It’s with overwhelming emotion that earlier this week the club and I announced this will be my last season as a Chelsea player.
This has been the toughest decision of my life for me and my family, but I always envisaged leaving on the right terms, in the right way and at the right time – and that is now.
I feel I still have regular football in me but understand that opportunities here at Chelsea will be limited, it is, therefore, time for a new challenge.
My earliest ambition as a boy was to become a professional footballer and I’m eternally grateful to Chelsea FC, my mum, dad and brother for giving me the opportunity and their total support to fulfil that dream.
From joining as a schoolboy at 14 to signing my first professional contract at 17 and then making my first-team debut in the same year, to then being part of the transformation and evolution of this great football club, has inspired me to keep striving to be the very best I can be.
With the backing and support of Mr Abramovich, we as players have been given the opportunity to fulfil all our professional desires, as this club moved into a new era where it matched our ambitions and became one of the biggest and most successful clubs in the world. For this, I’d like to thank Mr Abramovich personally, and the board who have worked tirelessly to ensure the club continues to develop both on and off the field.
For 22 years this club has been my life, it has given me the platform to compete against the best, break record after record, win trophy after trophy, and as we won more it only increased my desire to work harder and demand more from myself and the team. With this obsession, I’ve been able to become Chelsea’s most successful captain and I’m immensely proud to be mentioned in the same company as Ron Harris, Peter Bonetti, Frank Lampard, John Hollins and many other greats as one of the highest appearance-makers for the club.
Thank you to all my team-mates and managers over the years. To have gone shoulder to shoulder in many a battle with you has been an honour.
I would like to thank my beautiful family for the unconditional love and support they’ve shown me. To my wife Toni and kids Georgie and Summer, you have been my rocks throughout my career. I love you so much and thank you. You’ve celebrated with me when we’ve won and supported me when we’ve lost. You’ve given me the platform to continue to chase my dream over all these years at Stamford Bridge and pushed me to want to be the best throughout. We did it all together. Our family will always be Blue and proud.
I’ll never be able to put into words the love I have for you fans. The support you have always given me, both personally and to the team, is phenomenal. You’ve been instrumental in my success and have inspired me and the team to win so many trophies.
Wearing the armband and being your captain has been without doubt one of the proudest achievements of my life. I only hope I’ve been able to repay you with my commitment and loyalty throughout my career, and I look forward to returning to this great club in some capacity in the future.
I want to stress that the journey is not yet over. There is a long way to go and we are committed to ending this campaign on a high. I am fully focused on helping the team and manager in every way I can from now until the end of the season.