Didier Drogba is the human experience, life and death, personified: equal parts one-man goal-scoring machine and global messenger for peace. Many—well, at least Rihanna—consider him a God.
One day, Drogba is single-handedly halting the 2005 Ivory Coast civil war with a megaphone (which was almost, if not entirely, true); the next he is single-handedly winning the 2012 Champions League finale for underdog Chelsea with a game-tying 88th minute header and eventual title-clinching penalty kick, naturally forcing the Vatican to pay tribute to his greatness, just some two years ago.
Meanwhile, Major League Soccer may soon consider him for arguably the holiest position of them all: designated player.
And today, the MLS needs his sacred services, effective immediately. (Or, during the Winter transfer window, anyways.) Yes, The Beatles days of David Beckham are faraway, faded dreams. Landon Donovan just rode his MLS Cup-strapped horse off into the sunset. Newly minted MVP and Irish legend Robbie Keane might too fly the Home Depot Center coop. All of which leaves a goal-scoring identity vacuum for the league's most successful team. And with it, a golden missed opportunity for MLS to stamp the Galaxy in the Lakers or Yankees vein as its intrinsically self-important hero (or villain) to hold a casual fan's interest.
Enter the 36-year-old Ivorian. When Drogba ponders his third-act and final mission, here's one providence-guided suggestion: to take his talents to Carson; to elevate the American brand of the beautiful game; and to irrevocably shape the fortunes of MLS and the LA Galaxy, forever.
It's simple, really, a match made in sports entertainment heaven. But is it within the spiritual realm of possibility?
Before Chelsea's 2014-15 campaign closes, maybe not. But as Avon begged of Stringer overlooking the Baltimore skyline before Mr. Bell's Season 3 demise, please indulge the glorious possibility and "just dream with me."
Why? Because the time is now for MLS to capitalize on market share gained on the back of the country's most watched World Cup. The league is ever-expanding; MLS franchise values are way up; the quality of yanks, at home and abroad, is seemingly stronger than ever, even if Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey are not widely marketable, league-carrying superstars. In sum, MLS rising ahead of baseball in popularity and the window for futbol to challenge football is ever, if merely, ajar.
But windows don't stay open forever. That is, unless Drogba furiously slams his pony-tailed head through said windows, turning them into empty chasms of space, through which a real American soccer revolution could burst through.
So why would Drogba succeed where Beckham, big, bad Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Thierry Henry, and other DPs ultimately could not?
For starters, the Chelsea striker's cool finishing, brooding physicality, and hard-charging goalward drives are unlike anything MLS fans have witnessed (sorry, I'm not sorry, Chris Wondolowski). It's a style that perfectly bridges the gap to the casual fan, and dismissals of the game's slow-moving, crescendo-building ways. To Joe Sportsfan, purveyor of touchdowns, dunks and dingers, the sport's nuances are wasted. That is, until Drogba gives him goals aplenty, and good reason to give a fuck.
Sure, the occasional Beckham bend made Sportscenter; ditto the elegant, silent-but-deadly Henry strike from outside the box (and the sporadic Blanco highlight on ESPN Deportes, maybe). But the beauty belying the likes of Beckham and Henry (and soon, Orlando City's Kaka, who will test this theory in full if he can ever stay healthy) is most appreciated watching a full-90; a back-heel here, a delicately lofted thru-ball there. Beautiful, almost always; easily digestible, rarely. As such, Beckham could never fully capture the absurd magic in the air at his 2007 exhibition home debut against Chelsea. And in spite of Henry's MLS success, the former Arsenal man told Grant Wahl on arrival, he gladly walked the streets of Gotham in quietobscurity**.**
There's little about Drogba's game or persona that lies quiet or indigestible. On the field, he may not be the 2012 tour de force of Usain Bolt-compared days past, but still relies on power, punishment, and precision, and despite his age, remains an important secondary-option (behind Spanish world-beater Diego Costa) for formerly undefeated first-place Chelsea, with six goals in all comps, and three in the Premiership to his name. (Or, three times as many as Roberto Soldado).
Louder still, the leading scorer in Ivory Coast history is the rarest of breeds, a casually charismatic, good-natured, yet larger-than-life striker who doesn't rely on ego or third-person declarations a la Zlatan, but still manages to keep things interesting. Drogba brings an outspoken edge all his own, but a righteous one at that—when he calls a referee a "fucking disgrace" as he did to Tom Henning Ovrebo in the 2009 UCL semis loss to Barcelona, he does so by seeking out the TV cameras and loudly repeating the mantra three times for all to hear. And he does so only when the opposing team agrees with him and admits the referee's game-deciding incompetence. Again, righteous.
At which point, Drogba restores the natural order of things, single-handedly per usual: first, using mind control to force Ovrebo to admit his mistakes; then, using his surgical left foot to punish Barcelona in the first leg of the 2012 European semis and write the penultimate chapter in Didier's Travels. MLS would be wise to make itself Drogba's next stop.
All of this and more is what Tinseltown can look forward to once Drogba dawns the Galaxy navy blue and gold, embarks on writing his saga's final chapter, etches his place alongside Lalas and Wynalda in MLS folklore, and captures the American sports psyche in the process.
The pieces are in place: Drogba's 4 million Euro salary is only a shade higher than what Robbie Keane cashed this year, and a few weeks ago, he expressed interest in playing under Uncle Sam, which he also suggested in 2012 when he left Chelsea for China (though, sadly, reports link him to the mid-market Sounders or bottom-of-the-table-bound expansion franchise NYCFC). No worries, though, as the serially bizarre "blind draw" and confusing MLS transfer game should ensure that cooler heads prevail to send him to Southern California for his star turn.
Make no mistake, though. It won't be easy. After all, the Special One hopes to hog Didier all to himself, seemingly implying Drogba was going nowhere: "We love him. We want him," Mourinho declared less than two weeks ago, an enormous upswell of positive emotion for the Portuguese manager's surly standards.
Well, so do we Jose. The fate of American soccer may well be at stake, a matter of life and death personified. And there's only one man—or God—fit for the job.
His name is Didier Drogba.