A memorable journey has come to an end. Rationally, it is the right decision for you and the club. We all need to move forward and we will. However, there is a time for making sense out of this. Football is not all about cold logic and pragmatism. It is also about unexplainable passion, unexpected magic and sheer will. It is a game full of emotions, and you more than anybody else embodied that. It is impossible for any Chelsea fan to set their emotions aside when he thinks about you. You have frustrated me, perplexed me, amazed me, enthused me, made me laugh, made me cry, lifted up my spirits and you have topped it all by giving me one of the greatest moments in my life. And I have not even seen you in flesh and blood. I am not writing this as a tribute to you. This effort is a very selfish desire to trace back my association with you and document it. I do not ever want to forget you. This is so that I do not miss you after my visual memory has faded.
In July 2004, when I heard reports that Chelsea were to sign a strong physical African striker I could not understand the logic. I believed Gud and Crespo were perfectly good first choice pair up-front. One had superior ball control and technique and other was a thorough-bred goal scorer. I wondered why we were spending £24 million on another striker. After watching you play, I was adamant that Crespo should be first choice. You were physical, went in hard and never shied from confrontations. Crespo was a classical goal-scorer and Gud had the finesse. Eye-pleasing is what I wanted. You however did not bother about what pleased the eye. You did what the gaffer told you. You ran yourself to ground, threw your body to latch on to every long ball and unselfishly laid off headers for Duff and Robben. That was a time when teams still used to play 2 strikers. You played alone and ensured that defenders noticed you. For most of the 90 minutes you did not look for goals, but looked to make yourself a menace to both the opposition centre-halves. An ignorant fool that I was, I found it frustrating. I loved the mazy runs of Robben, the trickery of Duff and the fine goals of Lampard. I did not realize then that none of these players would have had space afforded to them had you not been there. You drew the centre-halves. You created the space. You made them so weary that they lost focus. You, with others won our first Premier League title in a long long time. I did not realize all of this till that outstanding game at Anfield. That game represented everything about you. You were involved in all four goals and scored none. You gave Hyypia and Carragher a nightmare. You displayed pace, power and trickery in equal measure. That to me still remains your finest performance. When things did not go so well for us in the next two seasons, there were times when I felt you should be moved on. I felt that our physical style was not working. That we need to be more refined to win the league against a free-flowing Manchester United side. But soon enough you proved me wrong again. By 2007 you had developed into a heady combination of a beast with the ability for the delicate. Your touch was magnificent and your ability to hold of defenders and turn with the ball was unmatched in the footballing world. Not to mention those powerful swirling shots that confounded Howard, Reina, Lehmann and many other goalkeepers. With Robben and Duff long gone, you had reinvented yourself to suit the forward lines. There were no pacy wide men to latch on to your headers, so you started taking the balls on your chest a lot more. After a forgettable time with LFS, you were in the mix in that memorable semi-final against Barcelona. You missed fair number of chances but you said what every Chelsea fan wanted to say. You had the guts. Once Sheva had left there was no real competition for you. You had a fair number of forgettable performances but you came good in big games. You would not have a meaningful touch for long periods then you would conjure a goal out of nothing. Competition has always brought the best out of you. We won the double under Carlo. This season you have been instrumental in giving us what we have been thirsting for ages. At 34 you ran your socks against Barcelona. You played an auxiliary left-back when the team needed that. You chased the ball knowing that you will not intercept it, but purely because not chasing would give the opposition time to put a telling pass. You slid, tackled, blocked shots and helped out the defence in set pieces. And they call you a prima-donna. Your last kick for Chelsea FC won us the Champion League – the biggest trophy in club football. You deserved it as much as anyone else. It is really a great source of satisfaction for me that you have Champions League medal.
That was the football; but what you meant for us Chelsea fans of this era, goes much beyond football. You are responsible for creating our identity. An identity not based on pleasing the world, but being resilient and believing in ourselves. In my early years as a fan, I strived for validation from opposition fans and pundits in the media. They were never forthcoming. You were routinely slated for diving and play-acting. You were called a powerful beast. Your excellent technique was rarely mentioned let alone appreciated. Eventually I realized that it is not what others think about the players from my club, it is what we fans think of our players. You have taken a physical battering beyond human limits. You have not cared what others think of you. You spoke for all fans on that fateful night on May 2009. When it mattered you have done what it takes for this club; and that is the very essence of Chelsea Football Club of this era – Doing what it takes. I no longer need to read a random pundit’s glowing tribute to make me feel good that Didier Drogba was a part of Chelsea FC. I no longer need rival fans to tell me that they wish you played for their club. I do not care if you do not make it to Fantasy teams. You have reached the pinnacle as a Chelsea player in my eyes. I recognize your frailties and your strengths. I recognize your ability to stand up and carry the team in one moment and be utterly childish in another. However, I feel privileged that you have been a part of Chelsea FC for so long. You, Frank Lampard, John Terry and Petr Cech have been the backbone of this club for the last 8 years. All the trophies that we have won, we owe it to you four. You are the first to move on. Every second that you have spent in the Chelsea jersey is much appreciated. You have the love and respect of all Chelsea fans. You will never be missed by us because you would never have left our memories.
I wish you all the joy in life, success for your foundation and pray that your country and continent becomes a peaceful place.
Up the Chels!