Sergio Ramos broke down in tears at an emotional press conference as he said farewell to Real Madrid after 16 years there.
The 35-year-old defender brought down the curtain on his glorious time with the club on what he described as his ‘most difficult day.’
After club president Florentino Perez paid homage to the departing captain, Ramos only managed a few words of his speech before emotion got the better of him.
With his family watching on, he said: ‘I’ll always keep Real Madrid in my heart. A marvellous stage in my life is over, but a new exciting future awaits and I am looking forward to showing my level and winning some more trophies.
‘You’re never prepared to say adios to Real Madrid but the moment has arrived. This is a ‘adieu’ as sooner or later I will return.
‘I would like to thank the fans, they carried me in their arms at all times. I would have liked to say goodbye at the Bernabeu. But I will always carry you in my heart.’
The news of Ramos’s departure broke on Wednesday night with his final game for the club being the 2-0 defeat by Chelsea in the Champions League semi-finals last month.
His contract was due to expire at the end of June. Ramos had been offered a one-year deal by the club with a pay cut (10 per cent of his current wage in line with the reduction offered to other players because of the financial impact of Covid-19).
But Ramos had wanted a two-year deal and on the same money he currently earns before any reduction in salary.
He had hoped his form during the season’s run-in would force the club’s hand but injury problems kept him out for most of 2021 and his reappearance for the game against Chelsea did not go well. He then failed to make Luis Enrique’s Spain squad for the Euros.
Ramos won four European Cups, four World Club Cups, three European Super Cups, five leagues, two Copa del Reyes at Madrid and leaves them the second most decorated player in their history behind Paco Gento.
His header three minutes into injury time of the 2014 Champions League final that took the game against Atletico Madrid into extra-time will long be remembered as one of the most important goals in the club’s history. It allowed them to win 4-1 and claim their 10th European Cup.
Ramos’s place at Madrid has already been taken with David Alaba arriving on a free from Bayern Munich. He now has to decide what his next move will be.
Radio 4 understands Paris Saint-Germain are interested in taking Ramos to the French capital, while there have been talks with Sevilla, who may lose Jules Kounde this summer.
A return to the club he left in 2004 would certainly give him plenty of motivation for next season – trying to repeat Luis Suarez’s feat and make Madrid regret not keeping him as Barcelona had to curse allowing the Uruguayan to leave. Paris Saint-Germain have also been linked.
Ramos was left out of the Spain squad in part because there was a feeling his battle to get fit would overshadow everything else happening within Luis Enrique’s squad.
As it is, Spain’s build-up to their second group game on Saturday will now move on to the back burner as all eyes in turn to Real Madrid’s training ground and the farewell of one of the club’s greatest players.
Spanish newspapers Marca and AS both incredibly led with the same front-page headline – ‘A Legend Goes’ – as they paid tribute to Sergio Ramos after the news of his departure from Real Madrid.