MADRID — An emotional Sergio Ramos said goodbye to Real Madrid on Thursday, thanking the club and expressing his disappointment for not being able to bid farewell to the fans at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium.
The veteran defender said he is excited about his future but did not say where he will be playing next.
"This is the end of a unique stage in my life," said Ramos, who broke down in tears shortly after he started speaking.
The player's family, including his wife and four children, and club president Florentino Pérez attended the farewell event. A video was shown of Ramos playing and lifting trophies with Madrid.
Real Madrid announced Ramos' departure on Wednesday. The 35-year-old defender failed to agree to a new contract and was leaving as a free agent.
Spanish media said a salary reduction would be needed if Ramos was to stay at Madrid, which has been among the clubs struggling financially because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ramos had been with the club since arriving from Sevilla in 2005 when he was 19. He helped the Spanish powerhouse win 22 titles, including four Champions Leagues and five Spanish leagues. His 93rd-minute header helped secure Madrid the European trophy in 2014.
Ramos was left off Spain's squad for the European Championship after playing sparingly this season because of a series of injuries. It was the first major tournament Ramos missed since he began playing with the senior squad in 2005.
He was a member of the Spain team that won an unprecedented title hat trick at Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.