Atletico Madrid captain Diego Godin announced on Tuesday that he will leave the club at the end of the season
Godin has been one of the best central defenders in the world under Atletico coach Diego Simeone, who attended an emotional press conference at the Wanda Metropolitano, along with several players and president Enrique Cerezo.
The 33-year-old would not confirm his next club but indicated regret at not being able to agree to a new contract.
“I’m nervous, even more than for a match,” said a tearful Godin. “These will be my final days at Atletico Madrid. I want to communicate all the love I have for this club, this shirt.
“I am Atletico because this is not a club, it’s a family and a way of life. It has been my home and it’s very hard to say goodbye. I never imagined this moment would come and I am not prepared.”
Godin has made 381 appearances for Atletico and remains a key figure in the team, but the Uruguayan has rejected offers to extend his contract, which expires on June 30.
He is unlikely to be the last high-profile player to leave Atletico this summer.
After a disappointing season, Lucas Hernandez has already agreed to join Bayern Munich, while uncertainty hangs over the futures of Filipe Luis, Juanfran, Thomas Partey, Saul Niguez, and even Antoine Griezmann.
“In short, I am captain of the team and have been here many years,” said Godin. “We have not reached an agreement to continue so my time here is over. It has been the best in my career and my life.”
Godin added, “I would like to play here until I’m 40 but it’s impossible. For me, the priority has always been the club, the team, my teammates.
“But we could not reach an agreement so I have decided to leave. There’s nothing more to it than that.”
Since joining Atletico from Villarreal in 2010, Godin has won La Liga, the Copa del Rey, and the Europa League twice. He also reached the Champions League final in 2014 and 2016. Atletico lost both to Real Madrid.
The timing of the announcement means Atletico’s fans can bid Godin farewell at their last home game of the season, against Sevilla on Sunday.
“As a kid, I dreamed of playing football, playing for Uruguay, playing in Europe and being a big player,” Godin said.
“But I never thought I’d be at a stadium like this with the fans cheering my name. There is nothing better than that.”