Didier Drogba departure from Chelsea confirmed
Didier Drobga will leave Chelsea when his contract runs out at the end of June, the west London club have announced.
The 34-year-old's future has been the subject of intense speculation, especially since his heroics in the Champions League final in which he scored the winning penalty in the shoot-out with Bayern Munich.
The Ivorian's contract runs out at the end of June, and he had been in negotiations with Chelsea over a new deal. It is understood Drogba was seeking a two-year deal, but Chelsea were only willing to offer one.
Those talks were unable to achieve a successful resolution, meaning Drogba's eight-year spell at Stamford Bridge will come to an end.
Drogba has been linked with a move to Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua, where he would link up with former team-mate Nicolas Anelka on a lucrative contract. In a statement on Chelsea's website, Drogba hinted at a new challenge on the horizon.
"I wanted to put an end to all the speculation and confirm that I am leaving Chelsea. 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," he said.
Since signing for Chelsea from Marseille in 2004 during the Jose Mourinho era, Drogba has won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and the Champions League.
"As a team we have accomplished so much and have won every single trophy possible," Drogba added in today's statement.
"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."
Drogba's departure means his last kick for Chelsea saw him deliver the Champions League. It was also Drogba that scored the late equaliser against Bayern Munich which forced extra-time and then penalties at the Allianz Arena. It was a fitting end to an incredibly successful spell in west London.
"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 said following today's announcement: "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. He is welcome back to Stamford Bridge at any time - either as a player or as a guest of ours."
In total, Drogba scored 157 goals in 341 appearances for Chelsea, but it was his contribution in key matches that he will be remembered for. He is the only player to have scored in four FA Cup finals, and has a record of nine goals in nine finals for the club.
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