Drogba, 40, drew the curtain down on one of the great modern careers when announcing his retirement late on Wednesday night.
The striker was most recently playing for Phoenix Rising in the United States but will always be associated with his time at Chelsea, whom he joined in 2004, winning four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, the League Cup and the Champions League.
But Drogba says he was considering leaving Chelsea soon after his arrival in 2004 – only for some words of wisdom from Mourinho to transform his career.
“It was a difficult year, coming to Chelsea, and I was like ‘I’m not happy here, maybe it’s not for me and maybe I need to go’. But he was saying ‘No, you have to stay, I will help you, you must stay’.
“I was looking for that comfort zone, which means going back to Marseille, which means being the only striker and the team is playing for you.
Didier Drogba of Chelsea celebrates with the UEFA Champions League trophy after his team's final soccer match against Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in Munich, May 19, 2012
Image credit: Getty Images
Then I heard Mourinho say something really interesting to the whole team. He was saying ‘You know what, if you want to be the only king then go back to the team that you were playing for, scoring 100 goals or so. Go back there. But here, there’s 22 kings. So. you accept it, work together or you go. Go back to where you came from and be the only king where everybody is behind you’.
“Suddenly I thought ‘wow’. I knew I needed to improve and that’s what really challenged me, and it’s why I became the player that I was.”