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Fire acknowledge pursuit of Didier Drogba

The Fire and Montreal Impact have publicly acknowledged their interest in Didier Drogba, but getting both franchises to say they want the former English and European champion could be the easy part.

The hard part is still ahead.

On Monday night, Impact president Joey Saputo told a Montreal radio station the Impact and Fire are talking with the former Chelsea striker. Then on Tuesday morning, Fire chief operating officer Atul Khosla tweeted he was “looking to clear the air,” posting the club has been in “regular dialogue over the past 3 weeks” with the 37-year-old Drogba and that they have his discovery claim, which gives them the first chance to acquire the free-agent star.

The Fire also released a statement to that end, highlighting the final point.

“The Chicago Fire are interested in signing Didier Drogba and have been in direct contact with the player and his agent to negotiate a contract. We would love to have Mr. Drogba join our club and we are working within the rules set by Major League Soccer for the discovery process,” club spokesman Doug Hicks said. “In accordance with those rules, it is inappropriate for anyone outside our club to infringe upon this process.”

Saputo, however, said during his interview with TSN 690 in Montreal that the league told him there was a brief period when the Fire weren’t interested in Drogba – who would be a Designated Player – and that MLS contacted other clubs about his services. Saputo noted the Impact then began courting Drogba but the Fire, who as of now have the maximum three DPs, then were able to make room on the roster and pursue the international star.

Asked about Saputo discussing Drogba, Fire coach Frank Yallop said “you can’t stop people (from) doing what they want to do.”

“I just know that we’re talking to the player and we’re hoping that it works out,” Yallop said. “I’m not going to comment on what other teams are doing. For us, we have the discovery so something will happen from that.”

It’s clear what the desired outcome is for the Fire as they prepare to host Orlando City in a U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal Wednesday night. Another sure thing is that Drogba won’t come cheap for the Fire, who according to ESPN FC have upped their offer from a previously reported 18-month deal worth around $2.5 million per season.

There have also been reports linking Drogba to clubs in Italy and Qatar, further complicating the situation.

“It’s up to the player. We can’t twist his arm,” said Yallop, who hopes everything will be resolved soon. “He’s got to decide that he wants to make the move and we’ll go from there.”

If the move is to Chicago, Yallop said that would be “wonderful.”

“To bring a player of his stature here would be fantastic for not only the fans, (but for) the club and everyone involved in that for what he’s done in the game,” Yallop said, “and what he’s going to do.”