For the second time in a year, the Fire missed out on a major signing, but this time it was able to parlay its resources into an alternative.
Montreal traded regular and targeted allocation money to Chicago for the MLS rights to Ivorian striker Didier Drogba, who has negotiated a deal reported to be worth $3 million per year in salary. Drogba, 37, has signed an 18-month contract.
Drogba was a free agent after his contract with Chelsea expired in June, and though Chicago held his rights through the Discovery process, Drogba expressed his preference to play in Montreal. Chicago traded his rights and instead claimed Brazilian forward Gilberto, formerly of Toronto FC, off waivers.
In January TFC had to get rid of Gilberto, who had joined the team in 2014, to make room for the two Designated Players it acquired: U.S. striker Jozy Altidore, a former MetroStar who came back to MLS from Sunderland with Jermain Defoe going in the other direction, and Toronto forward Sebastian Giovinco. At time, TFC had no method by which to accommodate those players and U.S. international Michael Bradley, so it arranged a loan for Gilberto with Brazilian club Vasco da Gama.
That loan expired in June, and so Gilberto went back on TFC’s roster. With no teams willing to trade for him, TFC put Gilberto on waivers.
Though Drogba has played for numerous clubs in his long career, he’s most renowned for his feats at Chelsea, for which he he scored 164 goals in 381 games during two separate stints. He won the Premier League's Golden Boot as top scorer in 2007 and 2010 and during his time at Chelsea the club won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and the UEFA Champions League. He scored seven goals for Chelsea last season. Drogba is the Ivory Coast's all-time leading scorer with 65 goals.
“It's an honor to welcome Didier Drogba to the Impact,” said Impact president Joey Saputo in a team statement. “From the first conversation I had with him, I felt that he really wanted to play in Montreal. This is one of the biggest days in club history and his arrival to the club will be beneficial in every aspect.”
Chicago obtained Drogba's rights by filing a discovery claim but decided to trade his rights after he expressed a preference for the French-speaking culture of Montreal. Officially, he actually signed with the Fire, which then traded him to Montreal. ESPN FC reported the deal included regular and targeted allocation money of at least $250,000.
Last year the Fire tried to sign U.S. international Jermaine Jones, but his rights were awarded to New England in a unique blind draw. That time, the Fire didn’t get anything from being first in line.
But the implementation of TAM earlier this month opened up a solution. Chicago traded Drogba and signed Gilberto, whose base salary this year is $1.145 million, as a Designated Player and used TAM to buy down the contract of Kennedy Igboananike ($800,000), freeing a DP slot. Gilberto performed well for TFC, scoring seven goals and registering five assists in 28 games but a lack of chemistry with Defoe, who missed most of the second half of the season with a groin injury, and the team's failure to make the playoffs prompted another offseason renovation,
The Fire certainly needs the offensive help; only the Rapids have scored fewer than its 22 goals. In Drogba, the Impact is getting a classic target forward who can hold the ball to bring teammates into shooting positions and go for goal himself. In terms of both benefit to the two teams and the machinations involved, this is one of the most intriguing outcomes in recent league history.