Ranking Didier Drogba's 25 Greatest Moments for Chelsea
It promises to be an emotional night, setting things up perfectly for the return leg on Mar. 18.
The Ivorian remains very much a hero in West London after eight glorious years at Stamford Bridge, winning every major honor in the English game, including the Champions League.
Indeed, there were many great landmarks in that time, but which ranks among his finest? Join us as we countdown to the No. 1 moment in Drogba's Chelsea career.
25. Signs for Chelsea, Becoming the Club's Record Signing
Signing from Marseille in the summer of 2004, Didier Drogba became Chelsea's record signing, costing Roman Abramovich a cool £24 million.
The Ivorian was among the first signings of the Jose Mourinho era, and the hefty sum was a considerable vote of confidence in Drogba's abilities.
Plenty of signings at Chelsea have since surpassed that figure but, eight years and 10 trophies later, few have lived up to Drogba's billing.
24. Scores His First Chelsea Goal
Just ask Fernando Torres—record transfer fees can prove a substantial burden.
Drogba didn't allow his status as Chelsea's most expensive player at the time to overwhelm him, though, taking just three games to open his Chelsea account.
The Ivorian's first goal in Chelsea colors came at Selhurst Park as the Blues defeated Crystal Palace 2-0.
Drogba went on to score 16 times that season, a reasonable start for his first season in English football. It was just the start of things to come.
23. That Goal Versus Bolton Wanderers
Who says Chelsea aren't capable of playing champagne football?
Drogba's 90th-minute strike in a 4-0 away victory against Bolton Wanderers in October 2009 tells us otherwise.
It's one of Drogba's finest goals in a Chelsea shirt.
We'll let the video do the rest of the talking.
22. Scores His First Chelsea Hat-Trick
Every striker craves goals—hat-tricks even more so.
Drogba got his first for Chelsea against Levski Sofia in September 2006, coming in the Blues' 3-1 Champions League victory away to the Bulgarians.
He went on to score a further hat-trick of hat-tricks during his time at Chelsea.
21. Scores a Brace to Deny Arsenal in the 2007 League Cup Final
In 2007, Theo Walcott was a mere youngster still trying to make his way in the game.
With a team crammed full of stars, though, Arsenal's youngster looked ready to overshadow the stellar names that stood before him in Chelsea's lineup when he opened the scores in the 2007 League Cup Final, his goal coming after just 12 minutes.
Didier Drogba had other ideas, rising to the young pretender's challenge.
The Ivorian equalized eight minutes later and nodded home the winner in the 84th minute as Chelsea won the game 2-1, claiming their second League Cup in three seasons.
20. Seals Victory over Barcelona with Wonder Strike
Didier Drogba and Barcelona have history.
In 2004-05, the Chelsea striker was sent off at Camp Nou, with Chelsea leading the game 1-0. They went on to lose 2-1, although the return leg at Stamford Bridge saw them overturn the deficit with an incredible 4-2 victory to progress into the quarterfinal.
Drogba was suspended for that match, missing out on one of Stamford Bridge's most historic nights.
The following season, Barca exacted some form of revenge, eliminating Chelsea at the same stage of the Champions League.
They met the following season, this time in the group stage, and having missed out on the glory in previous encounters, Drogba was the toast of the town when his wonder goal proved enough to give Chelsea a vital 1-0 victory.
More has followed since, including Drogba's goal in the first leg of the 2012 semifinal, but it was this moment in October 2006 that marked him as a man ready to take the Blues onto great things in Europe.
And boy did he.
19. Scores in Another FA Cup Final as Chelsea Win the Cup in 2009
Didier Drogba and cup finals seem made for each other.
His record in English domestic finals stands at played seven, won six, scored eight.
Chelsea claimed their third FA Cup since the turn of the century with a 2-1 victory over Everton at Wembley Stadium in 2009 and, yes, you guessed it, Drogba was on hand to help the Blues on their way.
Louis Saha had shocked Chelsea by scoring the opening goal within a minute of kick-off, but the Blues fought their way back into contention.
Drogba pulled them level on 21 minutes, while Frank Lampard thundered home a long-range effort with just 18 minutes remaining.
18. Scores the Only Goal as Chelsea Beat Portsmouth in the 2010 FA Cup Final
Coming a year after that Everton victory, Drogba delivered more silverware for the Blues as his free-kick proved enough to defeat Portsmouth 1-0 in the FA Cup Final.
It was a special occasion, indeed.
Not only was it Chelsea's fourth FA Cup in 10 years, but it also saw the club win its first-ever league and cup double, having lifted the Premier League trophy a week earlier.
17. Wins the League Cup in 2005, His First Piece of Silverware in England
In the grander scheme of things, a League Cup victory may rank low on the achievements of some players. Not for Didier Drogba.
The 2005 League Cup is where it all started in English football for the Ivorian, earning his first piece of major silverware since arriving from Marseille just eight months previous.
He more than played his part, too, scoring in extra-time to help Chelsea to a 3-2 victory over Liverpool.
16. Hits 30 Goals for the First Time in English Football, Wins Golden Boot
After scoring 16 goals in each of his two seasons in English football, Dider Drogba blew those records away in 2006-07, more than doubling his combined tally.
The Chelsea striker was in inspired form, scoring 33 goals in all competitions and finishing the season with the Golden Boot.
That season included his first Blues hat-trick, coming against Levski Sofia in the Champions League (see No. 22), while he also scored three against Watford in the Premier League in mid-November.
15. Becomes the All-Time Leading Goalscorer in League Cup Finals
Chelsea reached their third League Cup final in four seasons in 2008, facing Tottenham Hotspur at Wembley Stadium.
The Blues may have lost the game 2-1, but one thing remained true to form—Didier Drogba scored again in a major cup final for Chelsea.
His free-kick to open the scores shortly before half time meant he became the first player to score in three consecutive cup finals in English football (the League Cup final and FA Cup final in 2007 being the first two).
It also brought his League Cup final tally to four, making him the highest scorer in finals throughout the the competition's 54-year history.
14. Named Chelsea's Player of the Year in 2010
Chelsea sealed a Premier League and FA Cup double in 2009-10, but the trophies didn't stop there for Didier Drogba.
The Ivorian's contribution to the Blues' historic campaign was acknowledged by fans, too, who named him as the club's Player of the Year.
13. Named African Player of the Year for the First Time in 2007
Three years before Chelsea fans acknowledged his contribution, African football heaped praise on Didier Drogba by naming him the African Player of the Year.
The Chelsea star was up against his teammate Michael Essien and current Blues striker Samuel Eto'o for the coveted prize, but his fine 2006-07 season, in which he scored 33 times, proved enough to see him named the continent's finest for the first time.
12. Helps Chelsea to First-Ever Champions League Final
Having come close so many times before, it proved a case of third time lucky for Chelsea as they reached the 2008 Champions League final.
Standing in their way were Liverpool, who had broken Chelsea hearts in the semifinals twice before. But with Didier Drogba inspired by comments made by Rafa Benitez regarding his apparent tendency to play act, as per The Guardian, there was no stopping the Blues this time out.
With the scores level at 1-1 after the first leg, Drogba got Chelsea on their way at Stamford Bridge when he scored the opener.
It put Blues fans in Dreamland, although Drogba had one thing on his mind—Benitez. Having scored, the Chelsea striker then celebrated in front of the Liverpool boss, sliding to his knees as the Stamford Bridge crowd bowed to his brilliance.
More drama followed when Fernando Torres leveled for the Reds, forcing the game into extra-time. Frank Lampard scored a penalty—coming in his first game back since the death of his mother—before Drogba added a third.
Ryan Babel's late effort was nothing more than a consolation as Chelsea won 3-2 on the night, 4-3 on aggregate, to set up a meeting with Manchester United in the final.
11. Hits a Hat-Trick to Against Wigan to Win His Second Golden Boot...
Winning trophies is always a highlight in any player's career. But winning trophies after an 8-0 victory in which you have scored a hat-trick, turns ecstasy into extreme euphoria.
Chelsea needed to just match Manchester United's result on the final day of the 2009-10 season. They did a whole lot more against Wigan Athletic, thrashing the Latics.
Didier Drogba scored a 17-minute hat-trick that day, his first coming on 63 minutes, with the other goals following on 68 and 80.
It was a true carnival atmosphere in West London and the surprise score line also pushed Chelsea over the 100-goal barrier in the league for the season, making them the first and only team to achieve such a feat.
Drogba also sealed his second Golden Boot in the Premier League.
10. ...And Claims a Third Premier League Title in the Process
How coincidental—Drogba scores a hat-trick to help Chelsea claim the 2009-10 Premier League title, thus sealing a hat-trick of title victories in the process.
Chelsea's 2010 success was his third in English football, coming on the back Chelsea previous victories in 2005 and 2006.
9. Scores the First-Ever Goal at the New Wembley as Chelsea Win the FA Cup
We've said before, but we have to say it again—there's something about Didier Drogba and cup finals.
Talk about rising to the occasion!
Drogba made history in 2007 by creating a few records that will never be surpassed as Chelsea defeated Manchester United 1-0 in the FA Cup final.
His extra-time strike saw Drogba become the first player to score a competitive goal at the new Wembley Stadium, while it was also enough to defeat United, making him the first player to score a winning goal.
That goal secured Chelsea's place in history as being the first team to win the FA Cup at the new Wembley, too, ensuring the club completed a unique double having been the last side to win the trophy at the old stadium in 2000.
8. Wins His First Premier League Title
What a first season it proved to be in English football for Didier Drogba.
Not only did Chelsea win the League Cup, defeating Liverpool 3-2 in the final (see No. 17), but they got their hands on the Premier League trophy—their first success in English football's top flight for 50 years.
It had been a long time coming...
7. Wins Back-to-Back Premier League Titles
...and like a public transport cliche, two came at once for Drogba and Chelsea as the Blues secured back-to-back titles in 2006.
They became only the second club to achieve such a feat since the Premier League was re-branded in 1992.
Breaking the cycle in winning a first league trophy for Chelsea in 50 years was a special moment, but defending that crown the following season just edges it in the glory stakes.
6. Scores 100th Chelsea Goal
Winning trophies is very much a team effort—no player can enjoy that success without his teammates around him.
Reaching personal milestones is very much an individual endeavor, though, and Didier Drogba was rightly a proud man in September 2009 when he notched up his 100th goal in Chelsea colours.
The goal came against Wigan Athletic, however the day ended on a sour note with the Blues losing the game 3-1.
5. Helps Ivory Coast to Their First-Ever World Cup in 2006
A man rightly proud of his roots, Didier Drogba may not have been wearing the colors of Chelsea when turning out for Ivory Coast, but his greatest moment with the Elephants came during his time at Stamford Bridge.
Ivory Coast had never reached the World Cup until 2006, yet with Drogba leading the way, the country's fortunes changed when they qualified for the tournament in Germany.
Being drawn into a difficult group—facing Argentina, Holland and Serbia and Montenegro—they failed to make it out of Group C, although departed Germany with their pride intact, defeating Serbia and Montenegro 3-2 in the final game of the competition.
Ivory Coast have since qualified for the 2010 World Cup and this year's tournament in Brazil.
4. Scores His 150th Chelsea Goal
Back on club duty, Didier Drogba's goalscoring form never let up at Stamford Bridge and having scored his 100th goal against Wigan Athletic in September 2009, a little over two years later he was racking up his 150th.
This time it was on New Year's Eve, 2011, and Aston Villa who were Drogba's victims, with the Ivorian scoring a 23rd-minute penalty.
Similar to when he scored his 100th goal, though, the game ended in tragedy for Chelsea as they went on to lose the game the 3-1.
3. Signs off from English Football with FA Cup, Scoring in the Final... Again!
Didier Drogba. The FA Cup final. We've been here before, haven't we?
Given his history with the competition, it was only fitting that Drogba should bow out of English football by lifting the FA Cup.
If that wasn't enough, however, he scored the winning goal as Chelsea defeated Liverpool 2-1 in 2012.
His goal that day brought his tally in domestic finals to eight, ensuring he finished his Chelsea career having scored in every major domestic final in which he played. A truly remarkable record.
2. Named Chelsea's All-Time Best Player
Premier League titles, FA Cups, League Cups and then the Champions League. Didier Drogba helped deliver silverware at unprecedented levels during his eight years at Chelsea.
His influence didn't go unnoticed, either, as a December 2012 poll to celebrate the 100th issue of Chelsea magazine voted the Ivorian the club's all-time player.
It was significant for Drogba, putting him above all others including modern greats Frank Lampard and John Terry and more traditional heroes Peter Osgood, Kerry Dixon and Ron Harris.
If ever Drogba questioned what he meant to Blues supporters, this accolade confirmed it all.
1. Drogba Delivers Chelsea the Champions League
The 2012 Champions League Final had a huge sense of occasion about it.
Bayern Munich were playing at home with the chance of lifting European football's greatest prize in their own backyard, while the curtain was coming down on Didier Drogba's Chelsea career—the Ivorian playing his last match for the Blues.
The script was written for a classic and it duly delivered, with Drogba's final kick of the ball in a blue shirt bringing down the house.
We've set the scene, so all that's left to do is allow the highlights reel above to finish the story...
Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes