Andres Iniesta’s imminent Barcelona departure has prompted an outpouring of emotion across Spain and the world of football.
The 33-year-old is calling time on an astonishing 22-year trophy-laden career at the Nou Camp as he seeks pastures new in the autumn of his career.
His achievements at club level and particularly on the international stage, where he won three major tournaments, have been roundly recognised by his peers.
Among the first players to pay tribute were Real Madrid stalwarts Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos, showing the enormity with which Iniesta is respected in his home country.
Casillas tweeted: ‘It has been a pleasure to enjoy your football in Spain and share the changing room with you. Together, we won the most beautifully.
‘Separately, maximum rivalry with the utmost respect! Good luck @andresiniesta8 on your new stage. #GraciasIniesta’.
Ramos added: ‘Thank you, Andresinho. Thank you, @andresiniesta8 you’re so big!’
Fernando Torres joined in the gushing tributes, adding: ‘How many wonderful moments we have lived together @andresiniesta8! And those I want you to stay for living #GraciasIniesta #Infinit8Iniesta’.
Former club and international team-mate David Villa tweeted: ‘Thanks mate for having me enjoy so much in the field.
‘And thank you for all that we live together. Thanks for all the magic evenings you’ve given us with @fcbarcelona! You deserve the best! #andresiniesta8’
Former Barcelona manager Pep Guardiola joined in, saying :’I want to say thank you.
‘He helped me understand the game better, just watching him and what he does on the football pitch.’
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui added: ‘The big ones really deserve to get out like they are. @andresiniesta8 It’s a great example for everyone who wants to be a footballer. #Infinit8Iniesta’
The midfielder scored the biggest goal in Spanish history when he fired his country to World Cup glory over Holland in 2010 and was a key part of the Euro 2008 and 2012 triumphs.
At Barcelona he was part of one of the greatest club sides of the modern era, and won four Champions League titles in nine years.
During an emotional press conference in front of team-mates including Gerard Pique and Ivan Rakitic, a tearful Iniesta revealed his decision to quit La Liga.
He is expected to join Chinese Super League side Chongqing Dangdai.
With his wife and children watching in a packed-out press room at the Nou Camp, Iniesta initially struggled to compose himself as he admitted this season would be his last with the Spanish giants.
‘We arrived 25 years ago in our family car,’ he said of his trip to Barcelona’s La Masia youth academy with his parents and grandparents to trial for the club.
‘Now they are here with me as I say goodbye. That journey was emotional but it was also terrible because then I ended up here on my own and I was only 12 years old! But evidently it was worth it.’