Chelsea forward Didier Drogba will be the guest of honour at the 2015 Football Writers’ Association Tribute Night at the Savoy Hotel, London.
Here, Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho reflects on Drogba the player and the person.
“Didier arrived at Stamford Bridge for £24million, but he is probably the best-value Chelsea player ever, and I remember clearly how it happened.
“I came to Chelsea in the summer of 2004 and in my first written report to Mr Abramovich in relation to my plans for the club, I gave the names of some players.
“Big names were arriving at Chelsea in that period. The previous summer, for example, Claude Makelele came from Real Madrid and Hernan Crespo came from Inter, among others, but Didier was unknown and the price was very, very high.
“Yet I knew as clearly as I have ever done that he was the player I wanted.
“I was very strong to persuade my club to pay such an amount for him and I think we can already say he was the best-value signing for Chelsea in relation to what he has done for the club over so many years, and he is not finished yet.
“My story with him started after I got Marseille in my Champions League group when I was manager of Porto. “Before we played against them, I travelled to Marseille to watch them play Paris Saint Germain and I was amazed with the potential I saw in him.
“When we played against them, I met him in the tunnel before the game and I told him, “I don’t have money to buy you, do you have a cousin like you who is lost in Ivory Coast?”
“That was the first time that the big guy put his arm around me. He told me, “In Porto, you don’t have money to buy me, but if you move to another club where you do have money to buy me, then I will go with you.”
“After the Champions League final with Porto at the end of that season, I moved to Chelsea and immediately began the process to sign him.
“Reflecting on our relationship, I have three moments in my mind that best characterise the man – because Didier the man is just as great as Didier the player.
“The first one was when I met him at Farnborough Airport when he was landing to sign for Chelsea. The way he hugged me, and the way he thanked me was not normal for a player towards a manager, immediately after signing for a new club. Chelsea were changing his life forever in that moment, and he knew that.
“The second moment was after we won the 2007 FA Cup at Wembley against Manchester United. The game finished and I went to the dressing room, leaving the players to enjoy the moment and to celebrate on the pitch.
“I was on the phone with my wife, when suddenly a big monster ran into the dressing room and told me that if I didn’t come with the players, they wouldn’t collect the cup. They would only go up there with me.
“I told him that I wanted the players to go and enjoy the moment together – that I didn’t need to be there – and he said, “We are only one. You can come by your will, or I will carry you there!”
“The third moment was when I left Chelsea in 2007 and I saw the big man crying like a baby.
“So I can say that he is a phenomenal person, and I have also had the privilege to visit his country and to see what he means, not just to the people of Ivory Coast, but to so many African nations in that region.
“I know what he means as a player and as a person. That is why this combination of the player and the person is so amazing.
“Throughout my career, I have always refused to say which is my favourite player or the best person, because so many have given soul and blood to play and to fight with me, but if I have to choose one who represents all the good things you want in a player and a man, I think in this moment I would choose Didier.”