Didier Drogba Receives Fitting Sendoff as Chelsea Celebrate Premier League Title

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2015

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 24:  Didier Drogba of Chelsea holds the trophy after the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 24, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

STAMFORD BRIDGE, LONDON — They came in their thousands to watch the Premier League champions crowned, but there were a few other subplots to keep Chelsea fans entertained on Sunday.

Namely, it was paying homage to Didier Drogba, who revealed ahead of kick-off against Sunderland that this season would be his last in a Chelsea shirt.

We've been here before, of course, after Drogba departed Chelsea in 2012 on the back of winning the club the Champions League.

He may have celebrated long into the night in Munich, Germany, back then, but this one was different; Drogba was getting the chance to say goodbye in front of his people.

We haven't seen many strikers capable of living up to his talents, and equally, there are even fewer times we have witnessed players hoisted off the field of play when they're not injured.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 24:  Didier Drogba wears a crown during their Premier League title celebration after the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 24, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffith
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

That's what happened, however.

On the half-hour mark, Drogba was replaced by Diego Costa. The Ivorian wasn't suffering from an ailment; he was just following protocol with the agreement from his manager that he would play for the first 30 minutes before being taken off.

If that was staged, what happened next wasn't, as John Terry led his teammates in the ultimate tribute for Drogba, hoisting him on their shoulders to carry him to the sidelines where he applauded an adoring Stamford Bridge.

It was Drogba's goodbye—one fit for a king.

Indeed, they call Peter Osgood the king in these parts, and Drogba has run him close in that department.

Like any position of royal significance, one must be born into it in order to take such a title. Osgood was a product of the famed Dickie Foss school, emerging as a scrawny teenager to steal the hearts of Chelsea fans for generations to come.

There's a special dispensation for Drogba, an outsider, to wear that crown now, though.

From 1960s onwards, father and son would bond over stories about Ossie. Even for those who only had the chance to watch him on an old, worn-out VHS tape were in awe of his charms with a football.

For the next generation of fans who choose to adorn themselves in blue, tales of Drogba's genius will be the ones to dominate their affections.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 24:  Didier Drogba of Chelsea lifts the trophy after the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 24, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

When we think of legends in football, he is right up there with the very best of them—and not just at Chelsea.

Drogba has been a pioneer for African football. He's played his part in Chelsea's success, yet away from Stamford Bridge, he has helped end a civil war and, not satisfied with just that, has dedicated himself to changing the lives of those less privileged.

He's a humanitarian, showing compassion for his people in the Ivory Coast and playing a part in helping their lives improve. He's helped with the infrastructure in some cities and has built hospitals for the sick.

Drogba also has built the house in which Chelsea reside.

Taking to the microphone to address the Chelsea fans on Sunday, he thanked them for their support and had some words for Roman Abramovich.

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 24:  John Terry and Didier Drogba of Chelsea hold the trophy after the Barclays Premier League match between Chelsea and Sunderland at Stamford Bridge on May 24, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)
Michael Regan/Getty Images

Drogba explained that Chelsea's past 10 years wouldn't have been possible without the owner. He's right—the Russian's billions have bankrolled Chelsea to where they are today.

What the money hasn't done is put a beating heart at the very core of this club. That's been the responsibility of the players, and Terry, Frank Lampard and the others have heard the call.

Throughout it all, Drogba has been a big part of that himself. The soul of Chelsea belongs to players of his ilk.

Chelsea are champions, yet however good it may feel to say it, Jose Mourinho and his players know it's only temporary. If they don't perform again next season, they'll have that title taken from them just as quick as it took Terry to hoist the Premier League trophy on Sunday.

Drogba's legend status is far more solid. That's not going to be changing, and while some players have missed out on saying their Chelsea goodbyes in recent times, Drogba got his moment on Sunday.

His 10-man carriage to exit the pitch was fitting for a king; his sendoff from the Chelsea fans represents something a whole lot more.

 

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. All quotes were obtained firsthand, unless otherwise noted. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes.

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