22nd May, 2012
Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba confirmed on Tuesday he will leave newly-crowned European champions Chelsea when his contract expires at the end of June.
Drogba has been at the Premier League club since 2004, joining from French side Marseille, and has scored 157 goals in 341 appearances helping the Blues win ten trophies.
The 34-year-old leaves the London club on a high after scoring a late equaliser against Bayern Munich in the Champions League final on Saturday and then converting the decisive penalty in a dramatic shoot-out after extra-time.
“I wanted to put an end to the speculation and confirm that I am leaving Chelsea,” he told Chelsea’s website.
“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.”
Drogba is the club’s fourth all-time highest scorer and his 34 goals in European competition is a Chelsea record by 10 goals.
During his eight seasons he won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, and the Champions League title.
“As a team we have accomplished so much and have won every single trophy possible,” said Drogba, who won the Premier League Golden Boot twice.
“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 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.”
Chelsea Chief Executive Ron Gourlay added: “Didier is undoubtedly a Chelsea legend and will always be part of the Chelsea family. 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.”
English media have linked the Ivorian target man – scorer of 55 goals in his 84 international appearances – with Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, where his former Chelsea team-mate Nicolas Anelka is player-coach.