Tuesday 22 May 2012
Chelsea have confirmed that talismanic striker Didier Drogba will be leaving the club when his contract expires at the end of June.
The 34-year-old, who scored the vital equalising goal as well as the decisive penalty in the Blues stunning UEFA Champions League final victory over Bayern Munich on Saturday, leaves the club after eight trophy-laden years in the capital.
Drogba has won three Barclays Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two Carling Cups, with the UEFA Champions League crown added to the list last weekend.
"I wanted to put an end to all the speculation and confirm that I am leaving Chelsea," Drogba told the club's official website.
"I wish the club all the best and continued success for the future - you will always be in my heart"
- Didier Drogba
"It has been a very difficult decision for me to make and I am very proud of what we have achieved but the time is right for a new challenge for me.
"As a team we have accomplished so much and have won every single trophy possible.
"Saturday was a very special moment for everyone at the club and for all the fans, and I am very proud to have played my part in bringing many trophies to this club, which has been my home for the last eight years.
"I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone at the club especially [owner] Roman [Abramovich] and my team-mates, many of whom have become very close friends and will be my friends for life.
"I would also like to say a very special thank you to the Chelsea fans who have shown me so much love and support over the years.
"I wish the club all the best and continued success for the future - you will always be in my heart."
Drogba has been a prolific scorer for Chelsea since joining the club from French side Marseille in 2004.
He has developed into one of Europe's most devastating forwards and has scored 157 goals in 341 appearances.
Drogba joined the Premier League's exclusive 100 Club earlier this season and leaves having claimed a total of 101 League goals.
As well as his impressive form in the League, Drogba also developed an extraordinary knack of scoring crucial goals in the cups with nine strikes in nine cup finals.
"Didier has contributed so much to all of Chelsea's recent successes"
- Ron Gourlay
The Ivorian has also won Chelsea's Player of the Year and Players' Player of the Year awards.
"Didier is undoubtedly a Chelsea legend and will always be part of the Chelsea family," added Chelsea Chief Executive Ron Gourlay.
"He is certainly leaving on a high after Saturday night but he feels the time is right for a new challenge.
"Of course Didier has contributed so much to all of Chelsea's recent successes. He has been a consummate professional during his entire time here and as one of the natural leaders in our squad he has been an inspiration to a lot of our younger players.
"We have known for some time that this outcome was likely but Didier and the club only made a final decision on that in the last couple of days, because for obvious reasons neither Didier nor the club wanted to distract focus away from the Champions League final.
"The talks were amicable all the way through and we wish him all the best for the future. He is welcome back to Stamford Bridge at any time - either as a player or as a guest of ours."