Andoni Iraola has retired from soccer.
Bringing the curtain down on his 16-year playing career, the former Spain international ends his year and a half association with New York City FC.
Iraola made 40 appearances for NYCFC in all competitions since joining in 2015, playing a pivotal role in helping the team reach the MLS Playoffs for the first time in his second season.
Andoni told NYCFC.com: “I would like to thank everyone inside and outside of the club who has made me feel at home from the very first moment.
“I would especially like to thank my teammates who I have learned from until the last day but also all of the coaches, medical personnel, sporting staff and everyone inside the office who always help to make our lives easier.
“I would also like to thank our fans for their constant support, especially the support they give us when we least deserve it. I feel very privileged to have lived this experience - ever since the beginning of this club which will continue to grow.
“I have tried to give the best of me in all senses on and off the field. From this moment on, I will continue to support this club - now as a fan. Let’s go NYCFC!”
An Athletic legend, Andoni graduated through Bilbao’s youth system and played for 12 seasons at the San Mames, appearing on more than 500 occasions for Los Leones.
As an international teammate of David Villa, Iraola won seven caps for Spain between 2008 and 2011 and finished as a runner-up in the Europa League with Athletic in 2012.
His final Head Coach Patrick Vieira led the tributes to the outgoing defender.
Vieira said: “Andoni has been a fantastic servant to this football club and it’s been a pleasure to have coached such a dedicated and talented player.
“He is somebody who does not covet the limelight but is content to do his job quietly to the highest standards, making those around him play better as a result.
“I was aware of his talents when he played in La Liga with Athletic but to have worked in close quarters over the past year has given me an even greater appreciation for what he brings to his team.
“Andoni always led by example and set the tone for some of our best victories this year – all of the guys love him and we will miss him a lot.”
Sporting Director Claudio Reyna echoed Vieira’s sentiments, emphasizing that the 34-year old will be difficult to replace.
Reyna added: “It was an easy decision to bring Andoni to the club in 2015 – we were delighted that he agreed to come and we’re so grateful for the incredible service he’s given us in his time here.
“I believe his experience and professionalism have made a huge impact in the young history of NYCFC, showing the younger players in the locker room the standards they must aspire to in order to compete at the top level year after year.
“Off the pitch, Andoni embodies the type of human being we want at the club – he is a humble guy who always puts himself at the service of the collective. It’s not just his teammates who will miss him, everyone at the football club will.”
Few will miss him more than NYCFC’s captain and Andoni’s great friend.
Iraola and Villa have been inseparable ever since Andoni exchanged Basque country for New York City, rekindling a friendship that was born on national team duty.
Villa added: “Andoni is a wonderful person and player and I wish him all the best in the future.
“He knows he’ll have a friend for the rest of his life in me.”
Everyone at New York City FC wishes Andoni all the best in his retirement and good luck in whatever he chooses to do next.