Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho says Didier Drogba will always be loved at Stamford Bridge but should make his own decision regarding his future, urging the club legend to quit playing when the time is right.
The 36-year-old striker returned to west London during the summer, signing a one-year contract with the Blues after being sweet-talked by the Portuguese coach to make a Premier League comeback.
After quitting Galatasaray at the end of last season, Drogba had several lucrative offers from Major League Soccer clubs in North America, but was unable to resist the opportunity of an emotional reunion with the side that he left in 2012 after converting the winning penalty to secure Chelsea's first ever Champions League triumph.
The Ivorian was presented with a 12-month contract - as is customary for all Chelsea players over the age of 30 - meaning that Drogba's future is already the subject of discussion again, particularly now that he has a little over six months remaining on his existing deal.
Mourinho was asked about Drogba's ongoing contribution during his pre-Newcastle press conference on Friday, to which he responded with high praise for the veteran marksman after he netted during Chelsea's comfortable 3-0 victory over Tottenham Hotspur in midweek.
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"He is still a very good player and if he wants my advice he should stop when he wants, not when I or the club decides," he said.
"He should stop when he wants, after that I know Mr Abramovich is very happy to keep him in the club. But that's after he decides to stop his career, that's not tomorrow though."
"He [Drogba] should stop when he wants, after that I know Mr Abramovich is very happy to keep him in the club." - Jose Mourinho
Despite Drogba's impressive performance against Spurs, he is set to drop back to the bench - along with Loic Remy - for tomorrow's lunchtime kick-off at St James' Park after the Blues boss confirmed plans to recall Diego Costa to his starting line-up after the former Atletico Madrid striker served his one-match suspension on Wednesday.
The bit-part role that Drogba has become accustomed to playing this season is no bad reflection on his capabilities though, as Mourinho suggested he still has all the necessary attributes to play an important part in proceedings between now and the end of the season.
However, it remains to be seen whether Chelsea will offer the fans' favourite an extension to his playing contract beyond 2015, and Mourinho warned Drogba that he must think carefully about his retirement plans and perhaps jump ship before he is pushed.
That said, there will always be a non-playing role for Drogba at the club he has given so much to over the years, whether that be in a coaching capacity or something else, but he should still be astute enough to call time on his playing career and hang up his boots gracefully at Stamford Bridge.