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Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend brings glittering career to an end

FOOTBALL By BBC Online | November 22nd 2018
[PHOTO: COURTESY]

Chelsea legend Didier Drogba has confirmed his retirement from playing, ending “an amazing 20 years”.

The Ivory Coast striker, 40, had two spells at Chelsea, scoring 164 goals in 381 games and winning four Premier Leagues and the 2012 Champions League.

He spent the last 18 months of his career with US side Phoenix Rising, the club he co-owns.

“After 20 years, I have decided to put an end to my playing career,” he told BBC.

It had been expected Drogba would retire after the United Soccer League Cup final earlier this month, with his last game a 1-0 defeat by Louisville City in the final of the United States’ second tier.

“It’s the best way to end, helping some young talent to develop,” he said.

“To give something back to the game was the best way to finish as I have learned so much in the game.”

Drogba did not play top-flight football until the age of 23, when French side Guingamp signed him from Ligue 2 Le Mans in January 2002. He moved to Marseille 18 months later — and the following year completed a reported £24m move to Chelsea, where he had the best spell of his career.

Drogba won three Premier League titles in his first eight years at Chelsea, including in each of his first two seasons in England, as well as four FA Cups and two League Cups.

He also won the Premier League Golden Boot in 2006-07 and 2009-10.

He left on a high, scoring the winning penalty in the Champions League final shootout against Bayern Munich.

Drogba then spent six months with Shanghai Shenhua and a year and a half with Galatasaray before returning to Chelsea.

He scored seven goals in 2014-15, winning a fourth Premier League title and a third League Cup, leaving the club as their fourth highest scorer of all time.

In 2015, he joined Major League Soccer side Montreal Impact and then became player-owner of Phoenix Rising.

He scored 65 times in 105 caps for the Ivory Coast, playing in three World Cups and being named African Footballer of the Year twice.

Drogba grew up in the Ivorian capital Abidjan and moved to France at the age of six to live with his uncle.

“Tito means ‘my friend’. My mum calls me this. She was young when she had me so I was a friend, a confidant, someone she can rely on. Still now she calls me that because things will never change.

“What I remember is a young kid always with his mum and dad. My mum was 16 when she had me and my dad was working at the bank.”

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