MONTREAL – The rumors turned out to be true. According to Montreal Impact head coach Mauro Biello, Didier Drogba refused to be on the Montreal Impact's gameday roster against Toronto FC on Sunday after finding out he was not starting.
After Montreal's 2-2 draw with Toronto, Biello told media that Drogba was not pleased to learn on Saturday afternoon that he would not be starting in the Eastern Conference affair, and took himself out of contention as a result.
"Didier was not selected to start the game," Biello said. "I spoke with him yesterday [Saturday]. He did not accept to come off the bench. In the end he did not want to be in the 18. He said that he did not accept the fact that he was coming off the bench.
"I analyzed everything, and I made a decision to give my team the best chance to win," Biello added. "That’s what was behind my decision.”
Before Sunday’s match against Toronto the club initially stated that Drogba was unavailable because of a stiff back, but Biello set the record straight after the game.
“There was tightness in his back, yes, but he was capable of playing,” added Biello. “The organization will have to handle this."
Biello stated that he does not believe the Ivorian has played his last game with the Impact. Montreal have one more regular season game next week before the start of the playoffs, which the club qualified for by virtue of the tie on Sunday.
“I need him,” said Biello of the 38-year-old Drogba. “Coming off the bench, he can help this team. He has to help this team, not the other way around.
“As a coach, I need to make tough decisions. There needs to be respect between the club and its players. It’s a shame this happened before such a crucial game.”
Drogba has now failed to see the field in each of Montreal's last two matches, and has not started since the club's 1-0 road loss to the New York Red Bulls on Sept. 24.
“It's something that Didier and Mauro will have to work out,” said Impact goalkeeper Evan Bush. “Didier has been great in the locker room for us. He’s been a great teammate. He’s one of the best strikers of this generation.
“I knew about it yesterday [Saturday] because I was still at the training facility. A lot of guys didn’t know though, and I wanted to keep it that way so that it wasn’t a distraction.”
Biello made the decision to bench Drogba because Italian forward Matteo Mancosu has been dangerous as a starter since the team acquired him in July.
"Why hasn't [Drogba] been in the starting XI? If you see the performance by Matteo, I decided to give a different look to the team, to add a little bit of an edge up front, the ability to transition more quickly," said Biello. "For me, this is the decision. He puts a little more pressure on the back line. To bring Didier off the bench is an excellent tool to have."
The late-season drama comes amid rumors that Drogba is preparing a move to Italy’s Serie A, but Biello has consistently denied that.
A few hours after the match, Drogba posted a message on Twitter congratulating the club on qualifying for the postseason.