Drogba departing Chelsea

Blues striker confirms Stamford Bridge exit

Didier Drogba: Leaving Chelsea after eight years at Stamford Bridge

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Chelsea have confirmed Didier Drogba will be leaving Stamford Bridge when his contract expires next month.

Drogba's future has been the subject of intense speculation in the wake of their UEFA Champions League success over Bayern Munich at the weekend.

Reports in France on Monday suggested Drogba was leaving Chelsea, only for his representatives to deny the rumours.

However, it has been confirmed by both Chelsea and the player that they will part ways in June when his deal comes to an end.

The 34-year-old, who scored the winning penalty in the shoot-out victory over Bayern, admitted it was a tough decision to make to leave Chelsea, but he insists he is proud of his eight years at Stamford Bridge.

"I wanted to put an end to all the speculation and confirm that I am leaving Chelsea."

Didier Drogba

Quotes of the week

"I wanted to put an end to all the speculation and confirm that I am leaving Chelsea," Drogba told the club's official website.

Proud

"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 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, paid tribute to Drogba for the impact he has had at the club, describing him as a legend.

Legend

He 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."

Drogba has been strongly linked with a move to Chinese side Shanghai Shenhua to link up with former Blues team-mate Nicolas Anelka.