Thu, Jul 22, 2004 - Page 19 News List

Chelsea secures Didier Drogba just in time for US tour

AP , LONDON

Chelsea finalized the transfer of French striker Didier Drogba Tuesday and extended the contract of striker Eidur Gudjohnsen, but is still working on the transfer of Benfica's Tiago Mendes.

Drogba signed for three years at Stamford Bridge and will travel with Chelsea on Wednesday for its preseason tour in the US where it will play Celtic, Roma and AC Milan.

"I am very happy to be here and am looking forward to playing for my new team," Drogba said.

"I want to do well with my national team and my club, so I will do my best to be better than I was last season at Marseille."

The 26-year-old Ivory Coast striker cost a British record for a striker of ?24 million (US$44.4 million). His acquisition brings the amount of money spent by Russian owner Roman Abramovich on transfers in the past year to ?190.9 million (US$353.6 million).

Drogba scored 18 league goals for Marseille last season and added another 11 in European competition. He scored in every round as Marseille reached the UEFA Cup final, losing 2-0 to Valencia.

He said a key decision in moving was Jose Mourinho, who left Porto to become Chelsea manager in June to replace the sacked Claudio Ranieri.

Mourinho defended the amount spent on Drogba.

"You only know if a player is cheap or expensive at the end of the season, or at the end of his contract," he said. "Sometimes you pay ?5 million (US$9.25 million) for a player and you think the player is very cheap -- but he is the most expensive player in history because he never plays.

"If Drogba helps us to get what Chelsea have been fighting for many years, if we are champions or European champions and he helps us to arrive there, then I think he is cheap."

Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon agreed.

"I think his record speaks for itself," Kenyon said. "I and everyone else feel confident that the money spent on him will be paid back in doing what he does best -- by scoring goals."

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