Demba Ba is the cover star of the latest edition of Chelsea magazine, and the club’s most recent acquisition – our only incoming player during the January transfer window – casts his mind back over what has been a rather unconventional route to the Premier League and, in particular, Stamford Bridge.
The Senegalese international joined the Blues at the turn of the year from Newcastle United, before endearing himself to supporters immediately with a brace on his debut, the 5-1 FA Cup win at Southampton. Unfortunately, on his return to Tyneside on Saturday, he suffered a broken nose and is seeing a specialist to have the injury assessed.
Now at his third English club, after previously undergoing spells in France, Belgium and Germany, the 27-year-old striker speaks in the interview about how he got into the game, his route since and his ambitions for the future.
On his initial move away from his home he tells Chelsea: ‘It was simple to make all these sacrifices because, if I had not done all this, I would still be in Paris, chilling with my family and doing a normal job.
‘So, I took a chance and it helped me a lot to have all these experiences abroad. I went for a trial in Italy, with a team in the fourth league there, and to a lot of teams in England and Belgium. I learned a lot from different people and from living that life as well.
‘Step by step, I moved forward. First to Hoffenheim, where I got promoted to the Bundesliga and had three-and-a-half good seasons, and from there, I came to England.
‘I started in the Premier League in January 2011, with West Ham, who took a chance on me. I remember Avram Grant was giving me a lot of confidence while I was playing there. Then, I was signed by Newcastle, where I spent 18 really good months.’
Given his grounding within the game, it comes as no surprise that Ba is a player who fully appreciates the position he now finds himself in.
‘I’ve always respected the places where I have played and the shirt that I wear,’ he says.
‘I give my all until the last minute because I play for the club. I respect the shirt and I fight for it. That’s my mentality.
‘In the early days, I had a lot of different experiences and a lot of trials that ended up in non-decisions – in France, in England and in other countries.
‘I’ve played and had trials in a lot of small teams, but all these experiences have made me what I am today.’
After opening his Chelsea account at St Mary’s, Ba netted his first home goal for the Blues 10 days later against the same opposition.
His goalscoring record at past clubs speaks for itself, and while there is plenty to admire about Ba’s work outside the penalty area, he acknowledges that inside the box is where he will ultimately be judged.
‘You know, I just do my job and, for a striker, the job is to help the team to win games by scoring goals first of all,’ he explains.
‘It’s not only about scoring goals, but it helps you a lot and it helps the team when you do so.
‘Everywhere I went, that’s what I tried to do, without being selfish in front of goal, but always for the team.’
Elsewhere in the magazine, in Football Men, David Luiz looks back on his career thus far and selects those individuals who have had the biggest impact on his time in the game.
The Brazilian reserves kind words for a number of the coaches he has worked under, including three former Chelsea managers, as well as his father, and singles out a current member of the Blues squad for his gentleman-like qualities.
Robert Fleck looks back
Robert Fleck, our record signing when he moved to Stamford Bridge in 1992, recalls his Chelsea career in this month’s Boys Are Back in Town feature, talking about the burden of the fee, his relationship with the supporters and his disappointment at missing the 1994 FA Cup final.
FA hits the 150 mark
The Football Association this year celebrates its 150th anniversary, and Chelsea chose this month’s issue to mark the milestone by acknowledging the ways in which the Blues have contributed to the organisation’s success, with nods to Stamford Bridge, the FA Cup and those Chelsea players who have gone on to represent the national side.
The latest edition of Chelsea is on sale now and available from all good newsagents and the Megastore, priced at £3.25.