Didier Drogba was back in training with Montreal Impact on Tuesday, November 1, and saying all the right things.
The star striker's reported spat with L'Impact head coach Mauro Biello over his role in the team has seen the player sit out four games, including Montreal's first two matches of the playoffs. In those two post-season games, Matteo Mancosu has been irrepressible in the starting forward role, scoring three goals and providing one assist.
Drogba's prolonged absence from the squad has been attributed to a back injury (the original reason given for his omission from the match-day 18 against Toronto FC on October 16, when the apparent rift between Montreal's star player and head coach was revealed). On his return to training, he updated local media on his fitness:
It's a bit better but not the best. Not what I want, but we're working on it.
Hardly a confident declaration of availability for Sunday's Eastern Conference semifinal second leg against New York Red Bulls.
Coach Biello was similarly cautious in his evaluation of Drogba's potential return to the match-day squad:
It's good news to have him available if he's fine.
Per Bill Beacon's reporting for The Canadian Press, Drogba has indicated he will be in New York with his team, whether he is fit to play or not.
To the continuing questions about the player's role and future with L'Impact, the 38-year-old was deft in deflecting attention away from the reported dispute between himself and his club's management:
I started my career as a sub, so I don't know why it should be difficult for me to be on the bench.
And he made it clear that he was not willing to let the controversy he had stirred affect his teammate's focus:
If you want to carry on killing me, fine, kill me, but don't touch the team and don't touch the club because we have an objective. We're trying to do better than last year.
Drogba is back in training and he will be at Red Bull Arena. Whether he travels as a player or celebrity supporter, however, is still to be confirmed. Either way, he is clearly in no mood to see the drama that may have cut short his time in Montreal affect his teammates and their push for playoff success.