Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast and Chelsea legend, has been announced as a co-owner for the Phoenix Rising, a United Soccer League team. He will also play for the team initially. “To own a team and be a player at the same time is unusual but it’s going to be every exciting. It’s a good transition because I want to carry on playing but I’m almost 40 and it’s important for me to prepare for my later career.” Indeed, Drogba is 39 and had not played since leaving Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact in November 2016.
Drogba says that he also received offers from the Premier League and China, but only as a player. It appears that the incentive of becoming an owner of a team was what compelled him to join the Rising. The Rising are currently in the United Soccer League, a second-tier league in the United States, but are positioning themselves to become one MLS’ expansion teams. MLS plans to add four expansion teams in the next three years.
Drogba was most famous in club play for his work with Chelsea from 2004 to 2012, during which he won three Premier League titles and a Champions League title. He scored 157 goals during his first Chelsea career. He later played with Shanghai Shenhua in China and Galatasaray in Turkey before returning to Chelsea for 2014 and 2015. In that stint, he helped Chelsea to another title. He then moved on to Montreal, where he played for a year and a half. All the while, Drogba became the record goalscorer for Ivory Coast in international play.
In Phoenix, he will join former teammate at Chelsea, Shaun Wright-Phillips. Despite Drogba’s seniority and owner status, he assured the media that he would be respectful to the manager. “When we’re on the pitch, he’s going to be the one who decides and when we go to board meetings, it’s a different thing.”