Chelsea captain John Terry will end his 22-year association with the London club at the end of the season, but the veteran defender wants to keep on playing.
The 36-year-old Terry has dropped so far down the pecking order at Chelsea that the last of his 713 appearances came two months ago in the FA Cup. The centre back last played in the English Premier League for the leader in November and has already started studying for coaching qualifications and learning Portuguese.
"The club and I have always had a fantastic relationship, which will continue beyond my playing days," Terry said in a statement on Monday. "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."
Although a managerial career appears to be beckoning, Terry does not feel ready to hang up his boots. The next move will be decided "in due course," Terry said, with lucrative moves to China, the United Arab Emirates and United States obvious potential destinations.
"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."
Having joined the youth ranks and then made his senior debut in 1998, Terry was appointed captain in 2004. His physical presence, anticipation, and leadership qualities made him the outstanding figure in Chelsea’s defence as the club enjoyed a run of trophy success.
On the continent, he collected the Champions League in 2012, despite being suspended for the final, and the Europa League the following year. As the key cog in Chelsea’s resurgence after its 2003 takeover by Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, Terry has also won the Premier League four times, the FA Cup five times, and the League Cup on three occasions.
"He has been an outstanding player, inspirational captain, and has always demonstrated an exceptional commitment to the cause," Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia said. "In that time, Chelsea has grown into one of the world’s top clubs and it is only right that John’s contribution is recognized. 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 held on to the Chelsea captaincy despite being banned for four matches and fined in 2012 for racially abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.
And Terry appreciated the backing of Chelsea fans who have a banner at Stamford Bridge which reads, "Captain. Leader Legend."
"You mean the world to me and every trophy we’ve won during my time at the club we’ve won together," the former England captain said. "I will never forget the incredible journey we’ve been on. Thank you so much for everything."
The only other club Terry has played for was Nottingham Forest during a six-game loan spell in 2000.