Drogba leads nominations for African award

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba insists he has settled his differences with the African Football Confederation (CAF) after being shortlisted once again for the continent's top playing award.

Drogba confirmed, should he win, he would be honoured to accept the accolade of African Footballer of the Year in March.

The Chelsea striker is one of the final three nominees for the 2009 award along with Michael Essien and Samuel Eto'o and was the winner in 2006.

However, the Ivory Coast striker was at the centre of controversy the following year when his participation in the African Nations Cup prevented him from attending the award ceremony in Mali.

It was believed that, because of his absence, Frederic Kanoute was named player of the year instead and Drogba withdrew from the running for future CAF awards.

But Drogba has now revealed bridges have since been built with CAF.

"That was the past," said Drogba. "We all sat down and spoke about it - Mr Hayatou (the CAF president) and the people from the Ivory Coast Federation - so I think everything is good now.

"It is a good trophy and a big honour for a player to win it, especially this year, which is so special for the African continent. To win it would be very nice."

Meanwhile, Chelsea continue to place little credence in reports their England midfielder Joe Cole is a transfer target for Manchester United.

The Blues, while not publicly commenting on the suggestion Cole will head for Old Trafford in the summer, were bullish enough to privately dismiss the prospect as nothing more than speculation.

However, the longer Cole does not resolve his contract impasse with Chelsea, the more feverish the transfer speculation will become.

Talks on a new deal for Cole have dragged on for weeks and are no nearer being concluded.

The 28-year-old will be out of contract in the summer and is desperate to convince England boss Fabio Capello he is worth a place in his World Cup squad this summer.

But Cole's form continues to fall under the spotlight and his removal at half-time in the 4-1 FA Cup victory over Cardiff last Saturday has not helped.

Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti insists Cole is an integral part of his plans but the player has yet to force his way back into the side on a regular basis since recovering from his knee ligament injury last year.

Cole was beginning to show signs of returning to his best when he was affected by an unrelated knee injury that kept him out of the 2-1 defeat by Everton last week.

Cole would have been shocked to have been hauled off at half-time against Cardiff but Chelsea captain John Terry insists the player can bounce back.

"He had a problem last week with the other knee," said Terry. "But he was just beginning to buzz again - setting up the first goals against Birmingham and Burnley."

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