Drogba signs with USL's Phoenix Rising

This is certainly a splashy move for the Rising, and one that may help them stand out in the crowded pack of cities trying to land MLS franchises (12 teams officially submitted bids for consideration for three expansion slots in February).

"To own a team and be a player at the same time is unusual but it's going to be very exciting", Drogba said.

The 39-year-old from the Ivory Coast is a four-time Premier League and Champions League champion with Chelsea FC.

Drogba had been weighing up a number of offers to keep playing or step into coaching since leaving Montreal Impact last October, but chose to take his career in a new direction by agreeing a unique deal with Phoenix.

Drogba has combined with former NY Red Bulls forward Shaun Wright-Philips and Mexican global Omar Bravo to help the southwestern American club gain status both on and off the field.

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"As a kid when I was playing on the streets or on a football field, I would say last free-kick, last header everything, but when I score we win", he added.

The deal will allow Rising FC to put Drogba on the pitch in the young 2017 campaign, before moving him to a technical role for the following two seasons. "You never know. Now I'm happy at Chelsea, but if tomorrow the Chinese come and Chelsea tell me I have to go, I will no longer want to stay with them". But it's important for me to get to the next stage of my career.

Drogba claims that the Everton striker has spoken to him about his transfer plans this summer, and backs the player going back to Stamford Bridge. "That was awesome for me". He first took notice of the growth of Major League Soccer when visiting as a player on preseason tours with Chelsea.

The veteran's last season in the MLS was marked by tension between the player and his club, with the nadir coming in October when he refused to be a part of the Impact's matchday squad after learning he was not in the starting line-up.

Phoenix Rising are now plying their trade in the USL Pro League, but do have ambitions to be an MSL outfit by 2020 and are co-owned, amongst others, by Grammy-winning producer Diplo, Fall Out Boy bassist Pete Wentz, LA Dodgers pitcher Brandon McCarthy and restaurant magnate Berke Bakay.

  • Regina Holmes