Didier Did It…As Chelsea Clinch Champions League Crown
5/21/2012 7:01:40 PM -
The epic conclusion to Chelsea's Champions League adventure was orchestrated by three men that the club was planning to ditch in the summer.
Didier Drogba was one of the primary heroes on the field in Saturday's final, rolling in the decisive penalty kick http://yhoo.it/Jopq5m in the thrilling shootout against Bayern Munich to give Chelsea the most glorious moment in its long history.
Goalkeeper Petr Cech kept his side in contention with some vital saves during regulation time - the longtime stalwart got down to stop an Arjen Robben penalty during extra-time, then kept out Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger in the shootout to set up Drogba's clutch kick.
Roberto Di Matteo was the head coach who set the tone for it all, turning around a season that looked doomed to disaster following a dismal run of form that led to the firing of Andre Villas-Boas.
Still, even after this memorable night in Munich where Chelsea exorcised all those painful memories of semifinal defeats in this competition (plus its loss to Manchester United in the 2008 final), the future of the three is uncertain.
Drogba has been on borrowed time ever since Chelsea splashed out $79.5 million on Fernando Torres 16 months ago and is now a free agent after reaching the end of his contract. He has been linked with a move to the Chinese Super League, where he could earn around $15 million per season, perhaps more now.
But if Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has any sense, he will do whatever it takes to retain Drogba for another year, at the very least. The big man from the Ivory Coast might be 34, but Chelsea could not have done this without him.
Drogba's inexhaustible work-rate in the semifinal helped Chelsea beat Barcelona, and his thunderous header with two minutes left in normal time rescued the London club Saturday. Drogba's equalizer cancelled out Thomas Mueller's opener for Bayern and sent the game to extra time.
How appropriate it was for him to convert the winning kick, then embark upon a joyous sprint over to Chelsea's band of traveling supporters, ripping off his shirt and beating the ground with it in sheer delight.
'This is what we have been doing for years - showing this kind of spirit,' Drogba said. 'I have been here for eight years and when you are a Chelsea player you never give up until the end. We try to give that mentality to the young players. This is amazing.'
Cech's efforts in the Champions League have been amazing. The 30-year-old's skills have waned in recent campaigns, and even this season, his performances in the English Premier League left much to be desired.
'I don't know what to say,' Cech said. 'I am so proud of everybody. I went the right way five times. I just kept believing.'