It was Oscar Levant, the great American pianist and composer, who first wrote about the fine line between genius and insanity. Then Annie Lennox and the Eurythmics sang of the thin line between love and hate. Now Carlo Ancelotti has completed the trilogy.
“The difference between a prima donna and a leader is a centimetre,” he tells the Daily Mail’s Chief sports writer Martin Samuel in a revealing interview. And, curiously enough, he puts Didier Drogba on the right side of the line.
Now Drogba has always struck me as very much a prima donna. And at times, when he’s falling over and looking far more fragile than a 14stone giant really should, as a bit of a prima ballerina too! Ever since he arrived at Stamford Bridge, some five years ago, he’s done the full range of tiaras and tantrums to make Elton John look cool, calm and self effacing.
There’s been the rant into the cameras after last year’s Champions League semi-final, an annual “will-he, won’t-he leave” saga, assorted cheating and diving controversies, and the intrigue over how much part he played in getting Luiz Felipe Scolari sacked.
There have also been bundles of goals, enough to make him already the ninth highest scorer in the history of a club whose past stars included the great Peter Osgood, Bobby Tambling and Jimmy Greaves. So the silliest thing to do when Ancelotti arrived at the club in the summer would have been to have shown him the door.
Instead the Italian has tapped into Drogba’s desire to be seen as the most important player in his dressing room and encouraged him to stay the right side of that centimetre.
“The leader uses his talent for the team, the prima donna for himself, but Drogba has never been a prima donna for me,” he says. “He reminds me of the great players.
“I used to play with Marco van Basten at Milan. I asked him how we should give the ball to him. He said: ‘Just pass it and then start running to congratulate me.’ He always thought he would score and he was usually right. When he is at his best Drogba can be like that.”
Now we’ve all seen that, of course. On his day Drogba is irresistible, unplayable. The secret is how often any given manager can bring that day from him and the fact that Ancelotti has so much experience of handling the big names and big egos – prima donnas, even – from world football suggests he could be the man.
Drogba has five goals from his six Premier League matches so far, and while none of those have been against the other big four clubs it does suggest he’s a man on a roll. And yet he’s 9.4 to be the top scorer this season. That price has slipped out because he’ll miss this weekend because of a calf injury, but he’ll be back in time to face Liverpool on October 4.
And Fernando Torres, who is in comparison far too short at 3.75, is just as prone to missing matches across the course of a season, be it through injuries or Rafa Benitez’s love of rotation. If you missed out on Jermain Defoe when he was 22.0 in the same market (he’s 8.6 now), the giant Chelsea striker has become the stand-out bet.
Ancelotti began the season talking about trying to win all four trophies, including the Carling Cup, and that’s why they are 5.9 favourites. He gets a first look at the depth of his squad when Chelsea play QPR tomorrow night. He’s essentially used just 14 players so far, so it will be interesting to see how many of those front liners get rested in the least glamorous of the competitions. Betfair’s punters are trusting it won’t be many as they make the Blues 1.25 to win in the 90 minutes.
Five things you might not know about Didier Drogba:
1. He left his Ivory Coast home aged five to live with his uncle, Michel Goba, a professional footballer in France. They shared three different homes in three years before the young Didier went back to Africa, taking a collection of souvenir shirts with him.
2. At the age of 11 his parents, both bank workers, lost their jobs and the whole family returned to France. He started playing right back for a school team before his Uncle told him: “Only the goalscorers get noticed”
3. His first move to the big time, when Paris St Germain were about to sign him, was held up because he broke a foot by tripping over a sprinkler head.
4. His 17-year-old brother Freddy is emerging as a promising midfielder with Le Mans.
5. The 33 goals he scored in 2006-7 made him the first Chelsea player to get more than 30 in a campaign since Kerry Dixon 22 years earlier
Reproduced with permission from betting.betfair.com. Ã‚Â© The Sporting Exchange Limited
MORE: Man United latest news
MORE: Arsenal latest news
MORE: Chelsea latest news
MORE: Liverpool latest news