No decision over Drogba knee op - Grant

December 7, 2007

Chelsea manager Avram Grant insists no decision has yet been taken on whether striker Didier Drogba will undergo an operation to solve a knee problem.

The Ivory Coast international is set to miss tomorrow's Premier League clash with Sunderland and will probably not be required for next week's Champions League clash with Valencia as the Blues are already assured of qualification for the next phase.

But as the game after that is away to leaders Arsenal the Chelsea hierarchy are desperate to be able to field a player their manager declared was the 'best striker in the world'.

The player's own priorities are understood to be slightly different however as Drogba is keen to be fit in time to lead the Ivory Coast into the African Nations Cup competition, which starts next month.

An operation performed now would give him time to recover for that but Grant insisted that not only he did not know whether one would be required but also that he believed the player was still keen to represent his club during a key period of the season.

He said: 'We are keeping an eye on the situation but we don't know yet. We will know better in the next few days.

'We are doing everything with Didier. In the last one or two months he has had a problem but he always pushed to play and is pushing to play even now.

'But we need to take care of the health of the player and we will see what is good for him. At the moment we can only keep an eye on the situation and then we will know what will happen.

'It depends on how he feels. If he feels good he will play.'

With owner Roman Abramovich still willing to fund huge transfer fees, Grant knows he could buy a replacement for Drogba once the transfer window re-opens in January, with Bolton's Nicola Anelka already heavily linked with a Stamford Bridge switch.

But Grant insisted that not only would he not be making any panic buys but that he also believed he already possessed enough strength up front even though Andriy Shevchenko continues to disappoint and Claudio Pizarro has made little impact since arriving in the summer.

He said: 'We are following the situation but I am happy with the squad. We have had a lot of injuries but we have kept winning games and playing well.

'If we find a player that is good for Chelsea - and that is not easy - then we will take him. If not we will stay with the same squad.

'It (the African Nations Cup) is a problem but the squad was ready for this. This was the reason why we took other players. Even though it is the African Nations Cup we don't want to take players who are not good for us.

'We will not find a replacement for Didier because Didier is the best striker in the world now. But we have other strikers in the squad. We have three strikers and if we find someone we will do it.'

Salomon Kalou, Michael Essien and Mikel John Obi will also be taking part in the African Nations Cup for their respective countries and Arsenal will also see a number of first-choice picks become unavailable for the duration of the tournament.

Grant admitted that would favour Manchester United and Liverpool, whose playing staff have been recruited from other continents.

He said: 'I want to believe that even though we will miss these players the squad will do its' job even though it will be much, much more difficult.

'But just imagine if Manchester United missed four players like we will. It won't stop me buying African players in the future but it will make me think about the squad.'