Chelsea captain John Terry has vowed to play on elsewhere after he and the club confirmed that he will leave the Premier League leaders when his contract expires at the end of the season.
The decision brings to an end a golden 22-year spell at Stamford Bridge in which he became the most decorated player in Chelsea history, although the club said Terry could return “in a non-playing capacity”.
Terry helped the Blues win four Premier League titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, a Europa League and a Champions League – most of them as captain – but has found playing time limited this term.
The 36-year-old hopes to leave on a high, with Chelsea still four points clear in the top flight despite Sunday’s defeat at Manchester United, but insists that will not mark the end of his playing days.
"I will decide on my future in due course, but for now I am committed to helping the team achieve success this season.
“The club and I have always had a fantastic relationship, which will continue beyond my playing days. We had some really positive talks but with everything taken into careful consideration I have decided it’s the right time for me to leave.
“I’ve always been conscious that I depart at the right time, in the right way, and I feel that the end of this season is the right time for the club and I. I feel I still have plenty to offer on the pitch but understand that opportunities here at Chelsea will be limited for me.
“I’m eager to carry on playing and so will be looking to continue with a new challenge. I will of course always be a Blue and am desperate to end my final season as a Chelsea player with more silverware.”
Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia paid tribute to Terry and fuelled talk that he could return one day as a coach or manager.
“Everyone at Chelsea would like to place on record our thanks to John for all he has done for this football club.
“He has been an outstanding player, inspirational captain and has always demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the cause.
"In that time, Chelsea has grown into one of the world’s top clubs and it is only right that John’s contribution is recognised.
“He will always be held in the highest regard by everybody at Stamford Bridge and we look forward to welcoming him back in the future.”
Terry spoke in February of his “dream” of managing Chelsea in “10 or 15 years” and the club appeared to leave the door open.
Chelsea said: “Both the club and John look ahead to the possibility of him returning to us in a non-playing capacity, when he will be able to share his unparalleled experience with players, staff and fans alike.”
Terry has started just four league games this season in Antonio Conte’s remodelled team.