Why Drogba must stand and deliver for Chelsea tonight

In the country which one of his heroes Winston Churchill could never quite fathom, Avram Grant must tonight count on his very own “riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma” to inspire Chelsea to become London’s first champions of Europe.

So will the real Didier Drogba stand up? And please not fall down on the job.

So much intrigue swirls around the club which Roman rebuilt that only the reticent Abramovich himself will truly know what will happen should his £600million project finally reach fruition tonight with Chelsea defeating Manchester United to lift club football’s grandest prize in his home city.

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Didier Drogba

Key man: Chelsea's Didier Drogba keeps his eyes on the ball during a team training session in Moscow.

There’s a very weird prospect that, even as Grant celebrates with his boss’s vodka and caviar, he could be making a toast to his own departure.

Odder still, triumph can’t seemingly stop the bulldozing of a team while in their prime
and can only prompt the construction of some even glitzier Chelsea utopia.

And strangest of all? What if Drogba, the most powerful /dramatic /irritating/complete /mercurial /unplayable striker in football — delete as applicable — lives up to his billing by trampling United’s dream into the patchwork Luzhniki Stadium turf and then pouts that he’s off.

How mad would that be? Mad but eminently possible.

Although, naturally, you can never be sure with this fine thespian.

Suddenly, with everyone long resigned to him leaving for pastures new, Drogba piped up in a provocative eve-of-game interview: “Everyone’s sending me far from
Chelsea. But what if I stay? I’m not as firm and decisive as I was.”

Ah, the enigma’s variations, presumably.

In that same interview, he sounded contemptuous about Grant — “the stepfather we hadn’t chosen” — happily fuelling the popular argument that the team effectively keep winning without any input from their boss.

Er what’s that, then? A subliminal message that if Abramovich wants him to be the totem around which a new Chelsea are built then the manager has to go?

No bets on who the Blues gathering here for UEFA’s corporate takeover of Red Square would rather keep.

Chelsea will be reinvented, whatever happens. Juliano Belletti, Andriy Shevchenko, Wayne Bridge, Shaun Wright-Phillips, Florent Malouda, Tal Ben Haim, Claudio Pizarro, Steve Sidwell; who’d bet on any of them being at the Bridge next season?

Much more damaging would be if Ricardo Carvalho, Frank Lampard and Drogba, so outstanding as the side’s spine this term, deserted to rejoin the latest ‘Indiana’
Mourinho adventure at the San Siro.

Yet of those three, only one is indispensable to Chelsea and, though it can only be a gut feeling when talking about such a freakish occasion kicking off in on a dodgy pitch 1,500 miles from home, I’d plump for Drogba to be tonight’s match winner.

Yes, in the best head-tohead this old Olympic Stadium has seen since Seb Coe drew 1-1 with Steve Ovett, he can even outpace United’s Midas-touched Cristiano Ronaldo.

For starters, United must have been studying at the Rafael Benitez Academy of Pointless Wind-Ups.

Yesterday, as the hooded Drogba entered the stadium looking thunderously
surly, you could have sworn his headphones were replaying either Wayne Rooney’s comments about how his head “sometimes isn’t quite there” or Nemanja Vidic’s reflections on how one minute he’s the ultimate strongman and the next tumbles like a 20kg weakling.

Here were the sort of barbs to infuriate a man who harbours a completely different
image of his own fair play to that which the rest of football sees.

“I’m a footballer, not a swimmer . . . I get the feeling that people take me for a cheat,” he said indignantly in his interview.

Stop that chuckling at the back. Vidic knows why Drogba mixes the charlatan with the champion.

It’s about never letting any defence have a moment’s peace or a single idea of what he’ll try next.

“He’s good at mind games,” says the Croat.

Sir Alex Ferguson yesterday suggested he has a team with such fluid “movement, passing and ability to create openings” that they don’t need to match
Chelsea’s power.

But he admits to worrying about a man who while playing the victim never really stops being the aggressor.

Fact: Drogba has committed more fouls yet still snapped more shots on goal than any other player in this year’s competition.

Rooney got it wrong; when the stakes are at their highest, Drogba’s head is always on.

When these days does he ever truly fail?

The winner in last year’s FA Cup Final, two to beat Arsenal and another one to help topple Liverpool in Carling Cup Finals, another this year at Wembley against
Spurs, the pair against Arsenal in March which resurrected Chelsea’s season and the brace against Liverpool which brought them here to Moscow.

So never mind the debate about his morals.

How can there be any real debate about his temperament nor leadership
in the biggest games?

Before last year’s Cup final, Drogba gathered his team-mates and roared: “I’m going to fight and give everything.

"Not for anyone else but for every one of you here now looking me in the eye.”

John Terry remembers how that Churchillian address at Wembley set the tone for them to sink United.

With Drogba’s goal, naturally. A repeat tonight and the Ivorian will be going nowhere; Abramovich wouldn’t let him out the country until he’s signed to be part of the next Russian revolution.

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