Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard announced Friday he was leaving the club at the end of the season and would be heading abroad, in what he said was the "toughest decision of my life".
The 34-year-old midfielder has captained the Reds for 12 years and never played for another club, winning the Champions League, two FA Cups, three League Cups and the UEFA Cup among other honours.
"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," Gerrard told the club's official website.
Amid speculation that he might take a coaching role at Anfield in the future, the former England captain said: "It is my sincere hope and wish that one day I can return to serve Liverpool again, in whatever capacity best helps the club."
Liverpool's principal owner John W Henry and chairman Tom Werner said there would always be a place for the club for a player whose contribution was "almost beyond measure".
Manager Brendan Rodgers added: "This is an era where the word 'legend' is vastly overused, but in his case it actually doesn't do him justice.
"As a leader and as a man, he is probably incomparable to anyone I have ever worked with. He takes professionalism to a new level and the dedication he has to his work is an example to everyone in the game.
"He is also someone who has always put the club and team ahead of himself and I think that will ultimately be his legacy."
- 'Experience something different' -
Gerrard's career at Liverpool, which began when he joined the club's academy at the age of eight, had been the subject of speculation for several months.
Despite his extraordinary achievements, he has also suffered agonising near-misses, never laying his hands on the Premier League trophy and enduring nothing but heartbreak in 14 years with England.
"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."
Gerrard said he wanted 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 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."
- 'Stevie can do anything' -
Gerrard's teammates also paid fulsome tribute to the player, with striker Mario Balotelli comparing him to legendary Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo.
"Vision, technique but he is powerful as well. Stevie can do anything, he's an amazing player. It's going to be very difficult for the team to find another player like him in the future," he said.
Striker Daniel Sturridge added: "Stevie will always be a legend, not just for Liverpool but to England as well.
"He will go down in history as one of the best midfielders in the game. He's just unbelievable every day, a great leader and the perfect example for every young player around the country."
Gerrard promised he would be committed to the club until his last game, and also paid tribute to the fans.
"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," he said.