John Terry has played his last game for Aston Villa.
The Chelsea and England legend, 37, is set to head a summer exodus of big earners out of the club as the harsh financial reality of the 2-1 play-off final defeat by Fulham begins to bite.
On Saturday, deep in the bowels of Wembley Stadium, Terry came face to face with his boss and good friend Steve Bruce.
It was a poignant moment when words simply were not required — the image of what followed said more than 1,000 words ever could.
Two battle-scarred, wounded warriors wrapped their arms around each other and hugged. And hugged.
For more than a minute they clung to each other, knowing this was their final farewell as a manager-player partnership.
As the song goes, breaking up IS hard to do.
There was to be no record fifth Premier League promotion for Bruce — the least he deserved at the end of a cruel period in his life.
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Though it goes without saying that success on the pitch could never have compensated for the loss of his father Joe and mother Sheenagh within weeks of each other earlier this year.
There was to be no fairytale return to the top flight for veteran defender Terry — not with Villa at any rate. Or with anyone if Saturday is the yardstick.
It would come as a shock of seismic proportions if the defender — who looked a broken man at full-time — would risk his reputation and legacy at the mercy of the speed merchants of the world’s most demanding league next season.
The United States, China, Japan or perhaps a player-manager role is a more likely move if he decides to dig out his boots again rather than a clipboard.
Any decision will be made when he returns from a much-needed summer break.
As Terry trudged out of the stadium, he was asked for his thoughts.
“Gutted,” he just about managed to croak.
He declined to answer when asked what the future held for him — but those who were around the forlorn skipper in the aftermath of the defeat were in no doubt.
His emotional embraces with Jack Grealish and the rest of his team-mates was Terry bidding them farewell.
Midfielder Grealish was Villa’s great hope on Saturday and he gave everything he had.
His new-found maturity and sense of purpose should attract interest from the top-flight this summer but owner Tony Xia knows he would sell the darling of the Holte End at his peril.
The problem is that Villa’s Chinese supremo has virtually no wriggle room as the club haemorrhages tens of millions of pounds every season.
So he may not be able to resist taking the first tempting offer he receives for the 22-year-old.
Cuts are coming as austerity looms for Villa at a time when the route to the Promised Land of the Premier League looks more hazardous than ever.
Swansea, Stoke and West Brom are three clubs with top-flight infrastructures who will plop into the Championship, their landing softened by hefty parachute payments.
Villa have no such luxury as they contemplate a third season pressing their nose against the window, gazing at what has just slipped through their grasp.
Terry and loan signings Robert Snodgrass, Sam Johnstone, Josh Onomah and Axel Tuanzebe will be among the first to depart.
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Financial Fair Play rules will result in Xia delivering more cuts than a short-sighted barber with an old razor blade in the coming months.
The Chinese tycoon talked the talk when he arrived in the Midlands.
He may not be allowed to throw cash at the club under the tight rules but he must ignore any murmurings from disappointed fans and throw his weight behind Bruce.
The manager, who deserves a more favourable roll of the dice next season, revealed he wants to stay at a club for which he has given his all.
The 57-year-old said: “I’m in charge of a great club with great tradition, history and support.
“I’m gutted for everybody but I’ll roll my sleeves up and get stuck in again because that’s what I do.
“As long as the people above me want me to do it, then I’ll carry on.”
Bruce’s loyal defender Ahmed Elmohamady says he will be at his gaffer’s side, just as he was at Sunderland and Hull.
He said: “We have to get together and go again next season.
“We were one step away from the Premier League. Hopefully we’ll get back next season.”
Thirty six years after they were crowned Kings of Europe by beating Bayern Munich, the contrast in this great club’s fortunes could not be much greater.
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The game officially launches on June 1 – but you can pre-register for the game now.
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From Russia with a whole lot of love.