Now that former Chelsea FC star Didier Drogba has decided to leave Stamford Bridge, it’s really anyone’s guess where the Ivory Coast international will end up despite most pundits thinking he’ll eventually end up in China.
And no matter where the 34-year-old striker and two-time African Player of the Year goes, the club obtaining his services will be getting a guy that can still score between 10-15 goals a season and put fans in the seats.
For me, the perfect fit and decision for Drogba, who scored 157 goals in 341 appearances for the Blues over his eight years in west London, is to head to the Iberian Peninsula and sign with Real Madrid.
After playing in France for six years (Le Mans, Guingamp, Marseille) and England for eight years (Chelsea), leaving Europe would be a big leap for Drogba, as well as his wife Diakité Lalla and their three children.
But it has to be hard to pass up a £270,000 a week offer to play soccer (football to all you non-American readers), as Shanghai Shenhua reportedly offered Drogba earlier this year.
Besides the magnet of big money drawing him to Asia, Drogba also has former Blues teammate Nicolas Anelka, a player/coach for Shanghai Shenhua, luring him.
But Anelka has been extremely quiet on a possible Drogba transfer of late, after having another reported fallout with Shanghai management.
The club’s new manager, Sergio Batista, has reportedly urged Drogba against signing with Real Madrid and wants him to come play for him in Shanghai. But then again, who wouldn’t want a charismatic and talented athlete like Drogba to come play for them?
Russia’s Anzhi Makhachkala is also a rumored destination, but Samuel Eto’o has virtually dropped off the soccer world’s radar in the last year after signing a $29 million per year net deal with the club owned by billionaire Russian oligarch Suleyman Kerimov.
Drogba could learn much from the Eto’o situation where the Cameroon striker has suffered a goal drought because of reported poor pitch conditions for a club that is forced to train in Moscow then fly into Makhachkala for home games because of security concerns.
So, if Drogba heads east to either China or Russia, I believe he will not only lose a degree of security he now enjoys in Europe, but also the current spotlight shone on him by the media in Europe, Africa and America.
With the taste of Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League victory still fresh in his mouth, I’m guessing Drogba likes how the season played out after many wrote off his Blues and said that he was too old.
At Stamford Bridge, Drogba won 10 titles including three Premier League championships, four FA Cups, two Carling Cups and the pièce de résistance, the Champions League, earlier this month.
If he decides to head to Madrid and Los Blancos, Drogba will then be playing for one of the best three clubs in the world right now and one which has qualified for the Champions League tournament next season, a stage where Drogba has already proven his worth.
Several of the teams seeking Drogba’s services have also qualified for the Champions League, but La Liga champion Real Madrid—as well as Barcelona and Bayern Munich—is one really itching to get its hands on that much-coveted trophy.
With his former Blues manager Jose Mourinho now in charge of all transfers at the Bernabéu, Drogba, who has a great relationship with The Special One, would feel really comfortable playing for Real Madrid.
Mourinho has won titles in four different countries and would love nothing more than to deliver European soccer’s Holy Grail to Real Madrid and its fans.
The Portuguese manager was looking at signing the striker last year, but talks fell apart over Drogba’s transfer valuation.
And Mourinho has made no bones about it—he would love to be reunited with Drogba as The Daily Mail has recently reported.
Early on in his career on French teams, as captain of the Ivory Coast national team, and at Chelsea, Drogba has always been the “go to guy” to lead the offense.
That has to really wear on a guy.
At Real Madrid, which already has superstar Cristiano Ronaldo and other great strikers like Gonzalo Higuain and Karim Benzema, Drogba all of the sudden wouldn’t feel the pressure of having to be “the man”, and could actually be a late-game substitute off the bench when the situation dictates it.
In this case, Drogba would have to check his ego a bit, but the 34-year-old has had several nagging injuries these last two seasons and he can’t help but be a little tired after the 2008 World Cup, the African Cup of Nations, English Premier League play, and all the various tournaments (Carling Cup, FA Cup, UEFA Champions League) the Blues have played in during his employment.
This one is pretty simple.
Where would you want to play if you were Didier Drogba?
The Chinese Super League? Ligue 1? The Russian Premier League? Major League Soccer? The Bundesliga? Serie A? Stay in the English Premier League and play against your old Chelsea teammates? Or head to La Liga and play in one of the best two leagues in the world and play for one of the best three teams on the planet?
Recent reports reveal Drogba has talked to Real Madrid about a two-year deal to sign with Los Blancos.
At Real Madrid, Drogba could get everything an athlete in his position could possibly want right now: security and peace of mind for himself and his family, a decent payday, the highest-level teammates and manager, a chance to rest and not have all that pressure to be “the man”, a club with a great culture of soccer, and a guarantee of again playing in the UEFA Champions League later this year.
Seems like a perfect fit for Drogba, and a very wise decision, to me.
Whereas bookmakers had Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua almost a virtual lock to sign former Chelsea striker Drogba a few weeks ago, fresh odds from a couple of different sportsbooks today (May 31, 2012) reveal that the odds of him signing with La Liga champion Real Madrid have improved quite a bit in the eyes of bettors:
Any Chinese side 4/6
Real Madrid 6/4
Any MLS side 11/1
Anzhi Makhachlaka 11/1
Paris St.-Germain 11/1
Shanghai Shenhua 1/2
Real Madrid 5/2
Guangzho Evergrande 16/1
Paris St.-Germain 20/1
Anzhi Makhachlaka 25/1
AC Milan 33/1
Bayern Munich 33/1
Inter Milan 33/1
Los Angeles Galaxy 33/1
New York Red Bulls 33/1
So, we’ll see how it all plays out, but I really think Drogba will shock a number of people and end up signing with Real Madrid in the not-too-distant future.
Follow me on Twitter: @KevinStott11