Chelsea legend John Terry’s final appearance at Stamford Bridge ended with his team-mates forming a guard of honour as he exited in the 26th minute of the Premier League clash with Sunderland.
The 36-year-old — the time of his premature departure chiming with his shirt number — was visibly moved when he was replaced by Gary Cahill, who has also stepped in and skippered the team on the pitch to the title this season.
Terry, who leaves Chelsea at the end of this season after 22 years, exited to a standing ovation from the fans who despite some off-pitch scandals is revered by them.
Terry, though, returned to the pitch after the match to receive the Premier League trophy, the 15th piece of silverware he has lifted.
He may also get to raise the FA Cup if Chelsea beat Arsenal in next Saturday’s final at Wembley.
The former England central defender then made an emotional address to the Chelsea fans — paying tribute to both them and Russian owner Roman Abramovich who was present.
“Today is one of the most difficult days of my life,” said Terry.
“I’ve been very fortunate to work with some unbelievable players and managers throughout my career. I’m thankful to every single one of them.
“I’d like to thank Roman Abramovich and all the board. He’s the best owner in world football.”
Terry has yet to decide whether or not to carry on playing, although Swansea manager Paul Clement has said he would like to have him after working with him when he was on the coaching staff at Stamford Bridge, appeared on the pitch with his children.
“I’d like to thank my wife and my kids for supporting me in this amazing journey I’ve had,” said Terry.
“You (the Chelsea fans) are the best supporters in the world, without a shadow of a doubt.
“You’ve given me everything. You picked me up when I was down, sung my name when I had a bad game and disappointed you.
“I’ll come back here one day, supporting the team for years to come.”
Former Tottenham, Barcelona and England striker Gary Lineker was quick to take to twitter to pay tribute to the central defender.
“John Terry’s magnificent Chelsea career ends after 26 minutes of his final match. A great defender. A real leader. And a winner,” tweeted Lineker.