African great Didier Drogba looks ahead to life off the pitch

Didier Drogba admits he started thinking about life after playing some time ago, and settled on the Phoenix Rising project in the lower leagues in the United States because of the enormous potential the opportunity offers.

The Phoenix club are one of 12 sides chasing four places in the upcoming Major Soccer League expansion, and with a global icon like Drogba on board as a co-owner they have some heavyweight backing.

The former Chelsea and Ivory Coast star has finished the season with the club this past weekend as they were ousted from the play-offs on penalties by Swope Park Rangers from Kansas.

Whether that will be the end of his illustrious playing career that includes a UEFA Champions League title and four English Premier League winners' medals, among others, remains to be seen.

He has hinted he could play on into his 40s next season, but also left the door open to call it quits.

"Sad things ended this way, but so proud of my team @phxrisingfc and what we've achieved in such a short period of time," Drogba wrote on his Instagram account after the weekend playoff exit.

"From building a stadium in fifty-two days, the first home game, to this last playoff game today, you've been fantastic my people!!!!!

"Not even a year old in this league and teams fear us, I have to say that it is an honour to be part of this organization!!! Special thank-you to the fans for their support, home and away, you guys are the best!!!! See you next season."

Whether "see you next season" means on the pitch or in the boardroom is the question on everybody's lips, but what is clear is that Drogba is now focused on life as an owner and administrator.

"When I had this offer, I was thinking, 'Well, I have been a player before, but never an owner', so its a good challenge," Drogba tells KweséESPN in an exclusive interview in Phoenix.

"It's interesting for the future as well and what I would possibly want to do when I stop playing. I am going to be 40 next March, so it's about time to think about what's next; to apply what I was thinking a few years ago.

"The plan is going well; this opportunity is amazing because it puts me straight into what I want to learn. I enjoy more the fact that I am learning a lot about the other side of the game, which is very important."

Drogba is part of a large ownership group at the club that has been assembled with the aim of winning a spot in the MLS. Phoenix is the fifth largest city in the USA and a major media market, which the club hopes will count in its favour.

It also has a new permanent stadium 'shovel-ready', while attendances at its 'pop-up' temporary venue this season have been close to 100 percent capacity.

"It's an amazing project here, to build a team from scratch and apply for an MLS license," Drogba adds. "To be part of the biggest league in America, it's a good challenge.

"I played before in this league [MLS] with Montreal [Impact] and I had time to understand the league and the challenges, and to see how this opportunity could become a big one. That's why I came here, to try to make history."

Drogba showed plenty of energy despite his age in this past year, netting 10 goals in 13 starts in 2017.

"I'm having fun and that's really what keeps me playing because my teammates are great and I feel like a kid when I see the ball. I'm still a competitor," he says.

But the start of the 2018 United Soccer League (USL) season, likely in late March or early April, will seem a long way off and there is a very real chance that we have seen the last -- on the pitch at least -- of one of Africa's greatest, if not THE greatest, footballing sons.