• Premier League

Chelsea confirm Drogba is leaving

ESPN staff
May 22, 2012

Chelsea have confirmed Didier Drogba will leave the club this summer.

The striker's future has been the subject of much speculation with his contract at Stamford Bridge coming to an end, and the Ivorian has been heavily linked with a move to join former strike partner Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua.

It comes a day after an article in France Football magazine quoted Drogba as saying he was planning "another adventure" away from west London, which was swiftly denied by his agent.

But while Drogba has not offered any indication of where his next club will be, he has gone some way to end speculation by confirming he will not be at Stamford Bridge next season.

Having scored the winning penalty in Chelsea's Champions League shootout victory over Bayern Munich on Saturday, Drogba leaves as the club's fourth all-time highest scorer with 157 goals in 341 appearances.

"I wanted to put an end to all the speculation and confirm that I am leaving Chelsea," Drogba said in a statement on the club's official 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.

"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] 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: "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."

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