Says new Chelsea powerhouse: ‘I prefer football that’s pretty tough physically. That suits my characteristics best’
DIDIER DROGBA used to bully Arsenal with his sheer physicality.
And now Chelsea will unleash a new powerhouse on the Gunners on Sunday in Tiemoue Bakayoko.
The French midfielder says Drogba, who tormented Arsenal with 13 goals in 15 appearances, was the inspiration behind his £40million move to Stamford Bridge.
Bakayoko, 23, who watched the Blues legend while growing up in Paris, revealed:
“It’s always been a club I liked since I was young, especially because of guys like Drogba having been here.
“I’d make a point of watching their games so I had this club close to my heart growing up. So I’m happy to be wearing their shirt.
“I think my game is going to progress from being here.
“I prefer football that’s pretty tough physically. That suits my characteristics best.”
Bakayoko opened his Chelsea account with a goal in the 6-0 Champions League drubbing of Qarabag on Tuesday night.
He added: “I feel very at home, Chelsea feels like a big family. I’m very happy to have scored my first goal. It’s a dream come true.”
Bakayoko admits Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger is still revered at his former club Monaco.
He added: “Wenger is a legend at Monaco. They have great memories of him.
“During my time there, they spoke a lot to me about him. And today he’s doing a very good job at Arsenal.
“He’s a very good coach and I’m happy to have the chance to play against his club.
“It’s always been something we’re proud about, to have a French compatriot coaching Arsenal.
“It’s true Arsenal as a club have a bigger following among French people because of him and because there have been a lot of French players who have gone there and built great careers over the years.”
Bakayoko has had to fight all the way to the top after growing up in poverty on the Parisian backstreets.
He was one of eight children to Ivorian parents and lived in a council flat.
Rudy Mirabel, 23, has been a friend since they were four and went to school together.
He said: “When you come from a disadvantaged background and your parents work hard to make ends meet, you want to please them and give them the comfort and wealth they didn’t have.
“When we were growing up, we were poor but could see wealth next door — and that was a big motivation.
“Tiemoue was aware of the poverty and wanted to overcome it.
“Everything he owns he worked for, he didn’t steal it. People say footballers get overpaid but Tiemoue has sacrificed so much.
“And the wealth hasn’t changed him. He’s still the down-to-earth, non-materialistic person he always was and has never forgotten his roots. It’s what shaped him and continues to.”
Bakayoko twice feared his dream was over. First, when the French Football Federation rejected him joining their Clairfontaine academy, and when he broke his leg aged 13 playing for Montrouge.
His former coach Mathieu Laporte shudders when he recalls the lowest point of Bakayoko’s journey.
He said: “Tiemoue was at Montrouge from 2006 to 2008 and broke his leg in the second season. We had to lift his spirits after his Clairfontaine rejection.
“Many clubs were interested — PSG, Rennes, Monaco. And during the December of his second year, he signed to join Rennes at the end of the season. But then in January he broke his right leg.
“He was crying because he had already suffered one setback and didn’t want to fail again.
“He feared Rennes would lose interest and his dream was over. But he fully recovered and moved in June.”
Ex-team-mate Tacine Roussi said: “I saw his body physically changing from Rennes to signing for Monaco. He became a monster.
“When we were children, he was skinny but it was almost impossible to get it off him.”