JOHANNESBURG – Former Chelsea FC striker Didier Drogba says fellow African footballers Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané shouldn’t drop their heads following Liverpool FC’s devastating defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League final last weekend.
Drogba says the two LFC stars will get another chance to claim glory – just like he did.
The Ivorian footballer missed out on Champions League glory in 2008 when his team, Chelsea, was defeated by Manchester United in the final.
However, four years later, Drogba lifted the Champions League trophy in Germany against Bayern Munich. “It was obviously devastating to lose a Champions League final,” Drogba told the Saturday Star.
“We worked so hard to get to the final, and to lose on penalties was terrible.
“At the time we were a very strong team. Everyone was disappointed, but we knew that we would get another chance to go to a final. When we went to Munich, we did everything to win it.
“I think losing in 2008 had helped me a lot, and given me an added push to get into another Champions League final.”
The 40-year-old Ivorian, who led the Blues to a dramatic victory in 2012, was in South Africa last weekend as part of Heineken’s Share The Drama campaign.
Despite a heartbreaking end for the Reds this season, Drogba praised the English team for the attacking football that they played in the past season.
“Liverpool blew away their opponents in Europe this season. You look at the games against Porto, Manchester City and Roma, and even the group stage matches. They were unbelievable and so they deserved a place in the final.
“There weren’t many better attacking teams in the world than Liverpool this season. They scored plenty and played exciting football.”
Drogba was also full of praise for Egyptian forward Salah’s contribution. The Egyptian scored the most goals by an African player in the English Premier League this season.
Salah scored 32 goals in the Premiership this season, three more than Drogba himself, who had held the record until this season.
“I’m really happy that it’s Salah that broke my record. I really like him. He deserves it. When someone plays so well consistently, throughout the season, they deserve the plaudits.
“They deserve to break records. His performances have been out of this world, so I am really pleased for him.”
Drogba added that he wasn’t surprised by Salah’s incredible performance during his first season at Liverpool.
“I knew he had the ability. I had seen him at Chelsea, and he was a wonderful footballer. Even before he had joined Chelsea, I had seen some of his games for his team, Basel.
“I saw the talent and potential. It was just a matter of time till he reached his full potential, which we are all seeing now at Liverpool.”
Meanwhile, Drogba says he was thrilled to be back in South Africa, having made some great memories during the 2010 World Cup.
Drogba had almost missed out on competing at the World Cup in South Africa after he broke his right arm in a friendly match.
But a call from former President Nelson Mandela had pushed Drogba to fight back from his injury so that he could make it to the first World Cup in Africa.
“I was in my hotel room in Switzerland at the time when I got a call from Mr Mandela. He told me ‘A World Cup in Africa without you is not a World Cup’. I get goosebumps just thinking about that moment.
“So, I fought hard to make sure that I was fit to play at the 2010 World Cup. He gave me some Madiba Magic.”@SamNaik01 @raees1010