Didier Drogba officially called an end to his playing days on Wednesday after 18 months with USL Championship outfit Phoenix Rising.
The Chelsea and Ivory Coast legend retires with 15 winners’ medals to his name.
The 40-year-old’s last match was a defeat in the USL Cup final to Louisville City FC earlier this month; he had previously stated he was playing his final campaign of professional football.
Perhaps the most memorable game of his career was when he scored a late equalizer and struck the decisive penalty in Chelsea’s Champions League final against Bayern Munich in 2012, but that pales in comparison to what he did for his African homeland.
Following Ivory Coast’s qualification for the 2006 World Cup, Drogba gathered his teammates in the dressing room, fell to his knees, and begged for both sides of a civil war that had long ravaged the nation to stop fighting. One week later, there was a ceasefire.
“Before being a footballer, I’m a human being, I’m a man,” Drogba told BBC Sport. “I have a life to lead, I want to live in a peaceful country. My country was at war and tensions were there. I care for my country and I did what I had to do for my country. The country is divided and the only thing that unites us is football.”
In addition to his off-field achievements for his country, he led the national team to three World Cups and is the Elephants’ all-time top scorer with 65 goals.
Drogba says Jose Mourinho, his manager on two occasions at Chelsea, “changed my life, he changed the story of my family” due to the support he showed after his £24-million transfer to London from Marseille in 2004. Drogba was encouraged to stay at the club following a difficult debut season in England and, by the time his second and final stint with Chelsea concluded in 2015, he had amassed 164 goals in 381 outings.
He won four Premier League titles, the Champions League, four FA Cups, and three League Cups with Chelsea. He also collected medals in the Turkish Super Lig, Turkish Cup, and Turkish Super Cup with Galatasaray, and was victorious in the Western Conference with Phoenix Rising during his final term.
Drogba began his career with Le Mans and then Guingamp before his breakout move to Marseille in 2003, where he spent just one season. He represented Shanghai Shenhua of the Chinese Super League and Galatasaray between his two Chelsea spells, and netted 21 times in 33 appearances for Major League Soccer’s Montreal Impact before winding down at Phoenix Rising.
“Before joining Le Mans in 1998 I was writing letters to first division teams for a trial and I would never get a positive answer but I never gave up. When I had the chance to go to Le Mans I jumped on it,” Drogba shared.
“Moving to Marseille was part of my dream – I used to say to my friends when I was at Le Mans ‘you will see one day I will play with this team’. In 2003 I moved to Marseille so my dream became a reality. It was the best dream I ever had in my life.”