MONTREAL – Didier Drogba is going to London this offseason.
His old club Chelsea, just three points clear of the relegation zone in the English Premier League, would probably welcome Drogba back with open arms at this point. And he may just return to Stamford Bridge. Just not to play.
“To train, why not? It’s something we have to discuss with the club here,” Drogba told reporters on Friday. “I belong to the Montreal Impact. To stay in shape, why not? To play, I’m really not too hot on that idea. I need to rest well and to be ready for this league.”
Up to now, the word from the Impact camp was that, despite Drogba’s decreasing stats in the Audi 2015 MLS Cup Playoffs – one goal in three games – he was fully healthy. It turns out that the club was just protecting him.
Drogba was indeed hurt when the playoffs started, slowed down by the knock he took from Toronto FC’s Ahmed Kantari on Decision Day.
“The game against Toronto, I got cleats on my tendon,” Drogba said. “It really bothered me towards the end. It’s a shame. I think that, with a bit more freshness, things may have been different.”
Still, Drogba is satisfied with an “interesting season” for the team and for himself. He recalled that, on July 27, he signed for Montreal having not trained at all for two months, leaving him with no aerobic base, but with huge expectations.
No base, no problem. Drogba more than delivered on those expectations, scoring 12 goals and notching one assist in 14 regular season and playoff games for Montreal. More importantly, his overall contribution – and that of head coach Mauro Biello – got the team out of a slump and onto a fine run that ended with third place in the Eastern Conference and a Knockout Round win against archrival Toronto before bowing out in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to Columbus Crew SC.
“You’ve understood that I’m someone that likes to set objectives and, most of all, I don’t like to disappoint,” Drogba said. “Coming here, I knew this would be a heck of a challenge. After winning the title in England, there were expectations. But people said that, at [37 years old], it was over already. As you can imagine, with what little honors I’ve won, I have no desire to look ridiculous on the football field.
“As I said when I got here, I came here to win – not necessarily winning MLS [Cup], but seeing the kinds of emotions we saw in the last games. That is a win for the club, for the city. I’m happy with my season – my four months – despite my age. Coming here, I knew I was able to bring something more to the club.”
Satisfied with his life choice, Drogba again praised the Montreal faithful for their welcome at the airport and stated that he had already developed into an ambassador for both club and city.
While life in Montreal should get easier and easier, it will become harder and harder to win MLS Cup with every passing year, Drogba said, arguing that the league and its teams keep on improving – with some caveats.
“Comparing leagues is difficult,” Drogba said. “Here, there’s a distance. The traveling means that teams are pretty much of the same level. For MLS to get to the level of the English, Spanish or even Turkish league, there’s stuff to do. They’re on the right path, it’s fine, but there’s stuff to do, still."
Drogba, who says he respects what he signs, is one of 11 Montreal players under contract for 2016. He will then be out of contract following next season.
When Montreal play Amway Canadian Championship games next season, they’ll compete for a ticket to the 2017-18 CONCACAF Champions League, which will take place after Drogba’s deal is up. Could he be tempted to give it a try if Montreal make it?
“It’s among the trophies I haven’t won,” Drogba said. “Why not? It’d be a nice challenge. A nice challenge.”