Didier Drogba will be a part of the Chelsea family again one day, manager Jose Mourinho predicted on the eve of Tuesday's Champions League last-16 second leg against Galatasaray.
Mourinho told reporters the 36-year-old Galatasaray striker was such an important part of Chelsea's history that it was inevitable that he would be a Stamford Bridge employee again at some point in the future.
Drogba's contract expires at the end of the season and media reports have linked him with a role as player-coach at the London club.
At a separate news conference earlier, the Ivorian also said he would like to return to Chelsea one day.
"He is one of the most important players in the history of this club. All we Chelsea supporters agree with that," said Mourinho who goes into the home second leg with an advantage after drawing the opening match in Istanbul 1-1.
"We don't say he is the most important because it's not fair for other people who were at the same level and were of the same generation.
"His return has to happen one day, when I don't know. As a player, as a coach, as an ambassador, next year, in four or five years, 10 years, I don't know," added Mourinho.
"But when a person gives so much to a club and a club represents so much to a person, as in this case, I think he has to be back one day."
The Portuguese said it was not the right time to discuss a possible Drogba return.
"We know he is a free agent at the end of the season but this is not the right moment to speak about this," said Mourinho.
"Is he the same player at 36 that he was at 26? I think nobody is but he's one of the best strikers in the world, that's for sure."
The Chelsea manager was in generally waspish mood on Monday, perhaps as a reaction to his team's controversial 1-0 defeat at Aston Villa on Saturday.
Mourinho was sent to the stands in stoppage time and also had Ramires, for a horrible two-footed lunge, and fellow Brazil midfielder Willian, for two bookable offences, sent off.
The Portuguese refused to talk too much about the Villa match for fear of bringing the game into disrepute and said he had no interest in accepting counterpart Roberto Mancini's offer to treat him to dinner in the event Galatasaray knock Chelsea out.
"I don't do things because I win or I lose," said Mourinho. "After matches what I have in my mind to do, I do, it doesn't matter if I win or lose.
"Some coaches say if we win tomorrow it's a free day for the players, with me it's not. With me it's a free day when I think it's a free day.
"After the game tomorrow I don't have in my plans a meal with somebody who has the same job as I have and the only thing we have in common is we are both football managers, nothing else."
Mourinho was not happy to be questioned about Ramires's sending-off at Villa Park.
"Don't you have other things to ask about that game other than Ramires's tackle in minute 92?," the Chelsea manager replied.
"Do you think in that game the most important thing to happen was Ramires's tackle? In that case I don't want to answer.
"We cannot have a reaction to what happened at Villa Park because if we have a reaction it will bring the game into disrepute. We just close our mouths and keep going."
Mourinho suggested the challenge from Ramires was built on frustration.
"I feel that what happened in minute 92 was a consequence of the other 91 minutes we played before that," he said.
"I'm sorry if I'm wrong or you don't agree with me but if you want to ask you should ask what led to that tackle, not about the tackle.
"Ask about what makes that tackle happen. That is my opinion," said Mourinho.