I was going to write about the Didier Drogba drama at Montreal Impact a couple days ago, but it fell by the wayside and in the meantime, much of the drama has gotten resolved ... though obviously some after-effects will linger and will no doubt taint what was once a fantastic relationship between Drogba and the club. (In a way, this drama is similar to the whole Costa vs. Conte thing, challenging the powers that be, but Drogba's thing is a fair bit more serious.)
After leaving Chelsea for a second time in 2015, with another Premier League trophy in hand, Drogba came to America (well, Canada) and became an instant hero in Montreal. He scored 11 goals in 11 appearances last season and added one more in the playoffs as the Impact made an unlikely run to the Eastern Conference semifinals where they lost in extra-time in the second leg against Columbus.
Montreal's off-season coincided with a turbulent time at Chelsea, and by all indications, Drogba came very close to foregoing his final year in MLS to rejoin Chelsea, perhaps as a coach. Eventually, interim head coach Guus Hiddink put an end to the speculation. But the drama was just beginning.
Drogba missed pre-season training camp as he went off to train by himself in Qatar, then missed the start of their season as he was advised by doctors to not play on artificial turf. Instead, he went to extended pre-season training camp with the USL's Sacramento Republic. Eventually, he joined up with the Impact and while he still managed to score 10 goals for the season, only two of those have come in the past two months.
Since a hat-trick against Philadelphia in late July, Drogba found the back of the net just twice in nine games. More damningly, Montreal won just one of those games as they tumbled down the table with the playoffs looming. Drogba was benched three games ago; Montreal have won two and drawn one since. Whatever they're doing seems to be working. Trouble is, Didier was none too happy about all that, and after sitting through as an unused substitute in Montreal's 1-0 away win over Orlando, decided to withdraw himself from the squad for the next match, the big local derby against Toronto.
"Didier was not selected to start the game. I spoke with him yesterday. He did not accept to come off the bench. In the end he did not want to be in the 18. He said that he did not accept the fact that he was coming off the bench."
-Mauro Biello, head coach; source: Mount Royal Soccer
This is not a good look, Didier.
Fortunately, it would appear that the issue has been smoothed over, at least for now, and after receiving a fine, Drogba's ready to get back to business at hand of winning.
"We met with Didier. The situation has been resolved to the club's satisfaction. Didier has accepted to assume the role that the head coach sees fit while contributing to the success of this club moving forward. When he came to Montreal, Didier said he came here to win, and he still has the same objective."
-Joey Saputo, president; source: Mount Royal Soccer
Montreal have one more regular season game left on Sunday before the MLS Cup playoffs start next Wednesday. These will likely be the 38-year-old Drogba's final game(s) in America, if not in all of football; what happens after is anyone's guess.
Meanwhile, in once again sunny Florida after the passing of Hurricane Matthew, Joe Cole is putting the final classy touches on his first season in North American soccer by being named one of the 10 finalists for the league's MVP award. Cole plays for the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL, ostensibly the second tier of the US pyramid (albeit without promotion or relegation), and has scored 7 goals, collected 7 assists, while leading the league in chances created with 51 since his arrival in the summer.
The best part is, you can help him win by voting on the NASL's official webpage! What are you waiting for!?
The Rowdies have had a disappointing fall season, but can still make the playoffs should they beat Indianapolis today (Wednesday) by six goals. That's a tall order, to be sure, but with JC on your side, anything's possible. Cole will be turning 35 next month, but is signed on for at least another season with the Rowdies (with a club option for one more year after that).