The MLS race for Didier Drogba appears to be down to two.
The Chicago Fire and Montreal Impact have both confirmed they are in discussions with Didier Drogba about signing the Ivory Coast and Chelsea icon, who is a free agent after leaving the Blues following a second tour at the club where he made his name.
Fire chief operating officer Atul Khosla took to Twitter Tuesday to address the recent reports and rumors. ESPNFC reported Friday that MLS was making a play for Drogba and that the Fire were the leading suitor.
Drogba would go through the league's "discovery" mechanism, and the Fire are at the front of the line to sign Drogba. Based on league rules the Impact could pay $50,000 in allocation money for the right to sign him, and if they do that the Fire either have to accept or make a "genuine, objectively reasonable offer" to Drogba to maintain his first rights.
Impact owner Joey Saputo went on TSN 690 radio in Montreal to confirm his club's interest as well.
"We are [in talks with Drogba]," Saputo said. "I had about 10 days ago or so some people from my organization had the opportunity to speak to Didier and his agent and his people along with some people from MLS. This past Friday I had the pleasure of speaking directly to Didier about the opportunity of coming to Montreal."
Saputo confirmed that the Fire have Drogba's discovery rights but there was a period of time where the league gave other clubs the opportunity to sign him given that the Fire have the full allotment of three Designated Players (David Accam, Kennedy Igboananike, Shaun Maloney).
Now that the league has instituted the targeted allocation money method for teams to buy down the DP salaries in order to sign another high-priced player (like the LA Galaxy did with Omar Gonzalez's salary to sign Giovani Dos Santos and the Portland Timbers did with Fanendo Adi to sign Lucas Melano), Chicago could theoretically add a player of Drogba's caliber and cost.
Saputo said that the Impact have not approached the Fire yet about trading for the discovery rights.
"We're not at that point yet," Saputo said. "I know Chicago is working tremendously hard to bring Didier to Chicago. He's a player that would do well in any market. In this particular market, French speaking, Didier would be an instant success. It's somewhat complicated. We hope that it'll adjust itself shortly. We definitely would love to see Didier in another shade of blue this upcoming season.
"He didn't hide the fact that Montreal would be a perfect fit for him. The conversation with Didier was completely in French, which was comforting to him. ... We're not going to hide the fact that I think Didier checks a lot of the boxes of what we'd like to see in a Designated Player.
"The ball is in his court now. I know that Chicago is still pursuing him, rightly so, we just hope that we come out on top. After all is said and done, I could walk away from this knowing that if Didier does not come to MLS or doesn't not come to Montreal and decides to go to Chicago, I think we've left everything on the table. We were honest and open with him, and now it's completely out of our hands."