My top Drogs! 10 strikers who can match Chelsea ace Didier
22:03 GMT, 23 April 2012
Martin Keown last week provided a fascinating insight into what it's like to play against Didier Drogba. Here he gives us the lowdown on the best forwards he faced.
Playing against top players makes you sharper and can turn you into a different animal on the pitch.
I was dismissive of my opponents because I didn't want to create any fear. I had to believe I was better than them and had the tools to deal with whatever they threw at me. I saw that same attitude with Gary Cahill up against Lionel Messi last week.
That doesn't mean that there weren't plenty of strikers who were difficult to face. Here are the ones who tested me (not including what Messrs Henry, Anelka, Wright and Bergkamp did to me in training!).
Hard worker: Rush
Mark Hughes. He gave as good as he got and never feigned injury or moaned. You would get clouted, there were heavy challenges but it wasn't dirty or cynical. It was an honest afternoon's work.
My final encounter with him was in 2002 and it was just as hard as the first in 1986. He was brave in the air and a great technician, too. That's why he played for the best clubs in Europe.
BEST IN THE AIR
You never had a great chance of winning the ball against Niall Quinn or Duncan Ferguson because they were so big but with Les Ferdinand you felt you had a chance because he was only 5ft 11in. But he had such great spring he could have been an international high jumper.
MOST LETHAL FINISHER
Robbie Fowler. He made it look so easy and would punish you if you made a mistake. He scored nine goals against Arsenal for Liverpool. His anticipation was great and he was very focused and determined in front of goal. He had no doubt in his mind that he would score – there was an air of confidence about him.
Speed demon: Owen
There was a small window in Michael Owen's career – between 1997 and 2001 – when he was the sharpest I've played against. Because he was so small, you had to lean on him to slow him, using your height and weight advantage. You had to stay very close to him. He also had a knack of being wherever the ball landed in the box.
Romario. I only played against him for 20 minutes, for England. He was impossible to play against. One minute he'd sprint into space and as soon as he felt you behind him, he'd switch direction and go the other way.
And all this was without the ball. And you were supposed to keep up! He and Ronaldo complemented each other brilliantly.
Teddy Sheringham. He used to drag you into areas to create space for other people. You can see why he went to Manchester United when Eric Cantona left. You'd want to go with him to stop him getting on the ball but you knew that would create space behind you. It was very frustrating to play against him.
Head boy: Shearer was the epitome of Mr Consistency
Season after season, Alan Shearer was the focal point of whichever team he played for. The tussle for the ball started well before he received it as he tried to create an area for himself to get possession. He used his body exceptionally well, so you had to fight for the space with him – you couldn't allow him to boss you.
I had a pretty decent record against him in an Arsenal shirt, though – he only managed three goals.
Gabriel Batistuta. He hit the ball so hard, the best example being a thumping winner for Fiorentina against Arsenal at Wembley.
I was very physical against him because of his reputation. The players with the biggest reputations had to know they couldn't take liberties with you. But after the game, there was always that knowing professionalism with him. We had a healthy respect for each other.
When you had the ball, Ian Rush was a nightmare. He closed you down so quickly, working so hard. He was that great Liverpool side's first line of defence. His attitude is something young players today should take note of. People think of him for his goals, but his work rate was just as important.
Gary Lineker could spend the rest of the game as if he were reading the newspaper and then he would come alive once the ball arrived in the box. That's why he was so effective in international football, which is about flashes. Slow-slow-slow-bang. That was Lineker, he was suited to that.
Mind you, as a defender, you couldn't leave too much green grass behind you because he was rapid, too.