Aston Villa fans took to Twitter on Thursday evening to pay tribute to club legend Olof Mellberg, after the 36-year-old FC Copenhagen defender opted to call time on his 18-year career.
Arriving from Spanish club Racing Santander in 2001, Mellberg made 263 appearances for Villa during his seven seasons at the club, captaining the side from 2003 to 2006, while establishing himself as a firm fan favourite.
Considered by many to be one of the club’s greatest ever players, the Swedish international further endeared himself to supporters with his outspoken dislike of arch rivals Birmingham City, while proving an ever-reliable performer, whether in the centre of defence or at right-back.
Opting to join Juventus after the 2007-08 season, Mellberg would go on to have successful spells at the Serie A club, Olympiakos, Villarreal and Copenhagen before retirement, but his stint with Villa remained the longest and most productive of his career.
Winning 117 international caps from 2000 to 2012, the bearded Swede would also represent his country at the 2002 and 2006 World Cups, as well as at four consecutive European Championships, skippering the team for a four-year spell between 2002 and 2006.
Perhaps among the more underrated servants of the game from the past decade, Villa fans, however, clearly remember what quality the former claret and blue stalwart brought to the pitch, as the responses below roundly demonstrate.
Olof Mellberg has retired from professional football. Thank you Olof, we will always love you. Utter legend. #AVFC— villa_moose (@villa_moose) July 31, 2014
"I just got the feeling i don't like Birmingham City at all" - Mellberg.Not many players would have the balls to say that. #MellbergMemories— My Old Man Said (@oldmansaid) July 31, 2014
Happy retirement Olof Mellberg. Will never forget his gesture to us fans at West Ham. Will keep that shirt for life.— John Carroll (@madjohnnyc) July 31, 2014
Olof Mellberg. One of the greatest, most passionate players ever to put on a @AVFCOfficial shirt. The Man, The Beard, The Legend!— Deano #199 (@Sjynther) July 31, 2014
Olof Mellberg has retired from football. Was an absolute warrior for Villa. Never truly replaced him. He also had an awesome beard— Wayno (@wayno_evans) July 31, 2014
Happy retirement to Olof Mellberg an #avfc legend could really do with him now.— Aston Villa Talk (@AstonVillaTalk) July 31, 2014
There's only one mellberg! One of the best defenders I've seen at villa all the beat in yoyr4 retirement olly!#avfc— Josh nellist (@squishavfc) July 31, 2014
Where does Mellberg rank among Villa's all-time greats?