All Didier Drogba wants is a multi-year contract that pays him up to £6 million ($9.6 million) per season. Is that too much to ask for? Why soccer teams around the world aren’t lining up to throw that money his way is a mystery.
The Chelsea striker is out of contract at the end of the season, and it appears that his time at Stamford Bridge is coming to an end. He rejected the club’s offer of a one-year contract in November, and a longer-term deal doesn’t seem to be coming his way.
Drogba can leave the Blues on a free transfer for the destination of his choosing, and money will be a one of the deciding factors. Recent reports put his salary demands in the £6 million range, but his public relations company told the International Business Times that the quoted figure was wide off the mark.
Landing the 34-year-old Ivorian hero for even that amount would represent a coup for any club. He’s sharp, fit and explosive enough for Chelsea — still one of Europe’s stronger teams — to back him to perform at or near his current level for another year. Interested teams should also take note that the very people who him perform on a daily basis think he’s good enough to save both Chelsea’s season and his manager’s job.
If the next stop in Drogba’s career takes him to a league that is a lower standard than the Premier League, there’s no reason why he cannot continue to play at a high level for the next two to three years.
The Drogba-lead Ivory Coast slipped up at the last hurdle in this year’s Africa Cup of Nations. He took the loss particularly hard, but vowed to continue playing for his country. The four-time African Footballer of the Year is determined to lead the Elephants at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and he’ll surely stay sharp at club level to prepare for the big stage.
Drogba’s presence may or may not provide £6 million worth of on-field value over the next few years, but he’ll certainly cover the difference off it. Few players can match his achievements — for club and country — over the last decade. Chelsea ended a 50-year championship drought when he arrived in 2004, and has been at or near the top of the league ever since. For Ivory Coast, he is the 24-karat gem in its golden generation of players.
He would bring skill, professionalism and a fierce competitive nature to which ever locker room he graces. He would inspire and mentor young players, showing them what it takes to reach the top level. Under-performers would be “devoured” (as former manager Carlo Ancelotti describes his approach) by the fiery veteran.
Drogba enjoys iconic, almost mythical, status in many parts of the world but particularly in Africa. Other than Nelson Mandela, he may be the most well-known and admired public figure on the continent. He is revered for his charity work — the Didier Drogba Foundation is building a $4.7 million hospital in Abidjan, Ivory Coast — and politicians rush to associate themselves with him.
The team that lands his signature will become a household name in the global south. That club will also make headlines in the western media, similar to the way the L.A. Galaxy came to prominence after signing David Beckham.
The goals, spotlight and jerseys he would sell should make Drogba an attractive target for any team looking for an impact player. £12-£18 million is a risky bet, but the payoff could be so much greater than that.