London: Didier Drogba's Champions League-winning penalty kick was his last contribution to Chelsea, with the striker announcing on Tuesday that he was leaving the club after eight years.
The 34-year-old Ivory Coast international clinched Chelsea's first European title with the final kick in a shoot-out against Bayern Munich on Saturday after producing the equalizer that forced the final into extra time.
The goals took the talisman's tally to 157 in 341 appearances for Chelsea, leaving him fourth on Chelsea's all-time scoring chart, before he decided to find a new club as his playing career enters its closing stages. His 34 European goals are a Chelsea record.
Didier Drogba\'s Champions League-winning penalty kick was his last contribution to Chelsea as he has decided to leave the club after eight successful years.
The two-time African Player of the Year has been widely linked with a move to China, where former Chelsea teammate Nicolas Anelka went in January to join Shanghai Shenhua, which he now coaches.
"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," Drogba said. "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 Roman [Abramovich, owner] 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, whose Chelsea contract expires next month, has also won three English Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two League Cups at the west London club. The 34-year-old joined the Blues from Marseille eight years ago for £24 million.
He won the Premier League Golden Boot twice, most recently in 2010, but his Chelsea career appeared to be coming to an end when the club signed Fernando Torres for a British record fee of 50 million pounds in January 2011.
Former manager Andre Villas-Boas tried unsuccessfully to re-invigorate his team by phasing out Chelsea's older players, with Drogba and midfielder Frank Lampard his principal victims. The Ivorian striker frequently found himself sidelined to accommodate a below-par Torres, who struggled to make an impact following his big-money move.
The departure of Villas-Boas, however, led to a renaissance for Chelsea's 'old guard', who helped to propel the club to a golden finale in which Drogba featured prominently. On top of his Champions League heroics, he also scored in the FA Cup final as Chelsea beat Liverpool at Wembley.
"Didier has contributed so much to all of Chelsea's recent successes," chief executive Ron Gourlay said. "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. He is welcome back to Stamford Bridge at any time - either as a player or as a guest of ours."
"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."
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