Drogba back to where it all began for Real clash

Updated: 2013-04-03 05:32

By Reuters in Madrid (China Daily)

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The wheel will have come full circle for Galatasaray forward Didier Drogba when he takes to the pitch for Wednesday's Champions League quarterfinal first-leg match at Real Madrid.

The Cote d'Ivoire international, who turned 35 this month, made his debut in Europe's elite club competition at Real's Bernabeu stadium in September 2003 playing for Ligue 1 side Olympique Marseille.

Although he scored to put Marseille ahead in the 26th minute, goals from Roberto Carlos and Luis Figo and a double from Brazilian Ronaldo fired Real's Galacticos to an easy 4-2 group stage victory.

"It will be very special for me, I will never forget that day," Drogba was quoted as saying in Galatasaray's club magazine this week.

"It was very important for my career," said the former Chelsea player.

Drogba back to where it all began for Real clash

Drogba was Chelsea's key performer on its run to a first Champions League triumph last season before quitting the London club for a stint in China and then moving to Turkey.

He struck the winning penalty in the final shootout against Bayern Munich, having earlier kept Chelsea in the match with a crashing header two minutes from the end of regular time that leveled the score at 1-1.

"I just grabbed this chance to be able to play at the highest level in Europe again without thinking," he said. "That's why I am here. To have the opportunity to win again."

Wednesday's clash, the fourth between the clubs in UEFA competition, also pits Drogba against his former manager at Chelsea, Jose Mourinho, who is bidding to lead Real to the 10th European crown that has eluded the club since 2002.

The pair was together at Stamford Bridge from 2004 to 2007 and won Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006.

Drogba said Mourinho and his Galatasaray counterpart, Fatih Terim, were excellent motivators.

"Fatih Terim is a lot like Mourinho in that he is very close to the players and always talking with them," he said.

"The psychological factor is very important in soccer and Terim is very meticulous in that respect."

While Real has fallen in the semifinals the past two seasons, it is almost a quarter of a century since Galatasaray last reached the final four.

Alongside Drogba, the other heavyweight in their ranks is Dutchman Wesley Sneijder, who won the Champions League with Mourinho at Inter Milan in 2010.

(China Daily 04/03/2013 page22)