Didier Drogba scored Chelsea’s goal and their winning Champions League penalty against Bayern Munich on Saturday and then solemnly appeared to say his farewells.
The 34-year-old Côte d’Ivoire striker capped his eight years in London by lifting the trophy that his boss Roman Abramovich has longed for since buying the club in 2003. Then he was named man of the match.
But the big striker, who has failed to reach agreement with the club over a new contract, accepted the accolade with what sounded like a valedictory speech and side-stepped questions about his future.
“I don’t think we can take decisions in emotional moments like this. The most important thing is not my future, the most important thing is what we achieved today,” he told reporters after the astonishing victory.
“I want to say thank you to all the players I’ve been playing with since I’ve been here and all the managers. They have improved me as a player and as a person.”
The exuberant Ivorian, who delighted fans and worried club security by dancing on the roof of the team bus when Chelsea won their first English title in 50 years in his first season at the club, said he just felt very happy.
“Today it’s a great day for the club, for our fans, for the players. I don’t really know if there’s enough words to describe how I feel now,” he said.
The striker has developed a knack of scoring in finals, hitting home in Chelsea’s 2-1 FA Cup final over Liverpool earlier this month, when he became the first man in the FA Cup to score in four finals.
But Saturday’s 88th-minute header against the run of play after Bayern had gone ahead five minutes earlier, wiped out the misery of Chelsea’s defeat on penalties four years ago against Manchester United in Moscow, when he was sent off.
“In Moscow it was very difficult. It was very painful for the players, for the club and the fans and today we managed to change all that in an amazing game, equalising in the last minutes and then with the penalty shootout,” he said. Drogba, demonstrative and histrionic on the pitch as he is quietly courteous and softly spoken off it, has divided opinion in English football, but few would deny his impact on the game during the time that Chelsea have won two English titles four FA Cups and now the Champions League.
He said he had felt calm and confident taking the last penalty despite missing one earlier this year in the African Nations Cup final.
“Before going to take it I still had in my head what happened in the African Nations Cup where I could have won the cup for my country.
“At the same time Petr Cech was a fantastic goalkeeper and he kept us in it. So when I stepped up I went to score for him and for my teammates. I went to make Chelsea smile after we had been so down in Moscow.
“That was the last kick of the season and what a way to do it.”