Ivorian striker Didier Drogba has confirmed he will be leaving Chelsea this summer, according to a statement on the club's official Web site. The news should end all speculation of the player extending his contract with the Blues.
The 34 year old is the club's fourth-highest scorer of all time, with 157 strikes from 341 appearances and his goals have helped the club to three league titles, four FA Cups, two Carling Cups and, most impressively, the Blues' maiden Champions League title.
"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 in the statement.
"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," he added.
"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 that 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," he further added.
There has been speculation on whether Chelsea will sign a new player to fill the departing Drogba but the Ivorian himself has gone on record to say £50mn signing Fernando Torres would be the perfect replacement. Torres did admit, in the aftermath of the win at Munich, he was not happy at being benched so often. However, Drogba has voiced his opinion the former Liverpool striker will become an integral part of the future team.
"Everybody knows Fernando is a very good player, an international player. He's been through difficult moments here but it happens to everyone. The good thing is he has our support. He always has and I know next season he's going to improve," the Sun quoted Drogba as saying.
Drogba recalled his first years with the Blues and said even he had a very tough time settling down and gelling with the new team and went on to suggest the now misfiring Spaniard would do the same.
"My first few seasons here were difficult for me. I can't complain but it's not easy to play for Chelsea. Chelsea is in good hands with Fernando. Of course, we will need new strikers but Torres will do the job. He will do it, no doubt," the Guardian quoted Drogba as saying.
Meanwhile, while the Ivory Coast international has not commented on his future plans, most reports agree he will be heading to the Far East, to re-join former Chelsea team mate Nicolas Anelka, who is now player/manager at Chinese club Shanghai Shenhua. However, other teams, including clubs from the US, are also reportedly interested in signing the player.
"It's impossible to forget this moment. Leaving Chelsea in any case would be difficult, but now even more. It is impossible, Chelsea is in my heart. My blood is blue and my heart even more so," ESPN reported Drogba as saying.
"Who knows, I could come back as manager one day - I'd cut the grass if they asked me to," he said, according to a Daily Mail report.