LONDON: Didier Drogba’s final Chelsea game ended in curious fashion as he was carried off by his teammates after injuring himself during their Premier League home victory over Sunderland on Sunday (Monday in Manila).
The 37-year-old striker had announced prior to kick-off that Chelsea’s last competitive match of the season would be the final appearance of his second spell at the club.
But after only 30 minutes at Stamford Bridge, and with Chelsea trailing 1-0, he succumbed to injury and was chaired off the pitch by his colleagues to a standing ovation from the home support.
Referee Lee Mason was content for Drogba to depart in such unorthodox fashion and the Ivorian’s replacement, Diego Costa, subsequently equalised for the champions, who went on to win 3-1.
“I knew they were going to do something to mark my last game,” said Drogba, who stood beside John Terry as the Chelsea captain received the Premier League trophy after the match.
Drogba returned to Chelsea last year, having previously spent eight years at the club between 2004 and 2012, winning 12 trophies and scoring the decisive penalty against Bayern Munich in the 2012 Champions League final.
The former Ivory Coast captain has contributed to Chelsea’s successes in the league and League Cup this season, but having only played a bit-part role, he has decided to leave Stamford Bridge for a second time.
“I want to play for at least one more season and in order to play more football, I feel I need to go to another club,” Drogba told the club website before the game.
“All the fans know my love for Chelsea and I hope to be back here in the future in another role.”
Drogba joined Chelsea from Marseille in 2004 and played a key role in the team that won back-to-back Premier League titles in 2005 and 2006.
He won the league for a third time in 2010 and contributed to FA Cup triumphs in 2007, 2009, 2010 and 2012, scoring in all four finals. He also tasted glory in the League Cup in 2005 and 2007.
His finest hour came in the 2012 Champions League final in Munich, when he headed in an 88th-minute equaliser to take the game to extra time and then settled a penalty shootout to give Chelsea their first European Cup.
He subsequently spent time at Shanghai Shenhua and Galatasaray, before returning to Chelsea to rejoin forces with manager Jose Mourinho, who had first brought him to the club in 2004.
He retired from international duty in August last year, having scored a national-record 65 goals in 104 appearances for the Ivory Coast.