(CNN)He was a key figure in Jose Mourinho's first title-winning era at Chelsea, and his influence has been felt a decade later with the new breed at Stamford Bridge.
English Premier League: Chelsea stars give Didier Drogba ultimate sendoff
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Didier Drogba was paid the ultimate tribute by his teammates Sunday when they carried him off the field to mark his final appearance in the royal blue shirt, having been given the captain's armband by regular skipper John Terry.
The Ivory Coast veteran bowed out in the 29th minute against Sunderland in a prearranged substitution, having announced before the closing game of Chelsea's Premier League-winning campaign that he is leaving for a second time. Reports have linked him with a move to the U.S. Major League Soccer competition.
The 37-year-old hopes to extend his career by one more season, having come back to London last year as a bit-part squad player -- a shadow of the striker who terrorized defenses across European and at international level, but a key element in Mourinho's big plan.
"He was part of the other team but he is also part of the new Chelsea," the Portuguese coach said after a 3-1 victory left Chelsea eight points clear of second-placed Manchester City.
"He was very good for the young players like Hazard, Willian and Oscar -- they learn from good examples and he made a fantastic contribution for us this season."
Drogba departed with Chelsea trailing 1-0, and missed the chance of a goalscoring goodbye as his replacement Diego Costa equalized from the penalty spot soon after coming on, netting his 20th Premier League goal since joining from Atletico Madrid.
"Didier was due to take the penalty but he was not on the pitch," Mourinho said. "He had a problem with his knee -- in normal conditions he wouldn't play the game.
"He did because it was his last and he wanted to be on the pitch. It was John's desire to give him the armband and for the players to bring him from the pitch was up to them -- they like him a lot."
Mourinho said he hoped goalkeeper Petr Cech -- another key player during his first reign but this season a backup for Thibaut Courtois -- would stay at Chelsea.
The Czech played the full game against Sunderland but has expressed his desire to find a club where he will be a first-team regular.
"He's a legend of this club, a legend at 33 -- and for a keeper he is a young legend," Mourinho said.
"One of our strengths this season was to have the two best goalkeepers in the league. When Thibaut was injured, Petr made decisive saves in matches for us. I'm not sure if he wasn't here we would have been champions."
If Cech leaves, defender Terry will be the last remaining player from Mourinho's first spell at Chelsea, when he won two Premier League titles, the FA Cup and two League Cups.
"I belong to both generations, but to be back for the end of my team was hard -- to see Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Michael Essien and Drogba leave is very hard for me," Mourinho said.
"But my job is Chelsea's future and that's the team we have been working on in the last two years."
Liverpool legend Steven Gerrard had a less successful sendoff before his move to Los Angeles Galaxy, though the former England midfielder did score one last time in Sunday's 6-1 humbling at Stoke.
It was the first time in 52 years that the five-time European champion had conceded that many goals in a league game, and the defeat meant Tottenham finished fifth after beating Everton 1-0.
Liverpool had a disastrous end to the season, falling from Champions League contender to now facing two rounds of qualifying to get into the group stages of the Europa League.
Manager Brendan Rodgers dropped Raheem Sterling to the bench following the controversy over the young England forward's apparent desire to leave and reject a lucrative new contract.
Rodgers' own future is now in doubt after failing to win a trophy in three seasons at Anfield.
Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini is another man tipped for the sack, but the Chilean is confident he will be retained despite failing to defend the EPL title -- or win any trophy.
City's 2-0 victory over Southampton was the sixth in a row since dropping down to fourth place last month.
Former Chelsea star Lampard scored on his 609th and final Premier League appearance before joining Gerrard in the U.S. with MLS club New York City FC, while Sergio Aguero's late second gave him a leading 26 goals in the top flight.
"I've never had any doubt in my mind all season," Pellegrini told BBC Sport.
"I know what the owners think, I speak with them all the time. They're not owners who think because you do not win the title you must go out."
Third-placed Arsenal thrashed West Brom 4-1, as England forward Theo Walcott scored a first-half hat-trick to raise the stakes in his expected postseason contract talks.
Manchester United will go into the Champions League qualifying rounds next season, confirming fourth place with a 0-0 draw that relegated Hull.
Steve Bruce's team needed to win to have any chance of staying up, but could not capitalize on the second-half dismissal of United substitute Marouane Fellaini.
After the match, United confirmed that the club would not be signing on-loan Colombia striker Radamel Falcao on a permanent deal from Monaco.
Tottenham striker Harry Kane finished second in the golden boot standings after scoring his 21st in the league, and 31st in all competitions, with a first-half header against Everton.
Southampton, meanwhile, may yet feature in the Europa League next season if Arsenal beats Aston Villa in next weekend's FA Cup final.
Villa avoided relegation before the final round of games, but the 1-0 defeat by second-bottom Burnley left Tim Sherwood's team just three points above the drop zone.
Newcastle stayed up by beating West Ham 2-0, and after that defeat the mid-table London club announced that manager Sam Allardyce's contract will not be renewed.
Chris Ramsey will still be in charge of Queens Park Rangers in the second tier next season, but will have much work to do on the evidence of Sunday's 5-1 thrashing at Leicester -- which climbed off the bottom by picking up 22 points in the last nine games.