Sergio Ramos burst into tears as he said farewell to Real Madrid after 16 years - but he left with a parting shot, saying he was surprised the club decided to withdraw a one-year contract offer to him by claiming it had expired.
Ramos, who made 671 appearances for Real and scored 101 goals including netting in two Champions League finals, ran down his contract with the 13-times European champions and was unable to agree a new deal with the club.
He said on Thursday he was offered a one-year contract on a 10% reduction to his previous salary but was holding out for a two-year deal "so my family could have continuity and tranquillity", only to find out the previous offer had been withdrawn.
"I said 'ok' but they told me the offer that was on the table had expired. I respect their decision but it was a surprise," he told a news conference.
"I didn't realise the offer had an expiry date. There will be many opinions about me but I'd prefer people to know the full story first and the president and club know it wasn't about money. They offered me one year and I wanted two."
Ramos, 35, acknowledged "there were some calls" when he entered the final six months of his contract in January but stressed "leaving Real Madrid was never on my mind".
But he added: "Life goes on, an era has finished and a new one is starting. Now is not the moment to talk about other clubs but we'll find the right one for me."
A venture abroad, to either Paris St Germain in Ligue 1 or the Premier League, look the most likely destinations, due to his high salary, and he dismissed suggestions he could return to boyhood club Sevilla.
He also laughed off a question on whether he could join Real's eternal rivals Barcelona, saying "it's a resounding no".
Ramos lifted the lid on the long-running contract negotiations after the club held a farewell ceremony at the Valdebebas training ground for him a day after confirming he would be leaving.
The defender, who joined Real aged 19 and went on to win 22 trophies including four Champions Leagues, was soon overcome with emotion.
"One of the most difficult moments in my life has arrived, you are never prepared to say goodbye to Real Madrid but the time has come," he said before bursting into tears.
Australian Associated Press