Chelsea will find it strange to be up against their Champions League-winning hero Didier Drogba in Wednesday’s clash with Galatasaray, said manager Jose Mourinho.
While the London club’s players and backroom staff will maintain their friendship with the Ivorian before and after the match, they will be fierce rivals during the 90 minutes of the last-16 first leg tie in Istanbul.
“It’s a strange feeling but we know him well and if you know him well you know that for him there are no friends during the game,” Mourinho told reporters after a late John Terry goal secured a 1-0 win for the Premier League leaders over Everton on Saturday.
“For us just before the game we will be big friends and have big respect for a real legend of the club. During the game we will have a job to do.
“He has his nature and that nature is to want to win.”
Drogba is Chelsea’s record European scorer with 34 goals in 69 games.
He bagged nine goals in nine domestic and European finals and his sizeable contribution to the club’s recent history is apparent from the number of posters of him still dotted around Stamford Bridge.
Drogba moved to Chelsea in 2004, Mourinho’s first season, and stayed after the Portuguese left in 2007, his goals against Bayer Leverkusen, Valencia, Napoli and in the semi-final against Barcelona helping them into the 2012 Champions League final.
In the final against Bayern Munich at the German team’s own Allianz Arena, Drogba headed a late equaliser in a 1-1 draw and then struck the winning penalty in the shootout.
He left the club a few days later, saying he had achieved everything he wanted with Chelsea, before spending a few months playing in China and then moving on to Turkey.
Mourinho, who rejoined Chelsea in the close season, said he had already experienced the strange feeling of playing against Drogba.
The Portuguese was at Inter Milan four years ago when he took on Drogba and Chelsea, and also held the reins at Real Madrid last year when the Spanish giants met Galatasaray.
Both times Mourinho was on the winning side.
“Last season my team was a team ready to win the Champions League and we had trouble against them,” said the Chelsea manager.
“We won in Madrid but we lost in Istanbul and we were in trouble.
“They have a good team, a very experienced team, people who have had a long run at a high level…they have Champions League winners,” Mourinho said.
He cited Dutchman Wesley Sneijder, Drogba’s Ivory Coast team mate Emmanuel Eboue and Brazilian Felipe Melo as “people who have played with the best clubs in the world”.
“The Turkish guys are the best Turkish players,” added Mourinho. “They have (Hamit) Altintop, (Burak) Yilmaz, (Selcuk) Inan. They are a top team.”
Mourinho is hoping Brazil defender David Luiz and Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel, who missed the Everton game with minor injuries, will be fit for Wednesday as new signing Nemanja Matic is cup-tied.
“I think it’s a tie to go to the end, really to the end,” said the Chelsea manager. (Editing by Tony Jimenez)