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May 23, 2012

Drogba backs Torres as replacement

Didier Drogba says winning the Champions League final with Chelsea convinced him that now "is the best time to move on", but insists Fernando Torres will fill the void as the club's top striker.

• Chelsea confirm Drogba exit

Drogba confirmed he will depart Stamford Bridge this summer after eight years at the club following his 2004 transfer from Marseille. During that time Drogba won three Premier League titles, four FA Cup crowns and scored 157 goals in all competitions, including one in last Saturday's Champions League final.

Drogba netted the equaliser in the decider against Bayern Munich before sealing victory with the match-winning penalty in a tense shootout. The Ivory Coast international hinted he may have stayed on had Chelsea suffered another European final defeat, but knew it was time to leave once he had hoisted the trophy.

"I think winning the game was the key," Drogba told Radio Five Live. "Not me scoring the penalty. Winning the game was the turning point, that's why I have decided to say goodbye.

"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."

Drogba claims Chelsea already have the perfect replacement, with Torres ready to spearhead the Blues' attack. Torres was unhappy after starting the Champions League final on the bench, but Drogba expects the Spain international to stay and fire for Chelsea, despite enduring a disappointing 18 months following his £50 million move from Liverpool.

"It's been difficult for him, but he has showed he is the man," Drogba 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."

"Everybody knows Fernando is a very good player, an international player. He's been through difficult moments here. It happens to everyone. The good thing is he has our support.

"He always had and I know next season he's going to improve; he's going to be better. Now I can't complain but my first few seasons were very difficult. It's not easy to play for Chelsea. Chelsea are in good hands with Fernando. Of course we will need new strikers but Torres will do the job, he will do it. He will do it, no doubt."

Meanwhile, Drogba refused to confirm the next move in his career, but he has been heavily linked with a move to China where he would join former Chelsea team-mate Nicolas Anelka at Shanghai Shenhua. Clubs from the MLS in the United States are also understood to be interested in Drogba, who will continue to support the Blues.

"I would love to help Chelsea in any way, even if they tell me to come and cut the grass. I will do it," said Drogba.

"Being here for eight years, it will be a big change. Players will go, some stay, but the club will remain as ambitious as it has always been. I am not worried. Chelsea was there before I came and always will be.

"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."

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