Outgoing Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes has chosen to bid farewell to the Nou Camp with an open letter to the club's fans ahead of the Primera Liga title-deciding match against Atletico Madrid on Saturday.
The 32-year-old Spain international has been sidelined through the final part of the season after suffering a serious knee injury in March, but had long since planned to leave his only professional club when his contract runs out this summer.
"The time has come to say goodbye to you all,'' Valdes wrote in his letter published on Wednesday. "Unfortunately, I could not end my time here playing football as I would have liked, but that's life sometimes and this year has been cruel to me in this regard.''
Valdes thanked a number of coaching staff at the club who "made me into the athlete I always dreamed I would be. People who turned a ten year old kid into a goalkeeper at the Camp Nou, ten years later."
The goalkeeper also expressed his admiration for former managers Louis Van Gaal "for showing the courage necessary to gamble on a talent that only he could see"; Frank Rijkaard "for... allowing me to achieve glory, getting my hands on the European Cup in Paris"; Pep Guardiola "for having opened the door to playing a game that was unknown to me," and to the late Tito Vilanova, who passed away in April aged 45.
Valdes issued a heartfelt message to Vilanova, stating: "Wherever you are, I thank you for having taught us not only the way to keep winning as a team, but also the strength and character needed to face life."
He went on to finish by thanking his current teammates and the club's supporters for giving him the support that a "fighter needs" to wear the Barca shirt.
"Thanks to all my colleagues with whom I've had the pleasure to work with, that involves wearing the Barca crest on our chests day after day, for making me feel important within the group that we developed over all these years," he continued. "Because it all comes down to this, we are who we are, here and now.
"And of course I cannot forget the most important people, over these twelve years as a professional, wearing this shirt, my most loyal fans.
"Those people who, whatever happened, were always there to give me the support that a fighter always needs, proud to be there supporting me in the celebrations, giving your support in every game, sending me the positive energy that I have always felt, which kept me going all this time, because without it, it would have been impossible to do it alone.
"Thank you, thank you, and a thousand times, thank you. I ask that you please don't stop giving me that support. Forever."