So has the city of Marseilles. When asked whether Drogba would play some part in Wednesday's game, his first return to the Stade Velodrome since signing for Chelsea in 2004, Carlo Ancelotti chuckled. 'Didier will start,' he said. 'I am not crazy.'
Big-name hunters: Young Marseille fans jostle for Drogba's autograph
A frenzied homecoming is guaranteed for a player who spent only one season in the French city.
Ancelotti might not have made it out alive had he kept his 32-year-old centre forward on the bench. Drogba never wanted to leave Marseille in the first place. Chelsea's £24million offer was simply too good to refuse, which explains why he spent so long moping around Stamford Bridge with the demeanour of a lovesick teenager when he first arrived.
'I'm coming home, this is a meeting I've been waiting for ever since I left Olympique Marseille,' said Drogba. 'I was disgusted at having to sign for Chelsea. That may seem strange but that's how I felt. No offence but Chelsea didn't mean a whole lot in France. It didn't mean much to me. I knew they were great footballers but it wasn't my team. It wasn't my OM. 'I just didn't have any desire to be part of their team.'
Lost love: Drogba in his only season with Marseille
He describes the feeling of being sold against his wishes as being 'stabbed in the heart' and devoted a chapter of his autobiography to his lost love. It starts: 'How can I explain this passion which borders on insanity? Words sometimes fail me. This virus has spread through my blood, the blood of a long-time fan. I loved this club even before I joined it. I fell head over heels for it. One season was all it took to steal my heart.'
There was no way Drogba was going to miss this game, even before manager Ancelotti declared it key to the restoration of Chelsea's self-belief.
'I do not recall any other player who has this sort of relationship with a club he played at for only one year but it is clear Didier will always have a big place in his heart for Marseille,' said Ancelotti, although the Chelsea boss is more concerned that his centre forward starts to find the net again.
'It will be emotional for him to play here. He wants to play well and show he is the best. He will want to show the supporters the player he is.'
Drogba came of age at Marseille. He was plucked from unfashionable Guingamp by Alain Perrin and quickly established himself as a leader in the dressing room amid general chaos behind the scenes.
He plundered 19 league goals, was named France's player of the year and scored 11 more in Europe, knocking out Newcastle and Liverpool before losing the UEFA Cup final to Valencia.
Fans seized him as an icon, parading a banner before games which read: 'Drogba score for us' and before the European final he presented his Marseille shirt to the city's basilica, where it still hangs.
In this climate of adoration, he shrugged off rumours that Jose Mourinho was planning to swoop, insisting he had no desire to leave, only to be stunned when his agent Pape Diouf told him the bid had been accepted.
Looking back now, he admits the move to London and his time with Mourinho and others helped develop, though rumours of a return still swirl.
Last night he played the diplomat and offered a muddy response to a question about where he might end his career.
Drogba has won three Barclays Premier League titles and three FA Cups but the Champions League so far eludes him. This year it is a priority and he will be grateful nothing is at stake tonight, as both clubs have qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League.
He knows, however, that it is vital to recapture his form after suffering from malaria. It is two months since his last goal from open play.
'It is important for me to play better than I am doing now,' he added. 'I have been sick for a few weeks and it has been difficult to come back to full fitness really quickly. I am happy with the way I have recovered and am trying to help the team but I know I must do better.'
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