MARSEILLE, July 19 (Ligue 1) - Chelsea's efforts to sign Didier Drogba finally came to fruition on Monday when Marseille agreed to part company with the coveted Ivory Coast striker.
Drogba was first linked with a move to Stamford Bridge nearly three weeks ago but Marseille's #27million valuation of the player proved a stumbling block.
An initial offer of #18million was declined, prompting Chelsea chief executive Peter Kenyon to declare his club would not be held to ransom - despite the vast wealth of billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.
However, Chelsea tabled an improved bid over the weekend and their persistence paid off with Marseille deciding to sell a player they bought for just #4million from Guingamp last summer.
A statement on the club's official website, www.chelsea.co.uk, read: ``Chelsea are delighted to confirm that we have agreed terms with the French club Marseille for the transfer of Didier Drogba.''
Jose Mourinho - who took over the Stamford Bridge coaching reins from Claudio Ranieri in May - made Drogba his number one target after seeing the 26-year-old marksman crowned last season's French footballer of the year.
The former Porto boss allowed misfiring Argentinian marksman Hernan Crespo to join AC Milan on loan and gave veteran Dutch forward Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink a free transfer in a bid to make room for Drogba's arrival.
He had set a deadline of Wednesday to complete the signing after deciding his squad must be in place before embarking on their summer tour to the United States.
Mourinho had declared he wanted his whole squad to make the trip across the Atlantic - where games against Celtic, AC Milan and Roma have been scheduled.
In recruiting Drogba, who is due to arrive in London tomorrow - a press conference is scheduled for 1.15pm - Chelsea have landed one of the hottest properties in European football and a player with a proven scoring record across all levels.
He hit the target 18 times in 31 league appearances for Marseille last season and weighed in with another five in the Champions League, including a hat-trick against Partizan Belgrade.
Chelsea's Barclays Premiership rivals Liverpool and Newcastle know all about the forward's talents after he smashed two past each club on the way to the UEFA Cup final - and he is regularly on target for the Ivory Coast.
With Drogba secured, Mourinho will now step up his bid to lure midfielder Tiago away from Benfica.
Tiago - a member of Portugal's Euro 2004 squad - was first linked with a move to Stamford Bridge last Thursday and according to reports in the Portuguese press was due to undergo a medical in London on Monday.
Although failing to match last summer's spending spree, Chelsea have still been busy in the transfer market with Mourinho overseeing moves for Serbia and Montenegro striker Mateja Kezman and Portugal full-back Paulo Ferreira.
Dutch winger Arjen Robben and Czech Republic goalkeeper Petr Cech are also new additions to the squad, agreeing to join Chelsea before Mourinho's arrival.