Maybe this isn't our place to do so, but Liverpool supporters have never been shy about applauding an opponent when they've deserved it. Respect is a big part of what we think makes a true Red, and that includes respect for an opponent who deserves it. So with today's announcement that Didier Drogba is leaving Chelsea (probably for a truck of cash in China), we as Liverpool fans have to applaud a simply brilliant player who was never shy of kicking our skulls in. I should be happy today that this guy will never make me lose my lunch again, but I'm not. Because Drogba was always entertaining, even when he was crushing our dreams.
And it's hard to think of a player who I initially loathed as much as i did Drogba when he first came to Chelsea, and it was more than Drogba putting Liverpool out of the UEFA Cup with Marseille the season before. He was arrogant, he was a diver (that didn't change), and he really wasn't all that good in his first year. In fact, he looked like an expensive battering ram/donkey. Remember that celebration after returning from injury where he kept declaring "I'm back!"? Did anyone give a fuck then? We hardly noticed he was gone. After that season, when it was rumored Jose Mourinho wanted to replace him, he told the press, "wherever I go, the Champions League waits for me."
But as it turned out, that was just the brashness of youth. Because Drogs kind of won us all over, even when he was kicking our ass. We could go through all the goals against Liverpool that wake us up in the middle of the night - in the Champions League, the FA Cup, the league. And they were all sorts. Headers, poaches, or crashed in from distance out of nothing. He could still be the battering ram, opening things up for others or holding the ball up for what seemed like hours. He was pretty much it all, able to muscle his way through or find a moment of genius to bypass a defense. There wasn't a way he couldn't hurt you.
And that's the thing about Drogba, he could do all of it. With either foot. We still remember his turn and fire with his left that rendered Carragher dizzy at Stamford Bridge early one season in a match Liverpool utterly dominated. Or his expertly taken strike just a few weeks ago. You couldn't give him an inch. Yeah, that dive in front of Rafa to show him up for comments in the press rankled. But wouldn't you have loved it if it was a Liverpool player doing it?
And as the years passed, Drogba seemed a more genuine guy. Sure, there was still the play-acting and diving, but it's hard to see that isn't outweighed by his dedication to aiding his homeland the Ivory Coast -- the man stopped a civil war for a short time. He was funny at times, and always dedicated to the cause.
Maybe the best thing you can say about Drogba, or any player, is he was always there when it counted most. Did Chelsea every play a big game where Drogba wasn't a factor? How many players in the Premier League can you say that about?
Normally, I would say that Jamie Carragher would be relieved to never see Drogba again. But knowing the sportsman that Carra is, he's probably wishing him the best and cherishing that he got to clash against one of the best around (though he rarely came out on top).
So I'll follow Carragher's lead, and bemoan that the Premier League will be a lot less interesting without The Drog's Bollocks.