ABIDJAN (Reuters) - Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba is among football’s most recognizable faces, with a worldwide profile built on the back of his club performances rather than his international ones.
Drogba, a bulldozing center forward with a delicate set-piece touch, will get the opportunity at next month’s World Cup to enhance his reputation on the world stage following a triumphant season in which his goals fired Chelsea to their first Double in England.
Time is running out for the 32-year-old, his country’s all-time leading scorer with 42 goals in 66 internationals, and his form is again likely to dictate the team’s success in South Africa.
He has had a mixed career for the Elephants. He missed the decisive penalty in the shootout when Ivory Coast lost in the 2006 African Nations Cup final to hosts Egypt.
He had an off day when his team imploded in the semi-finals of the 2008 tournament after their performances had made them tournament favorites.
It was a similar case in Angola this January, when the Ivorians went out at the quarter-final stage to fellow World Cup qualifiers Algeria in a game in which Drogba looked out of sorts.
Drogba hails from a footballing family. His uncle Michel Goba played in France, where Drogba was raised from the age of five, and his cousin Olivier Tebily played in the English Premier League and for the Ivorian national side.
His career was slow to get off the ground but once he started banging in goals for Le Mans in Ligue 2, his fortunes changed quickly.
Drogba was 25 when he scored 17 goals for Guingamp in Ligue 1 before sealing a lucrative move to Olympique Marseille and after just one season he completed a 24-million-pound ($34.69 million) switch to Chelsea in 2004.
The twice African Footballer of the Year has enjoyed a glittering stay at Stamford Bridge, helping Chelsea to win three English titles and three FA Cups with his powerful forward play.
But a Champions League winner’s medal has eluded him, just like the international success he still craves.
Writing by Mark Gleeson in Johannesburg; Editing by Ed Osmond