On Wednesday afternoon Stoke City confirmed that Spanish defender Marc Muniesa had joined La Liga side Girona on a permanent basis. And, there was not a dry eye in the house.
The 26-year-old had spent the previous season on loan with his home-town club as they embarked upon their first ever season in the Spanish top flight.
It was written into the contract that the deal would become permanent if Girona were to avoid relegation, something which they achieved with relative ease as they finished tenth, ultimately bringing an end to Muniesa’s five-year spell with The Potters.
The Spaniard certainly leaves the Bet365 Stadium with the best wishes of Stoke supporters and it is hard to remember a player from the last half-decade who was so unanimously liked by the club’s fanbase.
He is one of football’s genuine nice guys and was hugely popular throughout his spell at the Bet365 Stadium despite his impact and time on the pitch being restricted by injuries.
Muniesa made over 60 league and cup appearances for The Potters and, when fit, was undoubtedly the most technically gifted defender at the club.
He joined Stoke on a free transfer in the summer of 2013 from Barcelona and was part of the new influx of foreign talent that was being brought into the squad following the appointment of Mark Hughes.
It was seen as a significant coup for The Potters and his arrival preceded those of Spanish compatriot Bojan Krkic and Austrian winger Marko Arnautovic – it could be argued that Muniesa’s arrival convinced others to follow as the club embarked on a new era.
Throughout his time with The Potters Muniesa endeared himself to the supporters through his wonderful personality, honesty and professionalism.
He was a man who always had time to interact with fans, whether that was signing autographs or handing out certificates at community events, and you will be hard pressed to meet anyone in Stoke who does not have anything but positive stories to tell of the young Spaniard.
From a social media post early in his Stoke career that showed him sampling oatcakes, an idiosyncratic form of local food that is impossible to describe or explain to the uninitiated, to him dancing along to supporters singing about him in Cologne, he was simply impossible not to like.
On the pitch Muniesa was equally as impressive.
Calm, composed and intelligent on the ball, he was also brave and tenacious in his defensive duties despite his diminutive size.
At his best, he was the epitome of a top-quality defender and this was exemplified in his incredible performance at Anfield in the League Cup semi-final second leg in 2016.
However, Muniesa struggled with niggling injuries throughout his time at the Bet365 Stadium.
Whenever he appeared to have reached full fitness and cemented a place in the starting eleven he had a tendency to pick up a knock that would keep him on the treatment table for the subsequent month.
This, ultimately, saw him fall down the pecking order and head towards the exit door.
In hindsight, Hughes’ decision to allow Muniesa to join Girona on loan last summer was a massive mistake.
The Spaniard would have fit perfectly into the new-look 3-4-3 formation that The Potters were experimenting with at the time and he was undoubtedly a better option than his eventual replacement – Kevin Wimmer.
Whilst he may not have been the complete answer to Stoke’s woes during the previous campaign, he certainly would have made more of a positive contribution than those made by some of the club’s more recent signings.
It is sad to see Muniesa depart and many supporters, myself included, were somewhat hopeful that relegation may have opened the door for him to return in the summer.
However, a return to Spain with his home-town club feels like a fitting destination and all Stoke fans wish him well.