At Levallois Didier was immediately put under the charge of Srebencko Repcic, a former Yugoslavian international who was technical director of the club. Didier demonstrated his commitment from a very early stage. “He didn’t go out to nightclubs on the nights before matches like his mates,” remembers Repcic, “he was a very sensible lad.” Talented too. The young man from Abidjan soon made the pitches of the Paris area his own. He became the star of the Under-17 team, coached by Christian Pornin. In two seasons (94-95 and 95-96), the young centre-forward notched up thirty goals. He won over the club’s managers who, the following year, promoted him to the first team. This was coached by Jacques Loncar and played in the French 2nd division.
Scouted by Paris Saint-Germain
Didier continued his apprenticeship as a footballer. In particular, he had to learn patience, and to respect his manager’s decisions. Even though he was the “best in the team” according to Repcic, he didn’t have his manager’s confidence and found himself warming the bench for much of the time. He spent only ten minutes playing in the French 2nd division, but even then managed to score against Fontainebleau. Despite this lack of time on the pitch, the young attacker attracted interest, with Guingamp, Le Mans, Lens and Paris Saint-Germain following his performances very closely.
At 19 he finally burst onto the scene
But it was also at this time that he suffered his first serious injury. He fractured his foot, during a match against Caen, tripping on a sprinkler head and ending up in plaster. This mishap was not enough to throw Le Mans off the scent, however. On the recommendation of Jacques Loncar, Marc Westerloppe, then coach of Le Mans, decided to take Drogba as an apprentice. So Didier packed his bags and moved to France’s Sarthe region. He was 19 years old, and had finally become a professional footballer.