If you’ve been following the news, it looks as though Chelsea legend Didier Drogba is about to move to MLS. The only question seems to be whether the Ivorian striker will head to the Chicago Fire or the Montreal Impact. According to Canadian radio station TSN, the Fire has the priority to sign the 37-year-old, but Drogba has also been talking with Montreal president Joey Saputo.
Coincidentally, Chelsea was in Montreal this week practicing ahead of its first International Champions Cup game on Wednesday night against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena. When asked what advice he would give his former player about playing in Montreal, Blues coach Jose Mourinho was his usual glib self:
"What can I say? I can say if he doesn't have a house yet the hotel is good to stay. I can say that I saw some nice houses when I went for a walk to the top point. The training ground is good, in very good conditions," the Portuguese said. "And the people love football. If not they would not be at the training ground every day, stopping us every day when we go for a walk. The weather is nice for now but I cannot speak about the winter! The colors of the club are also nice!"
Predictably, Mourinho, who has always been very close to Drogba, had little to say about Montreal or the prospect of his former player joining the Impact, as he likely not very familiar with either. But the Chelsea manager had plenty to say about the player he first signed for Chelsea way back in 2004:
"If I owned a club, I would immediately think about a player like him -- a man like him -- to be the center of the club's universe,” Mourinho said when asked about the Drogba-to-MLS rumors. “He is very strong in the dressing room. He is very strong in his image. He is a great example of a club man and the fact that he didn't accept an offer to stay with us.”
That last part was new information. Drogba had announced on May 24, the final day of the Premier League season, that the game against Sunderland, which the Blues won 3-1, would be his last for Chelsea, as he decided to looks elsewhere to ride out his final few years as a player.
But had Mourinho tried to convince him to continue playing for Chelsea? "At the end of last season we let him choose what he wanted to do with us," the Chelsea coach said. "For him not to accept that, and decide to delay coaching for two years' time, because obviously he will be back with us in two years' time; to not accept that and say clearly that he still wants to enjoy his football two more years is the best answer. He feels in great conditions for two more years."
Now, Off The Post has no inside information here, but judging by Mourinho’s ambiguous words, it sounds as though Drogba was offered any Chelsea role he wanted, but only as part of the club’s staff, and the Ivorian turned the offer down because he wanted to continue playing.
As a Chelsea fan, OTP, for one, has absolutely no problem with that. Drogba, like Frank Lampard who was shown the door the season before, was an excellent player and ambassador for the club. He won everything there is to win alongside fellow legends Lampard and John Terry and he will one day come back in the capacity of his choosing, which Blues fans are certainly looking forward to.
Now, here’s the really hard part: MLS should steer clear of signing the Ivorian.
Once a force that almost couldn’t even be reckoned with, Drogba, at 37, is a shadow of the player he used to be. Sure, the big man is still good in the air and can body anybody in any league off the ball for as long as he chooses, but the speed, explosiveness and quick reactions that he used to have are essentially gone now.
For stretches of last season, when the likes of Diego Costa and Loic Remy were injured, Chelsea was forced to carry Drogba through many games. At times, it was painful to watch. In all, the third-choice striker made 40 appearances, scoring seven goals and adding two assists. These are not the numbers of a striker in productive form.
Now, Drogba has not suddenly become a useless player -- he would definitely score goals in MLS. The problem is that Chicago, for example, was looking at signing the former Ivory Coast international on more than $2.5 million per year, in addition to use TAM to pay down the contract of an existing designated player in order to accommodate him, according to ESPN. Judging by his final season with the English Premier League champ, Drogba is just no longer worth that.