Early Doors

Let the Drog have his payday

Early Doors

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In the midst of all the euphoria and emotion surrounding Chelsea over the last 48 hours or so, there has been a steady stream of mixed messages coming out of the club.

Fernando Torres was quoted as saying after the club's Champions League final victory that he was unsatisfied with his role on the bench for the match, and that he wanted to discuss his future role with the club. Those words were leapt upon in many quarters as the Spain striker demanding he be allowed to leave the club, even though they were followed immediately by more words insisting that he was happy at the club.

On Monday it happened again, as France Football reported Didier Drogba as having told his team-mates that he was off this summer after eight years at the club.

The magazine quoted the 34-year-old as saying: "We will no longer be together next season.

"As I decided to leave, I wanted to tell them straight in the eye. Except that I could not do it. They made me crack.

"Even though it's been three years since I said I wanted to leave, I find it hard to admit that it's over with this club - especially as I did not feel like this.

"But I could not see myself sitting on the bench to watch others play when the club plans to set up a new team.

"So that's it - I am preparing for my leap into the unknown. It's going to be another adventure."

The reports linking Drogba with a move to Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua would surely not be so long-standing and ubiquitous if there was not a certain amount of truth in them, nor would a player of his calibre let a contract run all the way down to expiry without having another destination lined up. Any player being offered a reported weekly wage of £250,000 net would be a fool not to at least consider it.

However, Drogba's representatives have since dismissed the quotes as false, while Chelsea insist that they are still hopeful of hammering out a new deal with the striker.

Such a denial means that it is not quite the last call on 'Drog'-based puns for tabloid sub-editors quite yet - but this is surely an ideal time for the Ivorian to bow out in style.

The last of his 157 official goals for the club was that dramatic late equaliser which forced extra time in a Champions League final, and his final kick of a ball this season saw him score the winning penalty in the shootout.

Lifting that trophy augments a collection which includes three Premier League titles and four FA Cups. He has nothing to prove to anyone, and has earned the right to jet off for one final payday.

After arriving in 2004 for a huge £24 million off the back of a breakout season for Marseille that saw him score the goals which knocked both Liverpool and Newcastle out of Europe, Drogba took a while to earn respect within English football.

It was shocking to see an uncommonly strong and talented player go down so easily under the slightest contact, if any was made at all, and despite scoring 16 goals in his debut season as Chelsea won the title his abilities in front of goal were questioned. He was even booed for a short time by sections of his own club's fans.

Still, goals in that first campaign such as an extra-time strike in the Carling Cup final win over Liverpool showed that he could be a big-game player, though few would have predicted he would go on to score nine times in as many cup finals for Chelsea in the coming years.

Of the 10 players signed by Jose Mourinho still at Chelsea, none embody the footballing philosophy imprinted upon the club by their erstwhile manager more than Drogba. Tough, intelligent, cynical and brutally effective, Drogba inspires respect from even those outside the Stamford Bridge faithful most unwilling to hand it to him, just like his former Portuguese coach.

Drogba's record of eight goals in as many appearances at Wembley is the striker's equivalent of Mourinho's long-held unbeaten home league record, which lasted 151 games over nine years and took in spells with four different clubs. It is difficult to imagine anyone matching either of those records.

Whether Drogba stays in England or makes a lucrative final move to Asia, his place among the Premier League's best players is assured.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Had we not won, it would have meant the owners would have had to find more money. It is painful. If you own 150 oil wells then it is no problem, but if you own 150 Ann Summers shops..." West Ham co-owner David Gold admits the club would have been in big financial trouble had they failed to make an immediate return to the Premier League.

FOREIGN VIEW: "It's a misunderstanding. Anyone who puts themselves in my position and looks at the photo can see that, after such a great disappointment, I was not aware of what was going on around me. I was desperate, disappointed, as if I was paralysed. I didn't see the president's hand. I'm sorry that in that moment I left the wrong impression. I would like to apologise to the president." — Bayern Munich midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger apologises for not shaking the hand of German president Joachim Gauck when collecting his runner-up medal at the end of the Champions League final.

COMING UP: No sooner has the club season finished than preparations for Euro 2012 begin in earnest. Follow live coverage of co-hosts Poland's first pre-tournament friendly against Latvia at 19:45.

Away from football, we have live coverage of stage 16 of the Giro D'Italia.

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