Fighting back tears, Sergio Aguero took a deep breath and finally made the announcement soccer fans had dreaded to hear ever since he left a game with chest pains six weeks ago.
“I have decided to stop playing professional football,” the 33-year-old Barcelona striker said on Wednesday in front of an intimate audience of friends, family and teammates, sadly and suddenly ending a prolific 18-year career.
Aguero, one of the world’s greatest strikers of this generation, underwent tests after leaving the field, holding his chest, during Barcelona’s match against Alaves in La Liga on October 30.
“When they did the first test in the clinic, the medical staff called to tell me there was a very big possibility that I wouldn’t be able to keep playing,” Aguero said.
“I was still processing everything when one of the doctors told me straight up, ‘That’s enough’.
“The decision I made, I have taken it for my health.”
Speaking at a press conference on the field at Camp Nou, Aguero looked on in sadness as a highlight reel of his career was played on a screen.
There were goals – and lots of them – shown from his time playing for Independiente, Atletico Madrid, Manchester City, Argentina and his brief spell at Barcelona, where he managed only five appearances since May.
Asked how he’d like to be remembered, Aguero, living up to his reputation as a shy person, shrugged he wasn’t the person to ask.
He finished, though, by saying: “I wasn’t bad, right? That’s what they tell me.”
Aguero will best be remembered for his dazzling 10-year stint at Man City where he scored a club-record 260 goals.
He had a record 12 hat-tricks in his total haul of 184 Premier League goals, the most for an overseas player and the fourth most all-time.
He also scored the Premier League’s most iconic goal, the dramatic stoppage-time winner against Queens Park Rangers that clinched the title for City on the final day of the 2011-12 season.
City manager Pep Guardiola turned up at Camp Nou to pay his tribute, while City fans sang Aguero’s name during the team’s 7-0 win over Leeds on Tuesday.
“One of the best strikers ever,” City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne wrote on Twitter.
Aguero, who joined City from Atletico Madrid in 2011, struggled with injuries in his final two seasons at City and was allowed to leave.
He signed for Barcelona, where he thought he’d be linking up with close friend and Argentina teammate Lionel Messi only for the seven-time world player of the year to join Paris Saint-Germain because of the club’s financial problems.
For Argentina, Aguero scored 41 in 97 matches after making his senior team debut in 2006 in between two world titles for Argentina’s youth teams.
His only major title with Argentina came at this year’s Copa America, in which he barely featured, but he also won Olympic gold in Beijing in 2008.
He played in three World Cups, and was second-half substitute in the 2014 final that Argentina lost 1-0 to Germany.
Aguero was one of the youngest players to make his debut in Argentina’s top division, at the age of 15 for Independiente.
All told, he scored 427 goals in 786 games in his career.
“I can be very happy with the titles I have won,” Aguero said. “Anyone can always give a bit more but I think I did everything as best I could be myself and my clubs.”