After playing in youth teams, Drogba made his professional debut aged 18 for Ligue 2 club Le Mans, and signed his first professional contract aged 21. After finishing the 2002–03 season with 17 goals in 34 appearances for Ligue 1 side Guingamp, he moved to Olympique de Marseille, where he finished as the third highest scorer in the 2003–04 season with 19 goals and helped the club reach the 2004 UEFA Cup Final.
In the summer of 2004, Drogba moved to Premier League club Chelsea for a club record £24 million fee, making him the most expensive Ivorian player in history. In his debut season he helped the club win their first league title in 50 years, and a year later he won another Premier League title. In March 2012, he became the first African player to score 100 Premier League goals, and also became the only player in history to score in four separate FA Cup finals the same year, when he scored in Chelsea's win over Liverpool in the 2012 final. He also played in the 2012 UEFA Champions League Final, in which he scored an 88th-minute equaliser and the winning penalty in the deciding shoot-out against Bayern Munich. After spending 6 months with Shanghai Shenhua in China, and one and a half seasons with Turkish club Galatasaray where he scored the winning goal in the final of the 2013 Turkish Super Cup, Drogba returned to Chelsea in July 2014. With a career record of scoring 10 goals in 10 finals winning 10 trophies at club level, Drogba has been referred to as the "ultimate big game player."
An Ivory Coast international between 2002 and 2014, Drogba captained the national team from 2006 until his retirement from the Ivory Coast team and is the nation's all-time top goalscorer with 65 goals from 104 appearances. He led the Ivory Coast to the 2006 FIFA World Cup, their first appearance in the tournament, and also scored their first goal. He later captained the Ivory Coast at the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cups. He was part of the Ivory Coast teams that reached the final of the Africa Cup of Nations in 2006 and 2012, but were beaten on penalties on both occasions. On 8 August 2014, he announced his retirement from international football.