Didier Drogba moved a step closer to joining Chelsea for a third time after the Ivorian's club Montreal Impact confirmed talks had begun with the Premier League champions over the release of the 37-year-old. Interim boss Guus Hiddink, installed for the remainder of the campaign as a replacement for Jose Mourinho, wants to add Drogba to his backroom team.
Drogba's current contract with the Major League Soccer (MLS) side is understood to run until the end of the 2016 season, but the Blues want to acquire the forward for the second half of their league season until the end of Hiddink's second spell in charge. After joining Impact in July, Drogba netted 12 goals in as many starts as his side reached the semi-finals of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
A full season of Drogba would give Impact a realistic chance to winning their first ever MLS Cup, but the absence of their leading striker for the opening months of the season would hinder their hope of building on last term's success. The former Galatasaray striker is a designated player, meaning his annual wage of $1.66m [£1.12m] is outside of the league's wage cap.
Much like the departed Mourinho, Drogba remains a much-loved figure at Stamford Bridge following two trophy-laden spells in West London. Four Premier League titles, four League Cups and four FA Cups came amid 164 goals in 381 appearances for Chelsea – whom he scored the winning penalty for in the 2012 Champions League final against Bayern Munich.
It is believed that the return of Drogba, albeit only in a coaching capacity, would assist in bring the fell-good factor back at Chelsea, who have made a disastrous start to the defence of their Premier League title. However, his current contract with Montreal could prove a stumbling block, though the Canada-based side are open to compromise.
"We are currently in contact with Didier Drogba and Chelsea FC," the MLS club said. "We are doing everything we can to have him back with the Impact in 2016. We understand his attachment to his former club and his desire to help them. We are willing to accommodate him.
"But our objective is to have him back for another season, as agreed in his contract. This situation is out of our control. We would like to thank our supporters for their understanding and their patience." The statement represents a U-turn from Montreal, who had previously claimed there had been no approach for Drogba.
Though Drogba – Ivory Coast's record international goalscorer – has made no secret of his desire to one day manage Chelsea, his return would likely be under the proviso that he resume playing duties with Montreal following the end of the English season in May. Speaking after the 3-1 win over Sunderland, which Drogba watched alongside Russia owner Roman Abramovich, Hiddink said, according to The Daily Mail: "I'd be happy to have him here. At the moment he is still attached to his contract in Canada. But it is intended that he's involved."