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May 22, 2012

Chelsea confirm Drogba exit

Chelsea have confirmed Didier Drogba will leave the club this summer.

• Blues calm exit speculation
• Agent denies Drogba exit talk
• Blog: Chelsea reduce men to tears

Drogba, 34, is out of contract at the end of June and has long been linked with a move to China. Quotes attributed to the player on Monday had indicated that there would be no extension of his contract and, while that story was later denied by the player's agent, it has now been confirmed that he will move on.

Drogba leaves after eight years at Stamford Bridge during which he won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups and two Carling Cups before playing a key role in the club's Champions League victory over Bayern Munich on Saturday.

Speaking to the club's official website, Drogba said: "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.

"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."

Chief executive Ron Gourlay said Drogba will leave with the club's best wishes.

"Didier is undoubtedly a Chelsea legend and will always be part of the Chelsea family," Gourlay said. "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."

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