He is currently in South Africa, where his country, Ivory Coast, is attempting to capture the Cup of Nations. But his future beyond that is to lend his experience as a Champions League winner to the Istanbul club Galatasaray.

He is the second major signing Galatasaray has made in a week, and will follow the Dutchman Wesley Sneijder to the Bosphorus.

They are two big-game players in search of paydays and challenges to their stalled careers.

Galatasaray is more than a soccer club — it is a Turkish sporting and educational institution that runs more than a dozen different sports — and it is thinking well outside its domestic league, which it will probably win in a canter.

Its president, Unal Aysal, is a graduate of the Galatasaray High School on which the sports club was founded. He also is the chairman of a conglomerate of more than 20 businesses, and he summed up the soccer signings succinctly: “Big clubs can only reach their goals by signing high-profile players.” Drogba, 34, and Sneijder, 28, will not be going to Istanbul for a sinecure.

Aysal’s coach, Fatih Terim, is earthy, volatile and intensely demanding. He was a rugged defender in his playing days and a wily character as a manager. His past teams at Galatasaray, and his years as Turkish national team coach, were renowned for getting the best — and sometimes the worst — out of players.

Hakan Suker, his totem central striker, was in his day a kind of Drogba. He was a daring forward who would take all the onus of being the main man in attack, while Terim would rage from the sidelines against any of the supporting players who gave less than 100 percent.

His Turkish teammates were clever and good technicians but often temperamental, and at times they needed Terim’s hectoring. He is known as The Emperor, and a succession of foreigners who have worn the Gala strip have been burned by the severity of his competitive streak.

So when Sneijder and Drogba arrive, they will soon know that the expectations are commensurate with the millions of dollars Galatasaray unstintingly pays. Sneijder has been on something of a paid sabbatical at Inter Milan ever since his brilliant creative drive helped Inter to the 2010 Champions League title under José Mourinho.

The coach then left for Real Madrid, and something deep inside Sneijder seemed to depart with him.

Drogba is very much more his own man. From Marseille to Chelsea, this big Ivorian would summon a fighting spirit, a muscular strength and an opportunist finish whenever and wherever the biggest challenge was set before him.

His headed goal in the 2012 Champions League final, against Bayern Munich in the Germans’ own den, was the strike that took the game to extra time. His final penalty, delivered with an almost arrogant certainty, was the last kick of the shootout that denied Bayern a home victory, and it gave Chelsea perhaps the most improbable triumph of its history.

Big men, they say, don’t cry. Drogba did when that day was over. He cried because he knew a part of him, the defining part, was done and dusted in that contest.

It was time, after eight years and almost 350 games for the London team, to move on. But to where, and to what? Drogba’s family stayed in Surrey, near London, while he took the silk road to Shanghai. Salary figures that could run a small country were supposed to have been thrown at his feet, and those of his former Chelsea strike partner, Nicolas Anelka.

By the turn of the year, it was obvious that the pair had followed a mirage. The Shanghai Shenhua franchise, with two aging but household names, festered in rumors and in ordinariness on the field.

Drogba’s sum totals in the Chinese Super League amounted to 11 games played, eight goals scored and two assists. He wasn’t the influence he was billed to be because the club was built on boasts, and long before the break between seasons, the grapevine was fertile with stories that Anelka and Drogba were seeking retreats back in Europe.

Anelka has joined Juventus in Italy. Drogba trained with his old pals at Chelsea to keep fit for the African Cup. But Chelsea, which can be as mysterious as Shenhua when it comes to telling supporters what its intentions are toward signing players, was thinking of asking Drogba to return for the short term.

If the offer was genuine, he was wise to turn it down. Chelsea’s European crown is already gone, and its team is no longer run by Roberto Di Matteo, who was fired a few months after winning the title.

Rather than return to faded glory, Drogba listened to whatever else was out there. His dream of bridging China and Africa was doubtlessly well-meaning, because Ivorians regard him as more than a sports player; he has built them a hospital and has shown them humanitarian leadership.

But if Shenhua turned out to be commercial mistake, how could an old striker widen his role in life? His time is full trying to be of sufficient use to help his country win the African trophy that he has never won — yet.

His challenge in Istanbul is said to involve an 18-month contract with a signing fee of €4 million and payments of €15,000, or $20,000, per match.

Maybe neither Drogba nor Sneijder can return to the form that made them champions in Europe. But they have the know-how. Coach Terim might cajole the last embers from them; in Sneijder’s case, he might persuade the Dutchman that 28 is a ludicrously premature age to rest on past laurels.

With Drogba, one imagines, Terim will be more circumspect. The striker is a real big-game hunter. And the target, surely, is to get him fit for the February home-and-away matches against Schalke in the last 16 of the Champions League.

Those are winnable contests for a club chasing big goals.{jcomments on}