David Villa was the first player signed by New York City FC when the club began play four seasons ago, but his award-winning run with the team has come to an end.
Villa announced his departure from NYCFC on Wednesday, turning down an opportunity to stay with the team, while making it clear he plans on continuing to play.
"I think it's been four very good years," Villa said of his time with NYCFC. "I think it was an experience totally different than any before it, starting a team from zero, being the first player.
"I think if we look at what the team was when we began, and look at what it is today, obviously the change is significant and I feel like I played my part in that growth."
The Spanish World Cup winner scored 80 goals in 124 MLS appearances for NYCFC, including his MLS MVP season in 2016, when he finished with 23 goals.
He topped that total a year later, notching 24 goals in all competitions and earning a recall to the Spanish national team in the process.
"David has been an incredible ambassador and captain to this club since the moment we signed him," NYCFC sporting director Claudio Reyna said.
"His professionalism and leadership helped us through the challenges that a new team faces when they come into the league. He’s represented New York City FC tremendously both on and off the pitch and has been a real leader for this football club."
According to Villa, NYCFC wanted to bring him back, but he ultimately decided that the time was right to move on and pursue new opportunities.
"I feel a sensation that an era has ended, I've done everything I can do here, and now I have to look for new challenges," Villa said.
"I'm going to try and keep playing. During these last months I've had an internal dialogue with my body and my heart and I believe I can play, at least one more year, at the optimal level I like to play. If not, I wouldn't feel it and I'd go home, but I've decided to keep playing."
The 36-year-old forward is coming off a season marred by injuries, which limited him to 23 matches. He still notched 14 goals and five assists, and also scored a goal in the playoffs, helping NYCFC beat the Philadelphia Union.