Former Chelsea legend Didier Drogba has been making the seemingly requisite rounds on the European star retirement circuit for a few years now. In 2012, he signed with Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua; in 2013, still an able contributor, he joined Galatasaray for a spell; he returned to Chelsea in 2014 for a much-hyped homecoming, and then moved to MLS in 2015 to play for the Montreal Impact. Today, apparently embracing the whole retirement thing even more, he announced that he’s moving to Phoenix, Arizona.
The decorated Ivorian striker has signed with USL team Phoenix Rising and, as a player and part-owner, will work to help the second-tier team become an MLS franchise. In a statement, he said:
I have taken my time in deciding what I wanted to do next and am really excited about the opportunity at Phoenix Rising FC. After seeing first hand the potential for expansion of the sport in North America and getting to know the ownership group in Phoenix, I am convinced that I can help them develop their organization on and off the pitch. I look forward to their continued success in the USL, and no city is better positioned than Phoenix for expansion into the MLS.
The New York Times has more contract specifics, reporting that Drogba has “either one or two more seasons as a player, before moving to a role either in the back office or on the club’s coaching staff.”
MLS plans to add four new teams in the next three years, and 12 cities have submitted bids. Drogba’s presence in Phoenix lends some weight to the club’s plan, but considering the team was formed only three years ago, and just became Phoenix Rising—the third iteration of Arizona’s soccer team—last November, they’ve got some ground to make up if they want to beat out cities like San Diego, Sacramento, and San Antonio.
For his part, Drogba doesn’t sound like he’s ready for retirement (“It is time to prepare for the next stage of my life, to get everything ready for the next phase,” he told the Times), but if he wants to wind down, Phoenix is a good place to do it.