese manager hit gold a decade ago, so if reports via ESPN FC's Miguel Delaney are to be believed, Costa could be Mourinho's shot at Drogba 2.0. All it would take is matching the striker's buyout clause, which is set at £32 million, per John Cross of the Daily Mirror.

While the allure of a Drogba-like figure in London has to be captivating, it's possible the risk isn't worth the reward, especially if Costa comes at the expense of swapping goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and alienating Lukaku even more.

Mourinho and club owner Roman Abramovich have got plenty of decisions to make over the next few months but if the past fortnight is anything to go by—they know what the future's going to look like, whether Costa is a part of their vision remains to be seen.


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