Didier Drogba's anticipated return to Chelsea has been thrown into major doubt after interim manager Guus Hiddink said the club must "respect" the current contract the Ivorian has with Major League Soccer side Montreal Impact. Drogba's deal with the Canada-based club has 12 months to run and is currently the stumbling block in the Blues' attempts to lure him back to Stamford Bridge in a coaching capacity.
Hiddink has made no secret of his desire to recruit Drogba, and a deal seemed inevitable after the 36-year-old watched the recent Premier League win over Sunderland with Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich. The former Marseille and Galatasaray forward has been forced to deny reports he is set to retire to take up the role in West London, Impact have confirmed that talks are ongoing.
With the delay in Drogba's future being clarified, coupled with Hiddink's latest comments, the deal is clouded in uncertainty. The Dutch coach says Chelsea must respect the former Ivory Coast international's contractual obligations, an indication they may be forced to abandon plans to appoint the legendary striker.
"Drogba is under contract with Montreal Impact – we have to respect that," Hiddink said, according to the Evening Standard. "It is up to the clubs. We have to respect this contract." Drogba scored 164 goals across two spells at Chelsea and is regarded as one of the club's greatest ever players.
With Hiddink only filling the void left by Jose Mourinho until the end of the season, talk of potential deals in the January transfer window has stalled. There is currently no suggestion the Premier League champions are ready to make a raft of signings but Hiddink does not want any Chelsea first team players – many of whom have been accused of under-performing this term – to leave.
"I think we need all the players until the end of the season," he said in December, according to Sky Sports. "You know better than I do that Chelsea was in – and is still in – a position where they have to improve a lot to go up in the table and we need all the players at the moment. So we don't talk and go into rumours, wherever they come from."