There's only one Didier Drogba

Montreal Impact received good news on the eve of the start of preseason camp when Didier Drogba tweeted that he was off to Qatar to begin work with a personal trainer to get him ready for his second season in MLS with the Impact.

That news was tempered at the opening of camp at Olympic Stadium on Monday when Impact owner Joey Saputo said he couldn't answer how long Drogba would be with the Impact.

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There had been talk that Drogba, 37, would retire as a player and return to Chelsea as an assistant to Dutch manager Guus Hiddink, who was appointed to replace Jose Mourinho last fall. The Ivory Coast star spent eight seasons at Chelsea (2004-12) before returning to Stamford Bridge after stints in China and Turkey.

Saputo confirmed Chelsea talked with the Impact about Drogba, a favorite of Blues' owner Roman Abramovich, but insisted he was put in a difficult position because he didn't want to be the one who stood in the way of Drogba's desire to stop playing.

"They would've liked to have seen him back with the organization," Saputo said. "We spoke to Didier about the possibility that he wanted to think about his post-soccer career and going into coaching, but he was committed to a contract, and he was aware that he was committed to a contract, so he just needed some time."

When that coaching career begins isn't known.

Asked whether Drogba would remain with the Impact for the entire 2016 MLS season, Saputo responded, "We expect him to be the professional that he is. I can't answer that question."

Drogba, who will join the Impact for the second part of training camp, beginning Feb. 15 in St. Petersburg, Florida, scored 11 goals in 11 regular-season games for the Impact, which reached the semifinals of the Eastern Conference playoffs, where it lost to Columbus, 4-3, on aggregate after overtime in the second leg.

That impact Drogba had on Montreal was not lost on Saputo. The Impact went 7-1-1 with Drogba in the starting lineup in the regular season.

“We caught lightning in a bottle with Didier," he said, "and it’s important for us to start planning the post-Didier era in Montreal. He’s got one more year in his contract, and it’s important to start putting a group together and start looking at how we’ll replace the player in the future. There aren't other Didier Drogbas.”

Drogba won't be the only player the Impact will need to replace. Six of the 10 returning starters from the Crew series -- all but Dilly Duka -- will be 30 or older when the 2016 MLS season starts.
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