CONSIDERED one of Cote d'Ivoire's best exports to Europe, Didier Drogba, who has been selected the best player in Africa for 2006, spent his childhood days in France after leaving Africa at the age of five.
He headed for Brest in Brittany, where his uncle, Michel Goba, was a professional footballer. Drogba spent three years there with his uncle, living in Brest, Angoulême and Dunkerque, before returning home.
But a downturn in economic conditions, compelled him to return to his uncle in Dunkerque, and this time began to play football.
His parents also moved to France in 1991 and that opened the way for Drogba, then fifteen years to sign for Levallois FC.
Living with his cousin, Olivier Tébily, who now plays for Birmingham City in the English Championships, Drogba rose through the ranks at Levallois, playing for them in Ligue 2 aged 18.
Four years later he signed for Le Mans, then in Ligue 2. After achieving a professional contract, he had a respectable first season, scoring seven goals.
Though injury dogged his next two seasons it did not prevent En Avant Guingamp, who had seen the potential in him, from luring him away.
At Guingamp, he scored 17 goals in his first year in 2002, which earned them the seventh place on the league, their highest ever.
Former European champions Olympique de Marseille came knocking for services after just one and half seasons at Guingamp but consistent Drogba bagged 19 goals which was rewarded with the French Footballer of the Year Award in 2003.
In July 2004, he became one of major arrivals at Stamford Bridge upon the take over by Russian Roman Abramovich, who coughed a then club record of £24 million for the Ivorian hitman.
His 16 goals in his first season was crucial to the "Blues" second league title in their 50-year history as well as the team's semi-final campaign in the UEFA Champions League, scoring some classic goals.
Come 2005-2006, the Chelsea attack was boosted by the arrival of Hernan Crespo after a loan spell at AC Milan, and Drogba was a hero the in Charity Shield, scoring two goals against London rivals Arsenal.
He finished the season as the league top assist provider as Chelsea won her second successive championship.
At the African Cup of Nations in Egypt in January 2006, Drogba inspired a young Ivorian side to the finals of the competition, only to lose to hosts Egypt after a marathon penalty shoot-out.
Before that he had led them to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, at the expense of the Indomitable Lions and Cameroon and the Pharaohs of Egpyt.
But that could not land him the 2005 CAF best player award, placing second to Cameroonian Samuel Eto'o, who completed a hat-trick.
At the World Cup, it was a disappointed outing for the Elephants, but Drogba made history by scoring the West African nation's first ever goal at that stage in the 2-1 loss to two-time winners Argentina.
A win 3-2 win over Serbia and Montenegro ensured they finished third behind the powerhouses Argentina and Holland, but not a ticket to the next round.
After the World Cup, the arrival of Michael Ballack, Andriy Shevchenko, Salomon Kalou and Mikel John Obi at Stamford was considered a threat but the Ivorian striker has allayed those fears with some wonderful performances.
The leading scorer in the English Premiership has scored 25 goals in all competitions, which makes him a likelier candidate for the European Golden Boot Award.
His rich vein of form in all competitions has seen him scoring some wonderful goals including a wonderful strike against Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League group stages and lovely volley against Liverpool in the Premiership.
Those two goals are in reckoning for the best goal of the season and other individual awards.
In November 2006, he was appointed a Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and rounded it off by being named Ivorian Player of the year, beating his close friend Kolo Toure and Aruna Dindane.
The Ivorian surprisingly finished third in the poll for the BBC African Footballer of the Award, behind Mohammed Abou-Treika and winner Michael Essien.
That notwithstanding he scored two goals in the Carling Cup final as Chelsea beat Arsenal 2-1 for their first silverware of the season.
Full name: Didier Yves Drogba Tébily
Date of Birth: 11 March 1978
Place of Birth: Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire
Height: 1.88 m
Nickname: The Drog, Didi, Top Drog
Current club: Chelsea
Previous clubs: Le Mans, Avant Guingamp, Olympique Marseille.
National team debut: 2002
Caps: 40 (28 goals)
Didier Drogba has been chosen the best player in Africa for 2006. In a poll which included coaches from all 52 members of the African Football Federation (CAF), Drogba, star striker for Cote d'Ivoire and Chelsea, beat out three-time winner Samuel Eto'o and Chelsea compatriot Michael Essien from Ghana. Here is the complete list of winners:
Inter-club player of the year
Mohamed Abou-Treika (Ahli, Egypt)
National team of the year
Club of the year
Young player of the year
Taiwo Taye (Nigeria, Olympique de Marseille)
Woman footballer of the year
Cynthia Uwak (Nigeria)
Coach of the year
Manuel José (Ahli)
El-Hadari- Egypt (Ahli)
Emmanuel Eboué - Cote d'Ivoire (Arsenal, England)
K. Touré - Cote d'Ivoire (Arsenal, England)
Wa'el Gomaa - Egypt (Ahli, Egypt)
Taiwo Taye -- Nigeria (Marseille, France)
Mohamed Abou-Treika -- Egypt (Ahli, Egypt)
Michael Essien -- Ghana (Chelsea, England)
Didier Zokora - Cote d'Ivoire (Tottenham, England)
Mamadou Diarra - Mali (Real Madrid, Spain)
Samuel Eto'o - Cameroon (Barcelona, Spain)
D. Drogba - Cote d'Ivoire (Chelsea, England)