Manager Jose Mourinho hails departing striker Didier Drogba as Chelsea celebrate Premiership title with open bus parade in London
London: Jose Mourinho believes Didier Drogba's influence will continue to be felt at Chelsea even though the Ivory Coast forward has called time on his second spell with the Premier League champions.
Chelsea's Ivorian striker Didier Drogba raises the Premier league trophy as the Chelsea team leave Stamford Bridge stadium to take part in an open-top bus parade to celebrate winning the league in London. Pics/AFP
Drogba announced his intention to leave Stamford Bridge before the 3-1 victory over Sunderland on Sunday that ensured Mourinho's side ended their title-winning campaign in fitting style before being presented with the trophy after the final whistle.
The 37-year-old is keen to play on for one more year, but will have to look elsewhere for more regular first team action.
Drogba was named captain but played only 28 minutes before being chaired from the pitch by his teammates as he was replaced by Diego Costa. And Blues boss Mourinho insists the veteran's legacy will continue to be felt because of his impact on the development of the club's younger players.
"The substitution was decided because he had a problem with his knee and, in normal conditions, he could not play for long. We left him on for half an hour," Mourinho said. The captaincy was John Terry's desire, to give him the armband.
Chelsea's Ivorian striker Didier Drogba (L) and Chelsea's English defender John Terry hold the Premier league trophy as they take part in an open top bus parade along Kings Road in London
The players to bring him off the pitch? I think that was decided between them because they like him a lot. I'm really happy because he was part of the other team, but he belongs also to this new Chelsea.
For these players to know him, train with him, live with him, play with him, share with him is fantastic. He was very, very good for these young people — Eden Hazard, Willian, Oscar. They learnt from a good example. His was a fantastic contribution this season."
Cech may leave too
Petr Cech also started on what could be his last appearance for the club. The Chelsea goalkeeper (33) is keen to move in search of more regular first team football and has been strongly linked with Arsenal, but Mourinho has not given up hope of keeping Cech.
"I keep saying the same. He's a legend of this club, but he's a legend at 33. Thirty-three for a goalkeeper is a very young legend," Mourinho said.
Two best goalkeepers
"One of our strengths this season was to have the two best goalkeepers in the Premier League. When Thibaut Courtois was injured, Petr made decisive saves in matches for us. "I'm not sure if Petr was not here in these seven matches if we could be champions, so his contribution was decisive.
But we also have to be fair, and not emotional with our analysis, and say that Thibaut is an amazing goalkeeper who had a fantastic season for us. He's a big champion."
Members of Chelsea's 2005 title-winning team were reunited before kick off and Mourinho said: "For me, to have here today the champions of 2004-05 and the champions of 2014-15 is an amazing feeling because I feel as if I belong to both."