Winning the Champions League after a painstaking wait convinced Didier Drogba that the time was right to leave Chelsea.
The Ivory Coast striker, who scored the equaliser and then the winning penalty in the shoot-out in Saturday’s dramatic final win over Bayern Munich, announced yesterday that he is leaving the club to pursue a career elsewhere.
He departs Stamford Bridge with his reputation as one of the club’s greatest-ever players firmly intact, but knows it could have been so much different.
Ever since the 34-year-old joined the club from Marseille in 2004 they have been chasing the European Cup and, after so many near misses, Drogba’s last kick for them earned them the prize they coveted so much. Had he not scored and Bayern gone on to win, he admits he may have been tempted to stay but, with all his loose ends tied up, he is moving on to a new chapter.
“I think winning the game was the key. Not me scoring the penalty. Winning the game was the turning point, that’s why I have decided to say goodbye,’’ he said.
“We made the story together and I want people to remember that. This is the best time to move on.
“Yes, there’s a chance that if the result was different, maybe I would be here.
“We were talking for many weeks, but the turning point was based on the fact I won everything I could and scored in most of the finals we have played, trying to make a difference. I hope everyone will understand. Everything I did was for the fans and I hope they understand.”
Goalkeeper Petr Cech claimed he heard his team-mate crying after the final.
And, although he has been prone to emotional outbursts during his time in England, Drogba insists he was doing nothing of the sort.
He added: “I wasn’t crying — I was talking to myself. I was crazy for a few minutes. I was saying that I wasn’t going to cry, and that God is wonderful. I was saying, ‘We have been chasing this for eight years, we have had a hard time, and she was difficult, but now I understand why. It is wonderful’.”
Drogba’s departure leaves Fernando Torres as Chelsea’s main man in attack.
The Spain international is still finding his feet at the club, despite having been there for nearly 18 months following his £50 million move from Liverpool.
Torres spoke of his unhappiness of being a fringe player in the wake of the final, but Drogba expects him to take up a more prominent role next term.
“It’s been difficult for him, but he has showed he is the man,” he said.
“Next season is going to be his season and I will try to speak to him. We have a good relationship. We don’t understand why we didn’t play together more, but that’s the past. Torres is the future.”
It been reported that Drogba’s next move will take him to China to link up with former Blues team-mate Nicolas Anelka. He would not confirm that last night, but did say that should Chelsea ever need him once his playing days are over, he will always be happy to answer their call.
“I would love to help Chelsea in any way, even if they tell me to come and cut the grass. I will do it,” he said.
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