Drogba: 'I told Balotelli to jump at Marseille move'
Didier Drogba has revealed he encouraged Mario Balotelli to join Olympique de Marseille as the OM icon looks forward to Sunday's Classique with Paris Saint-Germain.
Drogba exploded onto the scene with a phenomenal 2003/04 season in the colours of Marseille — his sole year at OM — before joining Chelsea and going on to become a legend in a decade over two spells at Stamford Bridge.
Though he went on to also play in Turkey, China and North America, Drogba's heart remained on the Mediterranean coast. That meant that when he and Balotelli talked about the Italy striker's options, there was only ever going to be one piece of advice Drogba would give.
"I was very happy, especially as we had been talking about it for some time. I was really happy," said the ex-Ivory Coast international, who recently brought the curtain down on his playing career.
WATCH: Mario Balotelli on target in Marseille's defeat of Saint-Étienne
"We had spoken together about it, and I told him, 'Go for it. You have this opportunity, do it, it's a club that will do you good'. You can see now that he's started scoring again and I'm happy for him."
Illness may deprive Balotelli of experiencing Sunday's Classique, which Drogba told Marseille's official website he remembers as a game that stirs the passions of supporters outside and inside the club.
"My first one was at the Véldrome. In Marseille, it's much more than a game. The physio was very careful with me during the week to make sure I played well," said the ex-En Avant Guingamp forward.
"Unfortunately, we lost 1-0. The next week, he didn't want to touch me, he was almost annoyed with me [laughs]. That just shows you the exceptional passion that there is around this game. For Olympiqe de Marseille, it's everything."
A victory at the Parc des Princes would not only give Marseille fans the opportunity to walk into work on Monday with the broadest of smiles, but also help soothe the pain of a season that has not quite lived up to expectations.
Extending their six-game run to seven with a victory over their arch-rivals would also keep Rudi Garcia's side in contention for a top-three finish and UEFA Champions League qualification.
"You don't have the perfect season two times in a row. Even less so these days," said Drogba, whose 03/04 displays carried Marseille to the UEFA Cup final.
"Last season, with the run in the Europa League too, has left its mark. There are difficulties, but I think it's a transition year and that the team will be a lot better next season. The end of this season will show whether certain players have the level or not to hope to have other ambitions next season."
After ending a 20-year professional career that brought four English Premier League titles, four FA Cups and the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League among other trophies, Drogba now has to decide on his next step.
"Whatever I choose, I'll have to feel good and fulfilled. Coaching? Why not, even if it's not something that tempts me most. I've got time to make my mind up and define what could make me happy. I not only have to enjoy it but also succeed."