Former Chelsea and Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba has confirmed his retirement as a player.
The 40-year-old scored 164 goals in 381 appearances over two spells with Chelsea, helping them win the Premier League four times and the Champions League in 2012, as well as four FA Cup triumphs and three League Cup victories.
Drogba had been playing this season in the United States with Phoenix Rising, the second-tier club at which he is a co-owner.
The veteran forward had been expected to hang up his boots following the United Soccer League Cup final defeat to Louisville City earlier this month.
And confirmation arrived on Wednesday evening, as Drogba posted a picture of him as a youngster on his social media accounts, accompanied by a farewell message.
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.”
Drogba played for Le Mans and Guingamp before joining Marseille, who he left for Chelsea in 2004 for a then club-record £24million deal.
He left Chelsea to join 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 Major League Soccer franchise Montreal Impact followed, which would later see the Ivory Coast forward stay in the US when taking up an opportunity in Phoenix.
Drogba continues to work with his foundation on projects in his homeland and across Africa, and could yet decide to start a coaching career.
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The international break lasted for what felt like eternity. Thankfully, a host of mouth-watering fixtures await us as club football returns this weekend
We take a look at the top ties from the top five leagues that you should be prioritising.
Fixture: Atletico Madrid v Barcelona
Where: Wanda Metropolitano
When: 23:45 GST, November 24, Saturday
This top of the table clash has to be the biggest game of the weekend. Barcelona look to recover from their 4-3 defeat against Real Betis as their opponents aim to carry on the momentum which faced a boost after the side’s 3-2 comeback win against Athletic Club.
The home side’s defensive depth will be tested with their four centre-backs Diego Godin, Stefan Savic, Jose Giminez and Lucas Hernandez battling against time to recover from their injuries before the big clash.
Barcelona will be without Philippe Coutinho (injury) and Ivan Rakitic (Suspension) and start as favourites.
Fixture: Tottenham v Chelsea
Where: Wembley Stadium
When: 21:30 GST, November 24, Saturday
It’s derby time in London and a tempestuous clash awaits us as Tottenham and Chelsea lock horns for the first time this season.
The hosts can leap over their rivals and hence provide a dent to Chelsea’s title chances, given how Manchester City are galloping at the top.
Alvaro Morata – despite his shocker against Bosnia Herzegovina – is in good shape and there’s no better time for him to announce his arrival than a derby.
Harry Kane will want to continue his exploits from the Nations League game against Croatia and propel Spurs to the top three.
Fixture: Lazio v AC Milan
Where: Stadio Olimpico
When: 21:00 GST. November 25, Sunday
In a battle between the fourth and fifth placed team in the Serie A, we see a wounded Milan take on Lazio at the Stadio Olimpico.
Both teams have lost just two of their last six games and this fixture promises to be a closely contested affair.
Lazio faced a slump against Sassuolo last week, drawing 1-1 and Ciro Immobile will look to lead the charge against the Rossoneri.
Milan will look to bounce back from their 2-0 defeat against holders Juventus, with Suso hoping to inspire the visitors to a win that should take them to a Champions League spot.
Fixture: Wolfsburg v RasenBallsport Leipzig
Where: Volkswagen Arena
When: 18:30 GST, November 24, Saturday
Wolfsburg need to put an end to their dismal run of home games which saw them drop all three points against Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich, Freiburg and share spoils with Borussia Monchengladbach.
On the other hand, Leipzig have not lost a single game since their 4-1 defeat to Borussia Dortmund in the curtain raiser. In their last five games in all competitions against each other, the pair are deadlocked at two wins each and a draw.
Wout Weghorst and Timo Werner will be key for Wofsburg and Leipzig respectively.
Fixture: Lyon v Saint Etinenne
Where: Groupama Stadium
When: 00:00 GST, November 23, Saturday
Both teams head into this fixture without having lost a single game in their last four. Lyon sit in fourth place with 24 points in their 13 games. St. Etienne are a point and position below their opponents.
The visitors are can leap above Lyon and into a Champions League spot with a win.
Memphis Depay has been in fine form for both Lyon and his national team this season and will look to assert himself on the St. Etienne defence on Friday.
Tunisian forward Wahbi Khazri who has scored six goals in 12 games will be equally crucial to St. Etienne’s chances
A shoulder injury to Kylian Mbappe overshadowed France’s 1-0 friendly win over Uruguay at the Stade de France on Tuesday as Didier Deschamps’ world champions ended the year on a high note.
Mbappe had to be replaced in the first half after a nasty fall, continuing a miserable night for his Paris Saint-Germain coach Thomas Tuchel after the German had already seen Neymar hobble off injured early in Brazil’s friendly with Cameroon in Milton Keynes.
PSG face Liverpool in a crucial Champions League clash at the Parc des Princes on November 28.
When asked if he could give “reassuring news” about Mbappe in his press conference, France coach Deschamps said: “Not necessarily reassuring, but not worrying either.
“He had some shoulder pain after his fall and he has to have tests tomorrow (Wednesday) morning, but there is no serious concern.”
After the disappointment of seeing the Netherlands pip them to a place at the Nations League finals with a late Virgil van Dijk goal in Germany on Monday, Olivier Giroud’s 52nd-minute penalty gave France victory in a repeat of the two teams’ World Cup quarter-final meeting in Russia.
“It was important to finish on a positive note, even in the last defeat (by the Netherlands) saw us miss out on the (Nations League) semi-finals,” Deschamps told M6.
Roared on by a large crowd in Paris, France opened up the Uruguay defence in only the fourth minute, but Giroud fired a first-time shot wide of the near post with just goalkeeper Martin Campana to beat.
France manager Didier Deschamps hails Antoine Griezmann for letting Olivier Giroud take the penalty against Uruguay.— SBOBET (@SBOBET) November 21, 2018
"We had a situation where he wanted to help Olivier. This gesture shows the wonderful spirit and the sense of teamwork we have at the moment within the group." pic.twitter.com/8zHm0HTW8m
Matias Vecino headed too close to Hugo Lloris as the visitors settled into the game, but Mbappe should have put France ahead when he raced clean through on goal, only to mishit a chipped effort well wide.
MBAPPE IN AGONY
The 19-year-old was left writhing on the ground in pain after a heavy touch saw him tackled by Campana, appearing to sustain a shoulder injury as he crashed to the turf.
Mbappe tried to play on, but he only lasted a matter of seconds before signalling to the bench that he could not continue and was replaced by Florian Thauvin.
Chelsea striker Giroud wasted another good opportunity for the French shortly after the break, heading over from the edge of the six-yard box.
But he was given an even better chance to get on the scoresheet as Martin Cacares was penalised for handball after Antoine Griezmann’s shot struck his chest and his arm.
Giroud stepped up and slammed a confident spot-kick into the bottom corner past Campana.
“We’re a little disappointed not to be qualified in the Nations League, but it’s like that,” Giroud said. “We may have lost a game we shouldn’t have, but we had the heart to react, and I think we did it pretty well.”
The world champions started to play with more confidence, and Tanguy Ndombele forced the onrushing Campana into a good save after a wonderful scooped pass by Griezmann.
Substitute Jonathan Rodriguez went close as Uruguay piled bodies forward looking for an equaliser, but Oscar Tabarez’s team slipped to a second successive 1-0 friendly loss after their defeat by Brazil in London last week.
“We have to understand against whom we came to play in Europe — Brazil and France,” said Tabarez. “I think the French were superior in the first 15 or 20 minutes, but after that it was relatively balanced in the second half.”