TO the delight of centre backs and Chelsea's rivals, the English game lost one of its most compelling figures, and greatest players, when Didier Drogba eased his muscled, tattooed frame in to a seat at the Stamford Bridge health club yesterday to announce his farewell. The Drog days are over after eight extraordinary years.
Reminiscences carried him through some of the thunderous goals, tumultuous games, 10 leading trophies and a few regrets until, inevitably, we arrived at that climactic penalty against Bayern Munich to win the Champions League with the last kick of the match and, definitively, of his Chelsea career.
That moment of triumph was, he said, "like a movie", one that he wanted to keep replaying because the night itself flashed by so fast.
"I want to be back in the stadium," he said. "It was too quick the first time."
His whole remarkable journey from African poverty to the cover of Time magazine could be turned into a film, though Drogba paused when asked who should play the lead role. Then, with a big smile, he remembered: "Jupp Heynckes [the Bayern manager] said I'm a good actor. So maybe me."
No one else would be up to the challenge of playing Drogba, certainly not for less than 40 million euros, which is the fee Chelsea will probably have to pay to replace him on the pitch. Across the world game, few big strikers have matched Drogba's influence in the past decade and perhaps none has shaped his team's style so singularly.