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ESPN: Phoenix Rising’s Didier Drogba one of world’s most famous athletes

FILE - In this June 9, 2012, file photo, Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba, left, challenges for the ball with Morocco's Benlamalem Ismail, right, during their World Cup qualifying match between Ivory Coast and Morocco, in Marrakech, Morocco. (AP Photo/Abdeljalil Bounhar, File)

When many think about the most popular Valley athletes, their mind turns to Larry Fitzgerald, Shane Doan, Paul Goldschmidt or Devin Booker — but just one Arizona athlete cracked ESPN’s list of 100 most famous athletes in the world.

Coming in at number 80 on the list is one of the newest members of Arizona’s newest team, Didier Drogba of Phoenix Rising FC.

When you score your country’s first World Cup goal ever, as Drogba did for Ivory Coast in 2006, you wont soon be forgotten. Known for his strength, ball control, and free kick prowess, Drogba is the all-time leading scorer for Ivory Coast (65 goals) and ranks fourth on Chelsea’s career list (164).  The two-time African Footballer of the Year helped Chelsea win four Premier League championships and a Champions League title.

Drogba’s move to Phoenix gave a lot of fans hope that an expansion MLS franchise could soon hit Arizona.

“I believe I can help them reach the MLS. They called me and asked me to be the face of their franchise. That was amazing to me.” — Drogba on choosing to help Phoenix Rising secure an expansion spot in the top U.S. league.

The 39-year-old will be involved in the franchise even after he retires, as he received an ownership equity in the team and plans to move into the front office when his playing days are over.

With over $5 million in endorsements, 9 million Facebook followers and just under 5 million Instagram followers, Drogba brings world-wide soccer credibility to a small team in the desert trying to get started.

Other athletes with ties to Arizona are ASU alumni Phil Mickelson (No. 5) and James Harden (No. 28).

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