Drogba: I'm hungrier than ever
Didier Drogba has revealed the hunger to win more medals is driving him on as Chelsea continue to fight for glory on three fronts.
The Ivorian striker, who has scored 25 goals so far this term, claimed he is reaping the rewards from taking a few months out of action to deal with a long-standing knee problem last season. Drogba has scored 36 goals in 52 games since last February, when interim coach Guus Hiddink restored him to the first team.
Chelsea, having reached the semi-finals of the FA Cup with victory over Stoke City last Sunday, return to Premier League action against West Ham United on Saturday, before facing Jose Mourinho's Inter Milan at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday. Both games could be vital to the success of Chelsea's season and Drogba, 32 today, is hungry for more goals and silverware.
"I still have the same passion for the game," said the former Marseille player. "I still feel hungry and I am still chasing medals. I feel really good. As I have said in the past it depends on the injuries you get and this season I can say that I am lucky, or I can say that the few months that I took out last year to get my knee well are now paying off.
"Your lifestyle is only as important as your mental approach to the game. If you put in your head that you are 32 and you are old it is going to be difficult. I still feel like a kid when I am on the pitch, so sometimes Carlo Ancelotti has to pull me back."
Drogba's resurgence began under Hiddink as Chelsea went on to win the FA Cup last season, and his prolific form has continued under Ancelotti. But the hulking forward insisted the Italian manager has done nothing spectacular - apart from make him happy.
"There is not really a big difference in the way Carlo Ancelotti manages me compared with past managers," explained Drogba. "They all know my strengths and my weaknesses and they all give me help to improve those, but especially now they put everything around me that I need to score goals or to be important for the team. That is what really makes me feel happy."
A Premier League triumph for the Blues would be Drogba's third while at the club, but he is reticent to talk about their chances for fear of cursing them. "We have lot of games coming, and big games too, so I don't want to bring bad luck by talking about if we win," he said.
"But this season so far has been really good for me. Even when I came back from the African Nations Cup it was good. I really thought that I was going to be tired and it was going to be difficult for me to come back.
"It was but for a different reason: because Ivory Coast had been knocked out of the competition. But it was also good to be back at Chelsea and scoring again straight away."
In a campaign dominated by off-the-field headlines involving captain John Terry and left-back Ashley Cole, Drogba's leadership inside the dressing room has come to the fore even more. "You can be a leader on the pitch, you can be a leader in the dressing room," said the African Footballer of the Year for 2006.
"There are different kinds of leadership and maybe I do speak when I feel it is important to. When you speak, after that you have to go out on the pitch and show and prove it. That is how people respect you and I think that is how you become a leader. When you speak and then you act, that is what gives you more courage and credibility.
"When I feel it I do it but the good thing is I am not the only one. When I speak, John Terry or Frank Lampard or Michael Ballack, or other players, we are really going in the same direction. That is why sometimes when we have a difficult first half we come back and we try to be stronger."
Drogba has won every domestic medal with Chelsea but he still wants to lift the Champions League prize. His old manager Mourinho stands in his way next week, with Inter 2-1 up from the first leg in the San Siro.
"As long as I play at a high level it will always be my ambition," admitted Drogba. "I think all players dream about it and there are no reasons why it shouldn't happen."