LONDON - Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard announced Friday he was leaving the club at the end of the season, ending a rollercoaster 25-year association with the English giants.
The 34-year-old midfielder, who has never played for another club in his professional career, said it had been "the toughest decision of my life".
"I'm going to carry on playing and although I can't confirm at this stage where that will be, I can say it will be somewhere that means I won't be playing for a competing club and will not therefore be lining up against Liverpool - that is something I could never contemplate," he told the club's official website.
Gerrard's Anfield future had been the subject of speculation for several months, and he said he was announcing his plans now to ensure no further distractions for his side.
"This has been the toughest decision of my life and one which both me and my family have agonised over for a good deal of time," he said.
"I am making the announcement now so that the manager and the team are not distracted by stories or speculation about my future.
"Liverpool Football Club has been such a huge part of all our lives for so long and saying goodbye is going to be difficult, but I feel it's something that's in the best interests of all involved, including my family and the club itself." The former England skipper said his decision was "completely based on my wish to experience something different in my career and life and I also want to make sure that I have no regrets when my playing career is eventually over".
He thanked manager Brendan Rodgers, the owners, his team-mates and the staff, saying: "I am leaving on great terms." "It is a very special place to be part of. It is my sincere hope and wish that one day I can return to serve Liverpool again, in whatever capacity best helps the club," he said.
"One point that is important to make is that from now until the last kick of the last game of the season, I will be as fully committed to the team as I ever have been and giving everything I have to help Liverpool win games.
"My final message is for the people who make Liverpool Football Club the greatest in the world - the supporters.
"It has been a privilege to represent you, as a player and as captain. I have cherished every second of it and it is my sincere wish to finish this season and my Liverpool career on a high."