The Australian side had thrashed out terms with the ex-Chelsea striker but a delay in the deal has left Corinthians favourites to secure his signature

South Melbourne claim “terms were agreed” with Didier Drogba before a delay in the bid process led the former Chelsea striker to walk away from discussions.

The Ivorian is currently a free agent after leaving Montreal Impact at the end of the 2016 MLS season.

He has expressed a desire to continue his playing career at the age of 38 and has had various options to consider.

A potential move to Australia was put to him, with positive talks held.

REVEALED: Details of Drogba’s offer from Corinthians

South Melbourne are waiting on the Football Federation Australia to grant them permission to join the A-League, though, and were ultimately unable to offer Drogba top-flight football until 2018-19.

That has led the experienced frontman to look elsewhere, with Brazilian side Corinthians waiting on a response to an offer they have tabled.

South Melbourne advisory board chairman Bill Papastergiadis told The World Game: “We were pretty close.

Didier Drogba Montreal Impact MLS 10302016

“Terms were agreed but where we had difficulty with keeping him interested during the period in which we could not play in the A-League, assuming we are successful in our bid.

“The bid process is unclear because FFA have not released the criteria for entry. Originally that was going to be in February but I don’t know when that is going to happen for sure.

Drogba returns to Chelsea

“But if we were to get in we couldn’t play until the season after next. Drogba basically said: ‘I like it but what I am going to do in the interim for a year?’

“We had everything in place, other than that. It’s a pity that we couldn’t bring him here to join us, but he is too much in demand to sit idly by for a period of time.

“Drogba’s still at an age where he can compete – and he would have been great at A-League level. And we are still very much in market for a marquee of that kind of stature.”