Didier Drogba has become a player AND owner of a club.
Drogba, 39 , has become part-owner of Phoenix Rising FC and will also be turning out for them in America’s United Soccer League.
The Chelsea legend has already taken tips from the Blues’ Russian billionaire supremo Roman Abramovich about the project and hopes to help guide the Arizona club into Major League Soccer by 2020.
Phoenix have also signed ex-England winger Shaun Wright-Phillips and are ready to recruit more Premier League stars.
Drogba, who is hoping they can build on the increased interest in football in the United States, turned down offers from the Premier League, Championship, Far East and South America to start a new adventure in what has already been a glittering career and will also move his family out to live in Phoenix.
“I don’t think there’s been another player and co-owner, but this shows you how things are changing, how the league is changing and how football is becoming attractive and I’m really happy to have chosen this,” he said.
“I have spoken many times with Roman Abramovich, not only on this occasion, and trust me it’s not easy to be an owner. He supports me.
“It’s not crazy. It just looks crazy! It’s different from what my friends, ex-team-mates are doing.
“But of course I had some offers to play, to carry on playing in the Premier League, in the Championship as well. The Middle East, China, Brazil… but there’s only one club for me in England, and that’s Chelsea.
“When this came I really had to consider it.
“It’s a big project and they offered me the chance to become co-owner with my experience and knowledge from football for all these years as a player, to help the club to grow and become a big part of the MLS.”
Drogba had a hugely successful 18 months at Montreal Impact, where he gained affection for MLS as he helped the Canadians reach the play-offs for the first time ever, and also becoming first man to score a perfect hat-trick on his MLS debut.
The Ivorian’s other side had already been evident at Chelsea. They tried to bring him back last season to join Guus Hiddink’s staff recognising that he has a passion for football beyond his playing career.
Eden Hazard credited him for the phone call which persuaded him to join Chelsea, while the likes of Eric Bailly and Idrissa Gueye also rang Drogba to seek his advice before moving to England.
Now, Major League Soccer looks as if it will get the benefit of his expertise.
Phoenix are effectively in the third tier of the US football pyramid and are managed by former Ipswich defender Frank Yallop.
Drogba just laughs when asked whether being co-owner of the club means he is going to undroppable.
“I’ve had that conversation and question already,” he smiles. “As far as the coaching and technical aspect goes, when I’m there, I’m a player. There’s no way I can say to the manager that he has to play me!
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“My focus will be more on the business side of it. I’m not going to interfere into the manager’s decisions. On the pitch, I’m a player and answerable to the manager. In the boardroom, I’m part of the executive board.
“I was at the MLS for for a year and a half with Montreal Impact and I saw it, you have to go there and see it.
“The quality of the play is good.
“A lot of young players are coming up and this is the league that is growing. It’s good for me, it’s important for me to be part of it. It was a big part of my decision to go there.”