Drogba's emotional farewell
Published 24/05/2015 | 13:21
Didier Drogba declared his thanks and love for Chelsea, Roman Abramovich, Jose Mourinho and Frank Lampard after being carried from the field following his final appearance for the Blues.
Drogba is adored at Stamford Bridge after an eight-year first spell which yielded 157 goals in 341 appearances and which concluded with the memorable Champions League win in 2012.
His season-long second spell has been less fruitful, but he has claimed the Capital One Cup and a fourth Premier League title, Chelsea's first in five years.
Drogba started Sunday's season-concluding 3-1 victory of Sunderland before being replaced in a pre-planned substitution after 29 minutes, which saw him carried from the field on his team-mates' shoulders.
He addressed Stamford Bridge after the presentation of the Premier League trophy.
"It's a difficult moment for me," said the 37-year-old, whose decision to leave is based on his desire to play for one more season.
"This one is really special because it's going to be the last one as a player.
"I want to thank first of all Mr Abramovich, because people keep talking about the amount of money he put in this club but I think it's a great investment looking on all the great years we've had and we've won everything.
"I want to say thank you also to Jose. You know how special he is for me. He gave me the chance to come back and the chance to come to this club.
"I want to say thank you to all my ex-team-mates, all the managers I played for under this shirt and a special thank you for this guy because without him and most of his assists there would not be the Didier Drogba celebration: Frank Lampard, thank you."
Drogba first joined Chelsea from Marseille for £24million in the summer of 2004 and the highly-successful spell ended with the decisive spot penalty in the European Cup win three years ago.
After spells with Shanghai Shenhua and Galatasaray, Drogba returned to Chelsea on a free transfer last July, after Lampard had left for Major League Soccer via Manchester City.
This season Drogba has scored seven goals in all competitions and his contribution to the squad has been felt both on and off the pitch.
Drogba compared the 2004/05 title-winning team, who delivered Chelsea's first title in 50 years, with the current squad.
"I want to say to the young players you might be the best but you have to catch us," he said.
"Be the best, we're going to be behind you, you have the best fans in the world behind you. Thank you. I love you guys, I love you."
Drogba was captain after John Terry gave up the armband.
He might have scored, too. He was the nominated penalty taker but had been replaced by Diego Costa prior to the spot-kick award.
"The substitution was decided because he has a little problem on his knee," Mourinho said.
"In normal conditions he wouldn't play this game. He did, because it was the last."
Mourinho praised Drogba's input.
"For these players to know him, to train with him, to play with him, to live with him, to share with him I think is fantastic," Mourinho added.
"He was very, very good for these young people, people like Hazard, Willian, Oscar. These people learned from a good example."
Sunderland boss Dick Advocaat had no qualms with Drogba's substitution.
"Mr Mourinho before the game he came to me and he explained it," the Dutchman said.
"We knew what would happen and no problem at all. And the player deserves it too."