Garber: MLS offered Drogba more than $10 million per year

Drogba (Getty Images)

If you did not think MLS had a serious interest in luring Didier Drogba to North America this summer, think again. 

Speaking at a panel at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit in New York on Thursday, MLS comissioner Don Garber said that the league offered Drogba a salary of more than $10 million per year, which would have been an MLS record. Drogba ended up joining former Chelsea teammate Nicolas Anelka at Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua for an even higher payday.

"We offered Didier Drogba, great Chelsea player, over $10 million a year to play," Garber said, when talking about the financial state of the game around the world along with AS Roma CEO Mark Pannes. "It would have been the largest salary we've ever had in Major League Soccer, and he signed (in China) for 18 million euros, net."

A $10 million salary would be double what the current highest salary in the league is, with Theirry Henry's $5 million base salary leading the way. 

What do you think of this development? Do you think Drogba would have been worth that salary for MLS? Surprised to hear that MLS would offer that high of a salary?

Share your thoughts below.

This entry was posted in Major League Soccer. Bookmark the permalink.

81 Responses to Garber: MLS offered Drogba more than $10 million per year

  1. Chris says:

    FIRST! Well, I think this, coupled with the NYC2 stadium deal, shows that MLS isn’t afraid to splash cash when and where they want. It shows that the last decade has been very good to MLS. Another good decade like the last and MLS could be ready to try to run with the big dogs.

  2. andrew in tally says:

    That’s nuts. There is no way Drogba would be a bigger draw than Henri or Becks. A guess the Chinese moneypit dried up.

  3. Anon says:

    What team would he have joined though? Probably LA or NYRB…

  4. DJ says:

    Until MLS lifts the veil on DPs and allocation money, I have trouble 100% believing such things from Garber.

  5. After leading Chelsea to the UCL, I don’t think it’s fair to say he wouldn’t be as big a draw. No one’s going to be as big a draw as Beckham, simply because Beckham spent years cross-promoting himself. Drogba (like Henry) is a soccer star known for soccer, not underwear commercials. The “casual” American fan might not recognize him, but true soccer fans would in a heartbeat.

    No matter, he went for the big money in China that may get pulled from the team and force a move for him elsewhere anyway.

  6. James says:

    Completely ridiculous. Things like this are proof that the MLS still has a long way to go.

  7. Charlie Fiction says:

    Okay, I’ll bite. You care to elaborate on what this is proof of, exactly? Is Drogba not worth it? There’s no transfer fee, remember. He would immediately upgrade any MLS roster at striker.

  8. Vic El Paso texas says:

    Drogba is a dumb fool- God…….. What does he want? Asian food,girls, orange chicken. On the other side, mls at least open their wallet. Can’t wait for Cosmos and their stadium so they can take mls to 3.0 and pressure all teams to get fancy experienced dps. For now anelka,drogba,raul, trezegue,ronaldinho, loca toni, Owen, forlan, and the rest……….stop smoking or something n come to mls

  9. t says:

    How, he just lead Chelsea to a UEFA CL cup.

  10. elgringorico says:

    Maybe not a bigger draw… but still has some prime playing years left. Would dominate the MLS way more than either of them…

  11. Vic El Paso texas says:

    Oh by the way mls needs 4dps n raise salary cap- if not other leagues like the Asians or Mexican and Russian will just kill our momentum

  12. whoop-whoop says:

    MLS clearly has a long way to go to compete with the top leagues. Trying to bring in a player that carried Chelsea to a trophy last year and would instantaneously be one of… ok the top striker in the league, proves nothing other than they realize this and are trying to step it up.

  13. Tyler K says:

    In what way is this completely ridiculous?

  14. rondo says:

    yes.. the Asians…

  15. Shane says:

    Why cant they spend that money on a better reserve schedule and league to develop young players that can then bring in transfer money.

  16. Gnarls says:

    That’s a real enlightened comment you have there. :/

  17. Tyler K says:

    Unfortunately it’s easier said than done. The salary cap increases 2% every year. If they raise it too fast then that will obliterate the mechanisms the league put in place to maintain competitiveness across a the large and small markets.

  18. Zing! says:

    So why would MLS as a league make the offer, and not a specific team? I get the whole single entity, but I haven’t heard of the league going out on signing missions. How would they allocate him if he decided to sign, only LA and NY get put in a pot?

  19. Gnarls says:

    I love when people say “the Asians,” because, you know, they’re so monolithic in language, culture, economy, history, etc.

  20. Dustyn says:

    Yes, because DPs are the receipe to success since the two teams leading the league have exactly none.

  21. Gnarls says:

    Maybe MLS will still get a chance to make good on that offer – if Garber isn’t just blowing smoke up our butts. Last I heard, a couple days ago, Shanghai was looking to sell Drogba and/or Anelka because a wealthy team financier was pulling his funding – or something like that. Come on, MLS, take China’s sloppy seconds.

  22. Helium-3 says:

    If the offer still stands, then he will be playing in MLS next year due to Shanghai’s inability to pay.

    The people who will be filling MLS seats are the real ones who know about Drogba, not the hipsters who buy soccer jerseys because they think it looks cool or to be different than the guys who wear NFL/NBA jerseys.

  23. Creige says:

    Drogba is a great player but if MLS can afford that kind of salary then it’s time to pay their younger/homegrown players more. Where is the incentive to perform in this league if only international stars in their twilight years can get paid? That’s why young american kids give up on soccer or choose college over turning prop because the pay off for being a professional is as good as an entry level job.

  24. Dustyn says:

    Yeah, because just blowing money when the league is financially healthy and growing at a steady rate is a good business decision.

    The league is healthy and growing steadily because they have control of expenditures. If they could pay more, they would.

  25. Gnarls says:

    That’s not exactly proof for or against the success of DPS since LA won last year with three.

  26. James says:


    You should apply to be commissioner of MLS, you’d do a better job than Baldie would.

  27. Jon says:

    His not coming doesn’t change things for Rev fans at all. He would never have come to New England. For us, it’s one less foreign international to rub our noses in our second class status.

  28. Ross says:

    It’s all about supply and demand. Drogba can command that kind of money. Not only because he is a great player but because he has name recognition. He will put people in front of their tvs.

  29. Tyler K says:

    Pay the younger players more? That’s why we have recently introduced the young-DP rule. Brek Shea makes over 350k/year. That’s all the incentive the players should need. If they’re deserving, the league has provided a way for them to be rewarded without negatively affecting a team’s salary cap.

  30. Powderhorn Pops says:

    I can’t speak for James but why not spread those $10 million per year to up the level of the rank and file players or bring in better coaches or put into the academy system. Money could be spent better with a more long range vision.

  31. James says:

    Really? Who is he going to draw?
    Current soccer fans already have an opinion about the MLS. They either currently watch it or not. The MLS looking crazy spending money on a pre-retirment player isn’t going to get them to watch anymore than they do or don’t.
    And the casual American? Do you really think that demographic cares about some old guy coming over? At best they will watch the first of his games. After that, they will go back to not caring about soccer at all.

  32. sjm003 says:

    You can’t look at attendance alone. Drogba would be worth the money just for the TV ratings that would come with wanting to see a superstar striker that still has a lot to give.

  33. john.q says:

    you can’t say for or against the leagues willingness to spend. you don’t know anything about the $$ the league has.

    i do know that Don is great at managing the league money-wise. if he went for this im sure he has it under control.

  34. David St. Hubbins says:

    which Asians? Eurasia or Eastasia? who is Oceania?

  35. James says:

    Really? Seriously? Rookie MINIMUM in NBA: 473k. NFL: 390K. And it only goes up every year, and that’s just for training camp bodies.
    Shea meanwhile is as far as I know probably the only young American making a DP salary and that is of course years after coming into the league.
    Do you REALLY think that’s good enough?
    But hey, if the best thing you think the league can do with 10MIL is throw it at Drogba, good for you.

  36. Joe+G says:

    Don’t you have an Asian passport?

  37. RLW2020 says:

    wow this is very interesting! i am glad to hear MLS was bold but not stupid crazy like Shanghai was. I agree with JK and Helium; Drogba would be a real football fan’s dream signing for just about any MLS squad! So physical and technical, plus coming off a Champions League victory.

    If his Chinese deal falls through I hope he comes to MLS, either for 10 mill or maybe Garber could hardball him down! I would love to see him somewhere besides LA/NY, maybe Chicago, SKC or Seattle, at the same time it would be great to see Beckham or TiHe deliver crosses to Drogba.

    as much as MLS isn’t perfect I stand by the Don. He is determined to capitalize on the growing interest in the game here and its getting better every year.

  38. bcoug says:

    Can’t make much sense out of most of what Vic has posted here, but in Drogba’s defense I will say that Orange Chicken in delicious.

  39. bcoug says:

    Should have said “is delicious” – I think Vic’s non-sensical post has impacted mine.

  40. iToddyC says:

    This just shows when the MLS has the means aka MONEY to play w the big boys they will. As long as they are smart about it you can count on the MLS being a top class league w/ world class players in 15-20 years. Drogba would’ve been pure class and dominated the MLS. It’s a shame he took a few more yen and missed out on a plethora of marketing opportunities here in the US. #DOOP!!

  41. Charles says:

    I realize that most will think that the fan that knows who Drogba is, isn’t the casual fan, but I disagree.

    IF they only watch the top notch, that defines the casual fan to me. MLS doesn’t want the casual fans.
    You end up with the Cosmos syndrome. IF Pele isn’t playing and we win everytime, we aren’t going…and the Redbulls draw not enough again.

    I would much rather see the money spent to keep national team players here and get the average salary up so that athletes deciding on sports, dream about playing pro-soccer like they do other sports.

  42. RK says:

    This is American food! Let’s talk about Szechuan!

  43. RK says:

    Has anyone put a discovery claim on him? 😉

  44. The Imperative Voice says:

    I think it would have been overpaying at his age but he would have had leverage from his goal + penalty in the CL final, and it would be substantial publicity.

    I’d be concerned as with everyone his age whether he’d hold up. Montreal probably has a row of rocking chairs on their sideline dedicated to Serie A players of similar age that they’ve signed and then gotten injured.

    There were rumors from Ching that one of the equity stakeholders at Shenhua was peeved that the state-owned enterprises holding the rest of the team were not contributing to the club, threatening to stop funding the team himself if he wasn’t given more control. But nothing’s come of it.

  45. Chris_B says:

    What would be the affect of making the rookie minimum $100K? That $10M would go a fair way toward that I would guess. Still, I would love to see Drogba play in the MLS but upgrade everyone’s roster would make the league better. If $10M (or some reasonable number) would mean more playing out of the back and completed passes for every team, then I’m all for it. I love MLS but I’m still dreaming about the day when the overall skill level is more attractive.

  46. slyboy says:

    All those things you said are already happening, 10 million is not going all of a sudden make youth players better. Each team takes care of its own academy anyway, we are already seeing which teams value those youth set ups and which dont. Rank and players need to get better before they are paid much better, the ones going to europe are good enough that we would need much much more in the way of salary to retain them, 10 million is not going to do that, thats slightly less then 500k per team to distribute between 20+ players.

  47. Joe says:

    Drogba was named one of the most influential people on Earth a year or two ago. The whole of Africa would have known about MLS or more about it in an instant.

    The more interesting subject is great players going for one more payday in Asia. China has stupid amounts of money but as someone who’s traveled in China, it will never be a major draw because of the extreme cultural shock going there. Same can be said for UAE or Kuwait or some place similar. MLS’ biggest threat to becoming a big league capable of drawing the signature of Drogba and the like is Australia’s A-League.

    And how does applying the $10million to the Reserve league or the rookies instantly improve the quality of MLS over bringing in a world class player? Will Mike Stephens be a better player tomorrow because he’s making an extra 10K or because he has to now defend Drogba or a player of his caliber?

  48. slyboy says:

    James, 95% of anyone who knows anything about MLS knows “Baldie” has been and is a great commish.

  49. The Imperative Voice says:

    Oh I believe they made the offer, the more nebulous bit is how the teams involved stay under the salary caps. It used to be pretty much opaque, and though the salaries are now on the table, the transfer fees (for others more than Drogba) are less so, and the allocation bit is pretty obscure. I understand of late they’ve given money for success which is the opposite of the traditional parity/ build from the bottom concept and goes to some teams like LA that have always been the subject of complaints for playing by their own rules.

    I also think people need to admit that the Beckham rule is basically an above-table restoration of the old star system that favored teams like LA and DC in the first few years. Many teams cannot afford the DP which makes it like the French laws against sleeping under bridges, which are said to be objective because they bar the rich and poor alike. It’s arguably a means of papering over the fact some teams get to sign expensive players while others don’t, while claiming to have an equal salary cap for all. I think it was more justifiable at 1 player but when you get to 3 you can field more of a team of expensive players and thus the imbalance becomes more apparent.

  50. Ryan says:

    I think the thought is to invest $10 mil in Drogba with the hopes that merchandise, TV, attendance, and other revenue streams increase by more that $10 mil as a result.

  51. slyboy says:

    James i am getting the sense you are a bit naive. It is the f&$#ing NBA!!!!!!!!!!! You can’t compare the two!

  52. slyboy says:

    I am sorry, but we aren’t producing “rookies” that deserve that kind of cash. and if you give the 3rd round rookie 100k to warm the bench you have to give the Tim Wards, James Rileys of the league at least an equal raise, and you suddenly increased the payroll of the league by 50 million a year, if not more. Makes perfect sense to me right?? people need to take an economics class

  53. The Imperative Voice says:

    Aww cmon let’s be real, who do you think the moneybags will be among AEG, Red Bull, and the random bunch associated with the new minor league Cosmos? People forget the old Cosmos team was backed by Warner Communications.

    Their “stadium” is imaginary and at $300 million may very well remain so. I think any concept for a team with a $100 million MLS buy-in and a $300 million park is crazed. There is a reason teams usually play across the river in NJ.

  54. Old School says:

    Much like our parents, we hated the limitations and structure they implemented.

    However, it was for a good reason. We just didn’t realize it until later.

    That’s the best way I can some up Garber’s leadership. I’ve never been his biggest fan but you can’t argue with the success & growth under his reign.

  55. The Imperative Voice says:

    It’s complicated, I’d say buy the minors and use them as the MLB minor equivalent, in lieu of the half-cooked reserve system of present. But then you get into the affordability question, who pays, how much.

  56. Really? says:

    really chris? First?

  57. The Imperative Voice says:

    from China I mean

  58. Not sure when the next labor negotiations will begin again … but you can bet that the player’s union will push for a higher minimum and higher salary cap. $75,000 to $90,000 is a good start for a player minimum to live off of and maybe not have to take a 2nd job.

  59. CplDaniel says:

    Good Job, Chris! Especially with all you typed in that post. It’s amazing that somebody didn’t swoop in and beat you to the punch while you were writing all that.
    You should wrote “First!!” then wrote the rest in a 2nd post.

  60. Creige says:

    These salaries made sense years ago when the league was in its infancy and American, Canadian, Carribean and Central American soccer players had few options. If the point of the MLS is to build North American soccer, particulary the USA and Canada, then you need to attract the best of those players. It’s frustrating to watch good players leave for 3rd tier leagues where because of their status as internationals they are often not given time to develop. It’s also frustrating to watch good young players take a backseat (benched or playing in the reserves) to overage slow and subpar European players because they supposedly add legitimacy to this league.

  61. Aguinaga says:

    Probably. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it were Chicago or Seattle either.

  62. DirtyLeeds says:

    Please, the Aussies know would be the first to tell you that A-League is a joke. It hardly compares to MLS.

  63. Brad says:

    How does a team fund salties for dp’s? And how does MLS say that THEY offered $10 mil? Is it not the team offering that player the cash?

    Does MLS offer a stipend? What’s the deal…

  64. Brad says:

    *salaries not “salties”

  65. soccerhorn says:

    Probably they wanted to give Drogba $10mil… to play in Columbus. And Drogba said “if Beckham won’t play there, why should I?” (For those who don’t know, Beckham has conveniently missed the Columbus road game every year but one).

    Seriously though, the league may improve its visibility with the occasional signing of an overpriced vet, but if it wants to improve it’s quality of play – the main point of all this – they have to improve the depth of talent, at every position on every team. That means recruiting more 22-year-old rising international stars, not fading veterans. And that in turn means boosting the rookie minimums and foreign exceptions. How about an International Generation Adidas?

  66. Brad says:

    That makes no sense. If that were the thinking of MLS 5years ago we would be nowhere close to what it is now. Imagine not getting david beckham to the league. Honestly, just give that a thought.

    There’s no way you can justify spending 10 mil a year in a better way. Like splitting $1 into 100 pennies–worthless.

  67. YO-Joe says:

    Alessandro Del Piero just signed with Sydney. He could have been one of those aging player MLS experiments. It’s an international market. I trust The Don is great at building the league with a solid financial foundation.

  68. dennis says:

    yes they lead the league, but who cares about those teams?

  69. c says:

    Chicago? Are you serious, just look at what we’ve done recently with signings.

  70. Darwin says:

    Eh, don’t see that many hipsters in FC Dallas shirts. I think you have a geographic bias 😉 Mostly, FCD fans fill seats because there’s a bouncy gym on one end of the field.

  71. kyle says:

    The MLS needs bigger TV deals. So I could see why they tried to sign Drogba to generate more interest. Alot of posters on this site talk about how many fans show up to the games but thats not nearly as important as how many fans watch games on tv.
    Thats why you only see a certain group of teams on tv over and over again. And thats why they tried for Drogba and thats why NY will get another team soon.

  72. slyboy says:

    Honestly which good young players are being sat for “aging” Europeans?, I want an example, not just some scrub who shouldn’t be playing anyway, this is one of the stupidest arguments heard around the board, if the player is good, he will play, talent languishing on the bench is often more a sign of a bad team, not really because his spot was taken by some foreign talent. The “good” american players will always leave for Europe…even if the money was the same…why, well because it is Europe! BTW, the last time I checked the league wasn’t exactly making big time money.

  73. FRT says:

    I quit watching MLS about 6 months ago (the team I followed was completely ruined by awful coaching – Nowak/Philly) but would start watching again in a heartbeat if Drogba was here.

  74. FRT says:

    Del Piero went from Juventus to A-league this week, and pretty sure he didn’t consider any MLS teams.

  75. dgoshilla says:

    Well, for starters you could get 20 players for $500,000 each that would upgrade any MLS team and the league as a whole. Or, 10 players for 1 million. I don’t see the math with Drogba. Not worth it.

  76. Thunderbear says:

    No player his age would play on Seattle’s football turf.

  77. David says:

    Is money really that important to Drogba? It really seems like the only reason he went to China. USA has so much going for it over China just in terms of a country. And it must suck to not speak the language.

    I’m glad that the MLS realized what he would have meant and was willing to be so competitive to get him. I think it speaks volumes about the MLS as an organization and gives me great hope for the future.

  78. Tim says:

    Dominate? That just doesn’t happen at first in the US

  79. Sport says:

    He is already looking to get out of his Chinese contract…MLS has until 9/15.

    I could see him in Houston.

  80. Ed says:

    Ownership structure of the mls. Player contracts are with the league not individual teams. Thats why the mls negotiated the transfers of Cameron etc.

  81. Kojo says:

    If MLS offered Drogba $10M+ per year why not have offered $10M+ per year to Oscar? Or Neymar? Most likely would never get them but it is free publicity for the league. Right now the most intriquing player I want to watch is Fabian Castillo from FC Dallas. The young DP who can get paid $10M+ per year by MLS is the player to sign. And tell NBC and ESPN to get more cameras so to better capture the abilities of these young players.