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Sports

Didier Drogba calls time on playing career

media Didier Drogba won the Uefa Champions League during his time at Chelsea. Reuters/Kai Pfaffenbach

Didier Drogba, one of the most high profile African footballers of the past 20 years, confirmed his retirement as a player on Wednesday night. Drogba, 40, had been plying his trade in the United States with Phoenix Rising, the second division club at which he is a co-owner.

The veteran had been expected to end his career following the United Soccer League Cup final defeat to Louisville City in November. A picture on his social media account of the striker as a child accompanied by a tribute to family, former players and managers announced his farewell.

He said: “When I think of the last 20 years of my professional career, looking at this picture can't make me more proud of what I’ve achieved as a player but most importantly how this journey has shaped me as a man.

“If anyone tells you your dreams are too big, just say thank you and work harder and smarter to turn them into reality. #alwaysbelieve

“I wanna thank all the players, managers, teams and fans that I have met and made this journey one of a kind!!!

“Also a huuuuge thank you and love to my family, my personal team for supporting me all my career during the ups and downs no matter what. Looking forward to the next chapter and hoping God will bless me as much as he did for my football career.”

Chelsea revolution

Drogba's path to international renown started in the football outback. He played for Le Mans and Guingamp before getting a taste of the big time at Marseille. He was hand picked by Jose Mourinho and left for Chelsea in 2004 for £24m - then a club record.

With Roman Abramovitch's millions and Mourinho's pragmatism, Drogba became the spearhead for the new look Chelsea.

Along with skipper John Terry and midfielder Frank Lampard, Mourinho dubbed him among "the untouchables" of a squad that in 2005 surged to the League Cup and the Premiership title - Chelsea's first top flight crown in 50 years.

The side retained the championship in 2006 before Mourinho's departure.

During two spells in west London, Drogba scored 164 goals in 381 appearances. In total there were four Premier League trophies, four FA Cups, three League Cups and the 2012 Champions League.

In the 2012 showdown at the Allianz Arena, he scored the equaliser against Bayern Munich before converting the winning penalty in the shootout after the match finished 1-1.

He left Chelsea to join the Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua in the summer of 2012 but six months later moved on to Galatasaray in Turkey before returning to Stamford Bridge in July 2014.

A move to the Major League Soccer franchise Montreal Impact followed before he ventured to Phoenix.

During his international career with Cote d'Ivoire, Drogba scored a record 65 goals in 104 matches. He was part of the Ivorian squad that played in the country's first appearance at a World Cup in 2006. There were further participations at World Cups in South Africa in 2010 and Brazil in 2014.

At the Africa Cup of Nations, there were disappointments of two lost finals in 2006 and 2012.

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