David Villa and Andoni Iraola go back a long way.
The pair first became properly acquainted with one another back in 2008 when Andoni made his full international debut with Spain against Denmark in Copenhagen.
Andoni went on to win seven international caps alongside Spain’s record goalscorer and tallied up more than 500 appearances for Athletic, playing against David’s Valencia and FC Barcelona on many occasions.
In 2015, when Iroala made the switch from La Liga to MLS, no-one was happier at the prospect of this reunion than the veteran defender, who described linking up with Villa again as “an extra motivation” for the move.
Over the past 18 months, the Spanish duo have become close and, on the day Iraola announced his retirement from soccer, NYCFC’s MVP for 2016 offered up some special words for his departing friend.
Villa told NYCFC.com: “It’s great to have a world-class player like Andoni Iraola retire with New York City FC.
“It’s fantastic and something that will be forever part of the history of the team.
“For me, it’s been an honor to play with him. I knew him from our time with the Spanish national team, but to share this time with him in New York has been a wonderful experience.”
Together, Iraola and Villa were vital cogs in the NYCFC machine, helping the team to the MLS Playoffs for the very first time in 2016.
Both were recognized for their performances throughout this historic campaign by supporters’ club, The Third Rail.
While David was named the team’s MVP, Andoni received the “Unsung Hero” award, much to the delight of Head Coach Patrick Vieira, who addressed the crowd present at the Playwright Pub to express his appreciation for the 34-year old defender.
Vieira said: “Andoni is the perfect image of a team player – everyone loves him on and off the field. I’m really glad he won this award because he really deserves it.”
Andoni leaves NYCFC following 40 appearances across two seasons for the club and his playing legacy will be of someone who was the epitome of consistent excellence and selfless teamwork.
Off the pitch, he'll be remembered as a person who showed humility and professionalism every single day he was at the club.
They are qualities that his great friend and team captain will never forget.
Villa added: “Personally, I would like to thank Andoni for everything he has done for me during this time both on and off the field.
“He’s 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.”