Sergio Ramos burst into tears as he said farewell to Real Madrid on Thursday after 16 years at the club in which he became one of their most iconic players and lifted 22 trophies.
Ramos, who made 671 appearances for Real and scored 101 goals including netting in two Champions League finals, ran down his contract with the 13-times European champions and was unable to agree on a new deal with the club.
"One of the most difficult moments in my life has arrived, you are never prepared to say goodbye to Real Madrid but the time has come," Ramos said before bursting into tears in a farewell ceremony at the club's Valdebebas training ground.
"A marvellous, unique era has come to an end but an exciting new future has opened to me and I'm very keen to demonstrate I can play at the top level for a few more years and add a couple more trophies to my list of honours."
Sergio Ramos has said that he intended to accept Real Madrid's offer of a one-year extension but was told that he had run out of time.
"The first thing I want to say is that I never wanted to leave. I wanted to stay here. The club offered me the possibility of extending my contract, but because of Covid it was put on the back burner."
"The club made me a one-year offer with a salary reduction. I have to say that there was no economic problem. I wanted two years and peace of mind for me and my family.
"During the last talks, I accepted the one-year offer, but I was informed that it was no longer possible, that it had an expiration date and that I had not heard about it."
He added on the specifics of the contract: "The conditions have changed several times, on their part and on ours."
"It got to a point where we had to make a decision but they never told me that the offer had an expiry date. It's understandable but it surprised me, that the offer had expired."
Despite the breakdown in communication over a contract extension, Ramos insists that he harbours no ill will towards club president Florentino Perez.
"My relationship with the president has always been good," he said. "Like a father and son in sporting terms. He is the one who brought me here and I'll never say a word against him. There are fights in families as well."
Club president Florentino Perez, who brought Ramos to Real from Sevilla in 2005 for 27 million euros ($32 million), a then-record fee for a Spanish defender, thanked the player for "making Real Madrid's legend even greater and ensuring it is the most admired club in the world".
"It's not an easy day because you've been really special to me and you and I have lived and suffered through historic moments for Real Madrid," Perez added.
"I wish you all the best and want you to know this will always be your home, a legend like you will always be one of this club's great ambassadors."