HANOVER, N.J. --In just seven games played, Didier Drogba has five goals and an assist, by far the best 'Goals Per 90 Minutes' of any player with significant minutes played in MLS this year. And on Wednesday night, the New York Red Bulls will host the Montreal Impact and their star forward at Red Bull Arena.
But in 2012, a source within the league said that the Red Bulls had a discovery claim on the then high-scoring Chelsea star, meaning that they had the rights for first-negotiations with the Ivory Coast striker if he decided to come to MLS.
He would have been the prototypical signing for the Red Bulls then, a high-profile player from a top league in Europe. He would have fit the mold of past Designated Player signings such as Claudio Reyna, Juan Pablo Angel, Thierry Henry, Rafa Marquez and Tim Cahill. All were relatively big names playing in Europe and arguably would be considered a little past their prime when they came to MLS. In the case of Marquez, he might have been considered expired.
Drogba fit that mold of an Angel or an Henry perfectly for those Red Bull teams, but perhaps not now.
The Red Bulls have gone younger these days in light of Henry's retirement last year and the less than hospitable parting of ways with Cahill. There isn't a big star on this squad and even their recent Designated Player, Gonzalo Veron, isn't a big name outside of his native Argentina.
But Drogba, who came into the league this past summer, would have been a big name.
A big name but not the right fit, says head coach Jesse Marsch.
"I don't think Drogba would fit with what we're doing here," Marsch said on Tuesday.
"He's just not in the age category that we would want. Obviously he's a great player but I think when we make big investments in this club it's going to be for the long-term process. I don't think we need to be as aggressive to make a splash in our market with a big name. We need to, I think, honor the team that we're becoming.
"Not just the immediacy but the long-term outlook. We want this to be extremely cyclical, we want players to be here for years on years. We want them to fit into our system and understand how to grow into our system.
"Probably that profile of a player doesn't fit."
It isn't a knock on Drogba, who has had the hottest start of any star player in MLS history. But Marsch's system is not only all about the team, it requires a certain skill set. His team presses and has a high workrate, something that a forward who turned 37 years old this past spring likely doesn't have. Drogba might be a nice player, but he's apparently not a Red Bull type of player anymore.