Sergio Ramos is leaving Real Madrid after 671 appearances, 101 goals, 22 trophies and 26 red cards over 16 years of service during which he captained the club in one of its most successful eras.

Madrid announced the departure of one of its most iconic players in a brief statement on Wednesday, saying Ramos would be honored with a farewell news conference alongside president Florentino Perez on Thursday.

Ramos, 35, reached the end of his contract and, according to Spanish newspaper Marca, was unable to agree an extension after Real offered him a one-year deal, with a 10% pay cut, which he rejected.

Ramos is now a free agent and although time is not on his side, there should be no shortage of clubs interested in signing one of the most fierce winners the modern game has seen.

“He leaves as Madrid’s best-ever central defender, without a doubt,” former Real striker Predrag Mijatovic said.

Former Real striker Ivan Zamorano added: “Ramos does not deserve to leave like this. He is the club’s most successful captain. Today the club made no effort to keep him.”

Ramos, who signed for Real from Sevilla in 2005 for €27 million, a record fee for a Spanish defender, came close to leaving the club in 2015 after lengthy negotiations with Manchester United.

He decided to stay and inherited the captain’s armband from departing goalkeeper Iker Casillas.

That decision came one season after Ramos saved Real from a loss against local rival Atletico Madrid with a 93rd-minute equalizer. Madrid went on to claim a 4-1 victory in extra time to finally capture ‘La Decima,’ its long-awaited 10th European Cup.

Ramos immortalized the moment by tattooing “92.48,” the exact time the ball hit the net, on his arm.

Madrid won the title again in 2015 and Ramos helped the team win its third straight with a goal against Atletico in the 2016 final. He also scored during the penalty shootout.

The 2016 final also saw Ramos commit a hard foul on Antoine Griezmann to prevent a dangerous Atletico counter, displaying the ruthless side to his game that made him such a crucial player in Real’s golden era.

He was also involved in a collision with Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah in the 2018 final that left the Egyptian with an injured shoulder and drew the ire of Liverpool fans after Real’s 3-1 win.

Ramos was used to being in the thick of the action and played a leading role in last season’s run to the La Liga title with a career-best 11 league goals.

But he was absent for most of the past campaign due to a nasty run of injuries. That caused Spain coach Luis Enrique to leave him out of the squad for Euro 2020, denying him the chance to play in hometown of Seville.

Even when on the sidelines, Ramos was a towering presence for Madrid, bellowing out encouragement from the empty Alfredo di Stefano stadium, where the team has been playing while Santiago Bernabeu stadium undergoes renovations.

Ramos will not get to represent Real at the new-look venue and will get no farewell from the club’s fans, who loved him as much as all-time greats Raul, Di Stefano and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“It’s the end of an era for Real Madrid,” said pundit Alvaro Benito on radio station Cadena Ser.

“Every time a player of this magnitude leaves there is a change of cycle. Whoever comes in will not be as good as Ramos.”

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