One of the more engaging matchups in Thursday’s 2016 MLS All-Star Game at Avaya Stadium will be the reunion of two former Chelsea teammates, both near the ends of their careers, and both boasting similarly iconic resumes.
Legendary 38-year-old striker Didier Drogba — who has 19 goals in 23 games over two seasons for the Montreal Impact — will attack the goal of Arsenal first-teamer Petr Cech, who jumped to Highbury after 11 standout seasons at Stamford Bridge.
Cech told reporters Tuesday’s that bragging rights will be on the line between the two former teammates:
“Obviously I hope [Drogba] doesn’t score, because then for a whole year he would be texting me a picture of the goal.”
Cech made the comment jokingly, suggesting the level of friendship he maintains with the Ivorian striker.
Asked about Cech’s reluctance to concede to him, Drogba echoed that he would abuse his bragging rights and send him pictures of the goal:
“All year, he knows he knows.”
The two players were teammates on Chelsea from 2004 to 2015, excepting two seasons Drogba spent with Shanghai Shenhua in China, and Galatasaray in Turkey.
As teammates, the pair played integral roles in four Premier League titles (2005, 2006, 2010, 2015), as well as a memorable 2012 Champions League final win in penalties over Bayern Munich. Drogba’s late header in the 88th minute found the top corner to equalize the match, before Cech saved a low-driven Arjen Robben penalty to send the game into a shootout. Drogba went on to hit the game-clinching penalty.
Cech said that he was excited at the opportunity to play against Drogba, even though it wasn’t their first time facing each other:
“He’s been my team-mate for 10 years and then obviously we faced each other in the Champions League when he was with Galatasaray, but I’m looking forward to that because playing against top players is always challenging.
Despite having spent nine seasons with Cech, Drogba said he didn’t have any advantage:
“There’s not many tricks to score against him and he knows how to block my shots. But I’m ready. I’m ready for him.”
Drogba also offered his praise for the Czech goalkeeper beyond his on-the-field ability:
“He was one of the best professionals as a player and also as a teammate. He is always trying to progress. He’s a leader as well. When he came to Arsenal, the team conceded less goals. It’s not only because of him, but it can be his winning mentality and attitude. For me he’s one of the best goalkeepers of the world.”
In his first season with Arsenal, Cech re-established himself as one of the league’s elite, leading to an eventual 2nd place finish in the league table.
Drogba admitted it was tough to see Cech as a Gunner, but that it doesn’t take away from his legacy with Chelsea:
“It is tough but he has to do what he has to do. He is doing what is best for him and for his career, but people respect him at Chelsea. People respect him for everything he has done for the club and what he brings to a team. There’s no hard feelings.”
Drogba flirted with the idea of becoming a coach with Chelsea, which he may still do, before signing on with MLS for the Impact. Drogba said that Cech was happy about Drogba’s move across the pond:
“He was happy for me to come and play more. We know the league because we played against the All-Star team in 2007 and we lost against the team. I hope he loses again.”