Didier Drogba announced his departure from Chelsea yesterday after eight years and 157 goals, and the Ivorian striker said he had faith that Fernando Torres would finally step up and fill the void he is leaving at the club.
The 34-year-old said that he had not yet decided where he would play next season – he ruled out signing for another Premier League club – but said that a move to China's Super League or Major League Soccer in America were options. Having scored the winning penalty in the Champions League final on Saturday, Drogba said he could only have left Chelsea having won the one trophy that had eluded the club over the last nine years, since they were bought by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich.
The problem for Chelsea will be replacing the man who has established himself as arguably the club's greatest-ever striker, albeit fourth in the all-time goal-scorers' list. Drogba's 88th-minute equaliser against Bayern Munich was the first goal either he or Torres had scored when both had been on the pitch together for Chelsea.
Despite the difficult attempts to make the pair an effective partnership, and Torres's struggles since joining from Liverpool in January last year, Drogba said that the Spain international could fill the role.
"Everybody knows Fernando is a very good player, an international player," he said. "He's been through difficult moments here. It happens to everyone. The good thing is he has our support.
"He always had and I know next season he's going to improve; he's going to be better. Now I can't complain but my first few seasons were very difficult. It's not easy to play for Chelsea. Chelsea are in good hands with Fernando. Of course we will need new strikers but Torres will do the job, he will do it. He will do it, no doubt."
Drogba said he felt so strongly about winning the Champions League with Chelsea that despite his contract being due to run out at the end of next month, he would have stayed another season had the club not won in Munich. "I would have stayed if we hadn't won the Champions League," he said. "That was my challenge, what I wanted to achieve."
He said: "The club have tried [to keep me]. They tried hard enough. Again my decision is not based on what the club offered me or not. It is not based on money. Whether or not to stay here was not a question of money, as people claimed. We never spoke about money. It was mainly discussions, to find agreements always and I have always been happy with what I have here with contracts, and my family were happy, so it's not about the money.
"I think I could have I could stayed as long as I was performing and as long as the club wanted me. It's not like they don't want me anymore. I don't think so. It's my decision and we sat down all together and everybody understands that, the boss, Ron Gourlay [chief executive] and everyone on the board. They respect my decision and I know what I did for them and they know what they did for me."
Drogba will carry the Olympic torch today for a mile of its route across Britain – his leg of the journey is through Swindon – and will play in Ivory Coast's international games this month before making a decision on his future. "I want a new challenge. The challenge for me when I came here was to become a better player, I need a new challenge. I have done everything here, everything, and I was lucky to score in a lot of cup finals, and in the last one as well.
"The boss [Roman Abramovich] said that he understood my feelings, he respected my choice and I told him that I would be a Chelsea player forever. We spoke for the last few days and we keep talking again because he's a good man, a very good man because he gave me everything.
"He gave everything to my family, gave them the chance to have a comfort and a nice lifestyle which is fantastic because when you remember I came from the Ivory Coast where I didn't have all these things. My family can benefit from all these things and maybe he doesn't know but he helped a lot of people."