x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Disillusioned Drogba may depart Chelsea for Madrid

The Ivorian striker could be the first to act on growing unrest if Real Madrid's hierarchy back manager Jose Mourinho in his bid to sign a new striker.

Didier Drogba, the Chelsea forward, has struggled to regain his best form after being diagnosed with malaria last month.
Didier Drogba, the Chelsea forward, has struggled to regain his best form after being diagnosed with malaria last month.

Chelsea

Didier Drogba

Real Madrid

LONDON // Didier Drogba could be the first to act on growing unrest among Chelsea's first-team squad if Real Madrid's hierarchy back manager Jose Mourinho in his bid to sign a new striker.

A number of senior Chelsea players have become so disillusioned with the organisation of the club that they would be open to transfers at the end of the present campaign and the Ivorian is understood to be one of them, though there is even a small chance he may leave in the current transfer window, which shuts on January 31.

Though Drogba's status as one of the top-three best paid professionals at Stamford Bridge will limit the 32-year-old's options if he seeks to maintain his salary, the player has kept a strong relationship with Mourinho and is aware of his former manager's need for a striker.

With main striker Gonzalo Higuain likely to miss the rest of the season as he recovers from back surgery, Mourinho has been left with the out-of-form Karim Benzema as his only genuine frontman, with Cristiano Ronaldo being asked to provide most of the team's goals from the wings.

Whether Real will allow Mourinho to recruit Drogba is debatable. The Portuguese has had successive requests to add a third senior striker to his squad knocked back since arriving at the Bernabeu. Florentino Perez, the club president, has still to green light a replacement for Higuain.

Among a series of proposed signings, Mourinho has suggested bringing Ruud van Nistelrooy back from a year-long sojourn in Hamburg. So eager is Van Nistelrooy to return that the Dutchman has offered to pay half his transfer fee himself. Perez, however, is refusing to fund the other 50 per cent. Drogba's form this season has been significantly affected by the Chelsea medical department's failure to diagnose a debilitating bout of malaria last month.

He is understood to be one of several senior players with growing reservations about manager Carlo Ancelotti's training methods and the Italian's failure to stand up to Roman Abramovich's capricious manner of running the club.

Ray Wilkins's enforced sacking as assistant coach and the owner's decision to promote the underqualified Michael Emenalo as a replacement have also caused issues, while complaints have been made about fitness levels.

A failure to qualify for next season's Champions League - a real possibility following Chelsea's worst run of results for over a decade - would only intensify thoughts any players hold about an exit.

At the same time, the club's hierarchy is considering instigating a major overhaul of an ageing playing staff to halt the current malaise. Figures close to Abramovich have discussed the possibility of recruiting a centre-back, midfielder and forward with the intention of securing successors for John Terry, Frank Lampard and Drogba too.

Talks have already been held with the representatives of Hulk, the Brazil international striker. Chelsea officials were told that Porto would be prepared to sell the powerful 24-year-old for €35 million (Dh171.5m).

Further inquiries have been made over the availability of Sergio Aguero, the Atletico Madrid forward, though a move for either the Argentina international or Hulk is unlikely to be made before the summer.

A first recruit of the transfer window - Brazil defender David Luiz - could be in place before the week is out with negotiations ongoing in London yesterday.

Luis Filipe Vieira, the Benfica president, flew into the capital on Friday, dined with the player's agent Giuliano Bertolucci that evening, and was due to hold discussions with Chelsea on Saturday.

Though the two clubs entered negotiations with a divergence of €10m in offer and asking price, sources close to Vieira suggested that Benfica would accept a compromise fee of €25m for the 23-year-old after Chelsea improved their offer to around €22m..

Vieira returned to Lisbon last night, but is due to speak with Chelsea again tomorrow.

sports@thenational.ae