On Monday, Drogba announced that he is leaving Chelsea this summer. Reports say he is close to signing with Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua, but there is some doubt about that move. His days in top-level European soccer may not be finished.
Drogba’s imminent Chelsea departure will end an eight-year run with the West London club. He moved to English soccer from French club Olympique Marseille for £24 million ($37.9 million) in 2004. The Ivorian striker powered Chelsea to three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and one UEFA Champions League crown.
The 34-year-old indicated that he wanted to prolong his stay at Stamford Bridge, but the club was unwilling to offer him more than a one-year deal (with a club option for a second). The impasse saw his contract expire, and he confirmed his Chelsea exit in an interview with France Football, according to ESPN.
“We will not be together next season,” Drogba said. “As I have decided to leave, I wanted to tell them [his Chelsea teammates] to their faces. They made me break down. I found it hard to admit that it was finished with me and the club. But I don’t envisage sitting on the bench watching others play at a time when the club is looking at putting together a new team.
“So there we go, I am readying myself for a great leap into the unknown. It will be another adventure.”
Chinese clubs Shanghai Shenhua is thought to be leading the race for Drogba’s signature. The Mail reports that he is close to signing a contract with Shanghai Shenhua that will pay him around £250,000-a-week after taxes.
Shanghai Shenhua has a player-manager, Nicolas Anelka, who is Drogba’s good friend and former teammate. It is believed that Anelka was instrumental in convincing Drogba to head to the Far East, but the plot twisted on Sunday. Anelka is threatening to leave Shanghai claiming he lacks support from club directors. Anelka’s departure could discourage Drogba from joining the club.
The Mirror reports that Guangzhou Evergrande has entered the frame as well. Marcelo Lippi became the club’s manager last week, and the Italian hopes to convince a number of stars from Europes top leagues to join his Chinese project. Drogba and Juventus legend Alessandro Del Piero are reportedly Lippi’s top two targets.
AC Milan and FC Barcelona are also reportedly interested in signing Drogba. But his salary demands — reports say he wants at least a two-year contract worth £6 million ($9.6 million) per year — could make it difficult for a top European team to sign him.