Didier Drogba has warned Jose Mourinho that he will be out to get one over on his former manager when he faces Chelsea in the Champions League tonight – although he admits the club will always have “a special place in my heart”.
The Galatasaray striker will go up against his former employers for the first time since leaving Stamford Bridge following their triumph in Europe’s premier club competition in 2012.
The Blues boss on that night in Munich was Roberto Di Matteo but it was Mourinho, now back at the helm in west London, who brought the Ivorian to the club from Marseille in 2004.
Under Mourinho’s tutelage, Drogba won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two League Cups, adding a further Premier League medal and three more FA Cups, as well as the European Cup, after the Portuguese left the club in 2007. And while Drogba speaks fondly of his time at Chelsea, he has warned he will feel no guilt if he scores against the Blues in the last-16 tonight.
“After the draw Jose texted me to say, ‘it’s your moment, enjoy it’,” Drogba told several national newspapers.
“People know how much I love the club and the fans.
“I will still be happy to score because I also want to qualify for the next round. But you have to show respect.”
He added: “I can’t forget what I’ve done there and all the memories of the club. Chelsea will always have a special place in my heart. And in my life.”
Drogba will turn 36 next month but he still feels he has a lot to offer and could prove a major threat in Istanbul.
He added: “It’s impossible to stop time but it’s possible, with your intelligence on the pitch and your experience, to play at a high level even for two or three more years.
“Your team-mates will know you are not the same, like 10 or 15 years before, and they have to support you.
“It also depends on the desire to play. I feel young. I want to play even when it’s a friendly. I still feel like a kid running after the ball. I want to play as much as I can.
“It’s not only about your physique, it’s also about the confidence the manager gives you. When you have the confidence of the manager, believe me, you can do great things.”
The 35-year-old described Mourinho as “one of the best, if not the best” manager he has worked with and believes the 51-year-old can nurture another successful generation at Chelsea.
“We all had the potential but Jose is good at developing that,” he added. “With a player like Eden Hazard, if he listens to Jose, if he eats and learns what Jose teaches him, he can be really, really good.
“You need time to understand everything. The team have to develop, there are a lot of new players. But they are talented.”