Football: Drogba to return to Ivory Coast national team in August

(REUTERS) - Didier Drogba will return to international football in August, Ivory Coast coach Sabri Lamouchi said as he sought to end speculation over supposed tension between himself and his captain.

Lamouchi has left the 35-year-old Drogba out of the team's two World Cup qualifiers this month, after first dropping him at January's African Nations Cup finals, but said there were reasons for the latest absence of the talismanic striker.

"Didier Drogba and I are in permanent contact," he told the Ivory Coast Football Federation website (www.fif-ci.com) as Drogba arrived in Abidjan for a visit with the squad on Monday.

"He has had a difficult year. After last year's Champions League, there was a transfer to China where he was surprised to find the level of play was below what he expected. He lost sharpness. He just needs, given his age, rest and the right preparation going into the new season," said Lamouchi, a former French international.

"But for the next friendly match in August, Drogba will be with us. He will help us to qualify and carry the colours of the country as he always does."

Lamouchi tempered the reconciliatory tone with a warning that he needed to find a long-term replacement for the former Chelsea striker, who has 57 goals in 94 appearances for his national team.

Drogba has been the catalyst behind the Ivorians' accession to top place in the African rankings but also captained the side to repeated failure at the Nations Cup.

The Ivorians play Gambia away in Bakau on Saturday and Tanzania in Dar-es-Salaam on June 16. They lead World Cup qualifying Group C by a single point from Tanzania at the halfway point.