Didier Drogba remains confident he can play at the highest level for at least two more years, though the reluctance of Chelsea's hierarchy to hand the Ivorian anything more than a 12-month extension to his contract is likely to mean the 33-year-old will be forced to leave the club this summer if he is to do so.
The striker's crucial double strike against Valencia took his tally to four goals in his last four games after a difficult start to the season in which he underwent surgery on his elbow, was sidelined by a head injury and missed three games for his dismissal in Andre Villas-Boas' side's heated defeat by Queens Park Rangers in the west London derby.
The former Marseilles forward's return to form, capped against the Spanish team on Tuesday night, seemed to secure his place as the Portuguese's front-line striker ahead of Fernando Torres, but neither Villas-Boas – who remains conscious of the need to reduce his squad's average age – nor the club's hierarchy, aware that Chelsea's wage bill must be reduced if they are to comply with Uefa's looming Financial Fair Play regulations, are as yet prepared to offer him the two-year deal he craves. With Drogba not prepared to contemplate the compromise of a short-term offer, the impasse over his contract is yet to be bridged. "I hope I have got at least a couple of years left in me," said the striker. "I started late. I was 25 when I played my first Champions League games. I feel happy, I feel good on the pitch, I really enjoy my football and when we are winning like [this] I am really delighted.
"I am not yet 100 per cent fit. Everyone has seen that I have lost a lot of goals [compared to my usual return] and this is something I hope my fitness will help me to improve. When I get to 100 per cent there are a few mistakes I will try to rectify. Injuries have not helped this season, the knock on the head, the red card, the surgery. They didn't help me to get my fitness. Now I'm having more games and it's going to come back. I hope it will come quickly, but it is going to come back."
Drogba's agent, Thierno Seydi, has previously insisted that his client will use a potential free transfer to sign for whichever club "will pay him the most money". A number of sides in Russia, the United Arab Emirates and Major League Soccer – including David Beckham's alma mater, Los Angeles Galaxy – are likely to match his demands, while the striker would no doubt be tempted by the prospect of a return to Marseilles, the club where he made his name. Unsurprisingly, Harry Redknapp has confessed that he, too, would welcome the chance to take Drogba to Tottenham. No move, though, will materialise in January.
Drogba's clubmate Nicolas Anelka, meanwhile, is believed to have agreed terms with the ambitious Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua after handing in a transfer request. The former French international, along with the Brazilian defender Alex – a £2m target for Juventus – has been exiled to train with the youth team by Villas-Boas after the Portuguese suggested the pair's "mindset" was not in line with the rest of his squad. The former Arsenal, Real Madrid and Liverpool striker would stand to become one of the best-paid players in the world if he moves to the cash-rich Chinese Premier League, where the unheralded Argentine Dario Conca was last year handed a salary bettered only by Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to join Ghuangzhou Evergrande.