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Drogba confirms he is to leave Chelsea

updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed May 23, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chelsea striker Didier Drogba confirms he is to leave the English club in June
  • Ivory Coast forward sealed Chelsea's first European Champions League on Saturday
  • The 34-year-old has scored 157 goals in 341 appearances since joining in 2004
  • Drogba has been linked with a move to China and says Chelsea will remain in his heart

(CNN) -- Didier Drogba has confirmed he is leaving Chelsea, a decision which means the striker's last kick of a ball for the English club will be the penalty that sealed a first European Champions League crown on Saturday.

The Ivory Coast forward scored the decisive spot kick as Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich to secure club football's most coveted trophy, but he is to seek pastures new when his contract expires in June.

The 34-year-old has scored 157 goals in 341 appearances since he signed for the west London club from French side Marseille back in 2004 and he has been linked with a big-money move to China.

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

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"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's eight years at Stamford Bridge have been littered with success. He won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups and one European Champions League.

He has finished as the Premier League's top scorer on two occasions and has twice been voted the Players' Player of the Year.

"As a team we have accomplished so much and have won every single trophy possible," he added.

"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 (Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich) and my teammates, many of whom have become very close friends and will be my friends for life.

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As a team we have accomplished so much and have won every single trophy possible
Didier Drogba

"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."

Drogba was signed by Jose Mourinho, who now coaches Spanish giants Real Madrid, and has spearheaded Chelsea's front line for the best part of a decade.

He has the reputation of being a big-game player and has scored nine goals in cup final matches for Chelsea. Drogba opened talks last year about extending his contract but the two parties could not reach an agreement.

Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay said that Drogba will always be a part of the club's family.

"He is certainly leaving on a high after Saturday night but he feels the time is right for a new challenge," Gourlay told the club's website.

Jubilant Chelsea parade Champions League trophy

"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."

Speculation in recent days has linked Drogba with a move to China and a reunion with former Chelsea striking partner Nicolas Anelka, who is now player-manager of Shanghai Shenhua.

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