There's no more 'I' in Didier
Follow Martin Rogers on Twitter at @mrogersyahoo
The new English Premier League season started much as the last one finished, with Didier Drogba scoring goals.
Lots of them.
Three months after putting the finishing touch to Chelsea's 2010 EPL title with a final-day hat trick against Wigan Athletic in May, the Ivory Coast striker was up to his usual tricks again on Saturday, knocking in three more goals in a 6-0 rout of West Bromwich Albion.
Same old Drogba, right? Perhaps not.
Worryingly for defenders around the Premiership and Chelsea's title rivals (are you listening Manchester United?), early indications are that the latest incarnation of Drogba could be even better than the previous model. The 32-year-old is still as hungry as ever for goals, but he now appears to be even more determined to stash a bunch of trophies in the Stamford Bridge boardroom.
Many times during his six-year stint in West London, Drogba has been an unsettled soul, pining for life back in France with Marseille or failing to hide his desire to reunite with former Chelsea head coach Jose Mourinho. Now, though, that sense has gone. And with every word, every action and every goal, Drogba appears utterly locked in on becoming a Chelsea legend.
Despite his success last season, concerns were raised by his petulant behavior in the final game of the campaign. Locked in a race with Man United's Wayne Rooney to finish as the EPL's top scorer, Drogba was furious when Frank Lampard stepped up to take a first-half penalty kick instead of handing over the PK duties and allowing him to boost his tally.
In the end, Drogba would go on to outscore Rooney with a trio of second-half goals, and perhaps the incident taught him a valuable lesson. Certainly at no time during his Chelsea career has he looked as sharp and motivated so early in a season as he did Saturday.
What's more, Drogba is making all the right noises off the field as well.
"I'd rather score 20 goals but win the Champions League and the Premier League," said Drogba, who managed 37 in all competitions last season. "It's not really about my performance but I've always tried to improve my statistics. It's just the mentality I have. It's important in the collective game to improve as an individual and bring a lot to the team."
Drogba had a disappointing World Cup, his tournament hampered by an untimely elbow injury to go along with a groin problem that has since been fixed with surgery. The looming figure that so terrorized West Brom on Saturday was a long way removed from his comparatively restrained efforts in South Africa over the summer.
That dominance is a big reason why Chelsea will take a lot of stopping as it seeks to defend its title. Even though destroying freshly promoted West Brom is far different from taking on a genuine contender, it was an ominous portent nonetheless.
When Sunday morning brought a new batch of rumors linking Drogba with a switch to Mourinho's Real Madrid, plenty of EPL opponents would have hoped such speculation comes true. Far better that than the other story to come out – that Drogba is considering playing on for another six years.
Realistically, though, it is hard to see Drogba being allowed to go anywhere. He is so crucial to Chelsea's title aspirations, and even if he had the choice there is every chance he would rebuff the charms of the Special One.
For Drogba has realized, after all this time, that he has been where he belongs all along.