Chelsea's hopes of re-signing Didier Drogba remain in the balance after Manchester City emerged as shock contenders for the Ivorian striker's signature.
As reported by Jeremy Cross of the Daily Star, Drogba is reportedly being considered as a short-term replacement for Alvaro Negredo, who is set to miss "the next few months" after breaking his fifth metatarsal. Cross details City's potential plan:
[...] Pellegrini believes the 36-year-old could be a viable option on a 12-month contract to improve his striking options now Negredo is sidelined.
Drogba is hero-worshipped at the Blues, but the chance to land a lucrative short-term deal with the reigning champions could tempt the Ivory Coast hitman to go to Manchester instead of his old hunting ground.
Ben Smith of BBC Sport believes Drogba is currently considering a one-year deal to reignite his Chelsea career, while the Daily Mail's Simon Jones specifies this will be in a player/coach role. The experienced forward—whose last kick for Chelsea saw him net the winning penalty in the 2011-12 Champions League final—is certainly still capable of making a difference on the pitch.
However, Joe Krishnan of The Independent suggests a return isn't the best idea:
I love Drogba, really I do. How could you not? But he left on the highest possible high, and to return now at 36 would ruin that.— Joe Krishnan (@joekrishnan) July 20, 2014
Drogba scored 10 goals in 25 Turkish Super Lig appearances for Galatasaray last season, per WhoScored.com. Although not as mobile as he used to be, Drogba remains a powerful entity who has the capacity to punish in front of goal. He certainly offers similar qualities to Negredo and would be a smart choice to cover the Spaniard's absence by Manuel Pellegrini.
Which club will Didier Drogba play for next season?
Jose Mourinho recently suggested he isn't in the market for further signings. "The transfer market closes 31 August and we close our market on July 19," he said, per Sky Sports. "We finished the market today." Such a revelation leaves the door open for Drogba to pick City.
The African star's potential Chelsea return may have lost some of its importance after Fernando Torres' proposed move to Atletico Madrid hit a snag. In an alternate report, Jones indicates Torres is "reluctant" to lower his estimated £8 million-per-year wages, with the Blues unwilling to budge from a £20 million price tag.
Chelsea's attacking options have already received a reshuffle during the summer, with Diego Costa coming in to replace the outgoing Samuel Eto'o and Demba Ba, per the Press Association and via The Guardian. The Spanish international is expected to start ahead of Torres and Romelu Lukaku, if the Belgian stays, meaning Drogba would also likely have a bit-part role at best.
Torres needs to take stock of his career if Mourinho concludes the transfer window with these options in tact. The former Liverpool striker may need to prioritise first-team football elsewhere over the heftiest wages possible. A return to Atletico appears a smart move at this point, but it will come down to whether the player can stomach a smaller paycheck.
Mourinho does like to surprise, so a Drogba return remains possible, certainly if he comes in to coach as well. Both Chelsea and City can offer the Cote d'Ivoire international a final shot at Premier League glory in return for a solid run of goals at this late stage in his career.