MONTREAL — Struggling Chelsea FC would like to bring back Montreal Impact striker Didier Drogba, but when and in what capacity remain up in the air.
Drogba, a scoring sensation with 12 goals in 12 regular season games after joining the Impact in July, has a year remaining on his contract with the Major League Soccer club, but there has been speculation Chelsea will try to buy him out to help save a disastrous English Premier League campaign.
New Chelsea coach Guus Hiddink avoided specifics about Drogba on Wednesday at his first news conference in London since replacing the fired Jose Mourinho.
Hiddink called Drogba a Chelsea legend, but as for luring him back, the Dutchman said "people have to deal with contracts and situations. That's not to do with me."
Drogba's future has been a hot topic since a report in the weekly Jeune Afrique that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had called him about a return — not to play, but either in a backroom position or as an assistant coach.
The Impact, whose 2016 season would be seriously compromised if they lost their star player and attraction, responded with a tweet last Friday that read: "The rumour about Didier Drogba is unfounded. No contact has been made with the club or him."
But the next day, the 37-year-old Drogba attended Chelsea's 3-1 victory over lowly Sunderland, sitting with Hiddink and Abramovich. Hiddink later said he hoped to get Drogba involved in some way with the team.
Since then, there has been mostly silence.
Drogba has not commented, while the Impact have made no further statements.
This week, the French-language sports network RDS reported that Drogba's agent confirmed there was an "unspecified" offer from Chelsea.
But The Sports PR Company, which handles Drogba's account, tweeted Wednesday that a similar report in a London daily was "completely fabricated."
Another report said Drogba should be on the sidelines Saturday when Chelsea play host to Watford, which will be Hiddink's first match behind the bench.
Hiddink, who coached Drogba in a previous stint with Chelsea, gave no hints of that at his news conference.
"He is a legend, both in and (outside) of the club," he said. "The only thing is that in this moment he is playing in Montreal."
He added that clubs need former stars like Drogba around the team, either as coaches, in management or as ambassadors, and that "it is important that they give the club a big image."
So far, it is not clear whether Drogba will stay in Montreal, jump to Chelsea or play out this season with the Impact while also spending time with the West London club in a non-playing role.
It is rare that a player in good health with a signed contract and a guaranteed starting job would give up playing, even if Drogba's heart bleeds Chelsea blue. He said at the end of the season he intends to be back in Montreal, but added that in soccer anything can happen.
He also said he would visit his old teammates and may even train with Chelsea to get ready for the MLS season.
The Ivorian played for Chelsea from 2004 to 2012 and again in 2014-15, when he helped them win a fourth EPL championship. As well as a bag full of league and FA Cup titles, he scored the winning goal in the 2012 Champions League final.
Some feel the loss of Drogba's leadership played a part in the team's troubles this season and that bringing him back would boost morale and cohesion. Chelsea sits 15th in EPL standings with five wins, three draws and nine defeats, 20 points behind surprise leader Leicester.
Bill Beacon, The Canadian Press