LONDON // Didier Drogba has denied he was part of a player conspiracy to get Luiz Felipe Scolari sacked as Chelsea manager. Drogba, Michael Ballack and Petr Cech were accused of complaining about Scolari's methods when the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, met the players at their Cobham training ground. But Drogba declared: "No, no, it's not true. The thing is, the boss was there all week and he spoke to all the players."
The striker added in an interview with Observer Sport Monthly: "It's wrong to say Ballack, Cech and me were having a meeting to decide about the future of one manager. It was a board decision, not the players' decision. "We were all surprised that he went when he did, but everyone could see it was a bad situation and something had to change for the good of the team." Scolari dropped Drogba after the 3-0 defeat by Manchester United at Old Trafford in January. The Brazilian pointed to a loss of confidence by the Ivorian striker, but Drogba disagreed.
"I've never had a problem with my confidence," he added. "It's not about my confidence, it's still high. I know what I can bring to our team. I don't really agree with what he said. This is his opinion, but everyone has opinions." Scolari's replacement, Guus Hiddink, has guided Chelsea to three consecutive wins since he agreed to take charge of the side until the summer and Drogba's match winner against Juventus in the Champions League in midweek was testament to his rejuvenation under the Dutchman.
"He [Hiddink] has sent us very positive messages and I think he wants us to believe and win games and that's the thing we have to concentrate on now," said Drogba. Meanwhile, the Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez all but conceded the Premier League title to Manchester United after seeing his side lose 2-0 at Middlesbrough on Saturday. Asked after the game if he thought the title race was over, Benitez, whose side are now third, above Chelsea on goal difference, and seven points behind United having played a game more, said: "Before the game, it was very difficult - after the game, it is more difficult.
"It depends on United. It will be more difficult, clearly." firstname.lastname@example.org