The former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba has joined the United Soccer League side Phoenix Rising as a player and co-owner.
The 39-year-old has not played since leaving Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact in November but he has taken up the chance to join Phoenix’s “MLS expansion franchise ownership group”.
“To own a team and be a player at the same time is unusual but it’s going to be very exciting,” Drogba said. “It’s a good transition because I want to carry on playing but I’m almost 40 and it’s important for me to prepare for my later career.”
Phoenix have just started their fourth season in the Western Conference of USL, which forms part of the second tier of the American league system. The Arizona club are one of 12 teams bidding for two new MLS franchises and Drogba revealed he had spoken with the Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich for advice.
“I explained to him and the Chelsea board what I wanted to do”, said Drogba.
“They found it interesting and they are happy for me. Being in America doesn’t mean that I’m putting Chelsea out of sight. The club is important to me and one day I will come back.”
“I had offers from China, from England – in both the Premier League and even the Championship – but they were only as a player,” Drogba told the BBC’s Premier League Show.
“This was the right offer because it was important for me to think about playing, because I enjoy it, but also to get to the next stage of my career.”
Phoenix Rising have several players with Premier League experience including the former Leicester man Jordan Stewart and a former team-mate of Drogba, Shaun Wright-Phillips.