MLS tried to make Didier Drogba its highest paid player ever, couldn’t match Chinese offer

When MLS gave a 31-year-old David Beckham a four-year contract worth a league-record $6.5 million per year in 2007, there was vigorous debate over the financial sense of such a move. Now, five years into Beckham's successful stint in the league, MLS commissioner Don Garber has revealed that an attempt was made earlier this year to obliterate that record by offering 34-year-old Didier Drogba more than $10 million a year. But, the former Chelsea striker and Ivory Coast captain turned down the offer to join China's aspiring global power Shanghai Shenhua and become one of the six highest paid players in the world.

From the Sporting News:

"We offered Didier Drogba, the great Chelsea player, over $10 million a year to play. It would have been the largest salary we ever had in Major League Soccer, and he signed (with Shanhai) for €18 million ($22.7 million) net," Garber said during the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in New York City, without indicating which club was in line to secure the striker's services.

On Friday, New England Revolution president Brian Bilello wrote on Twitter, "Re: Drogba, we were involved with the MLS discussions earlier this year. Always interested when a player like that is potentially available."

Drogba also turned down an offer from Serie A champions Juventus worth a reported €10 million ($12.8) over two years. Had he accepted the MLS offer, he would have nearly doubled the league's current highest-paid player, Thierry Henry, who is on $5.6 million (David Beckham is now the league's third highest paid player at $4 million a year since signing a new two-year contract in January).

[Related: Dempsey's move to Tottenham makes him highest-paid U.S. soccer player ever]

While a large part of Beckham's appeal was his international celebrity, a large part of Drogba's appeal is his status as an international icon. Named as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in 2010, he has been credited with ending a civil war in his homeland and he uses his endorsement money and foundation to help build hospitals in Africa. On the pitch, he played perhaps the most integral role in Chelsea winning the Champions League for the first time in the club's history last season. When he arrived in Shanghai, the reception he got at the airport was fit for a someone who just singlehandedly overthrew a dictator.

Though Drogba signed a two and a half year deal with Shanghai, there have already been rumors of Zhu Jun, the club's wealthy backer, threatening to withdraw his investment over arguments with other shareholders. So maybe New England and MLS will have a second chance soon.

Full video of Garber's Bloomberg panel discussion here.

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