Sunday 17 December 2017

Pioneer Drogba takes stake in US club to become first player-owner

Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba. Photo: PA
Former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba. Photo: PA

Matt Law

Didier Drogba has become football's first-ever player-owner at American club Phoenix Rising.

The former Chelsea striker will play on for one more season with Phoenix, but has also become a co-owner of the Arizona team.

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

The 39-year-old striker will be involved in all boardroom decisions and will learn his new role while continuing to play. He will be the face of the Phoenix bid to enter Major League Soccer.

Phoenix currently play in the United Soccer League and are managed by former Ipswich Town defender Frank Yallop, but have plans to build a new stadium to help secure entry to MLS.

"It is a very exciting opportunity because it's a good transition," said Drogba. "Now, as well as being a football player, I have the chance to be a co-owner as well. It's a great challenge.

"It is very unusual, so I was surprised when the opportunity came up. But it's so good for me to transition into the next part of my career. I want to learn as much as possible about football off the pitch and this is the best way to do so."

Billionaire

Drogba developed a close relationship with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich during his two successful spells at Stamford Bridge and believes he can learn from the Russian billionaire.

"Roman Abramovich always made the right decision, even when it was the most difficult decision," said Drogba. "I think that is what I can learn from him. Not everything he has done has been popular, but it has always been for the benefit of Chelsea. He makes big decisions and he is brave. That is what I can do, sometimes take emotion out of the situation and do what is best."

Drogba added: "I have been at Chelsea, Marseille and Galatasaray, and I know a bit of the work they have to do off the pitch. But to be involved in it every day, I'm going to learn quite fast. I don't know of any other player-co-owner. It is quite unique."

Meanwhile, free agents Nigel Reo-Coker and Kieran Richardson have gone on trial at La Liga club Granada, just a day after Arsenal legend Tony Adams was named as interim head coach. Former England international Richardson has been unattached since leaving Cardiff City at the start of the year.

Reo-Coker has not played in England since leaving Ipswich Town in 2013, but turned out for three MLS franchises before being released by the Montreal Impact in 2016.

Telegraph.co.uk

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