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Javier Morales tweets that he is leaving Real Salt Lake

SANDY — Javier Morales, arguably the most beloved Real Salt Lake player over the past decade, took to Twitter on Thursday to announce he won’t be returning to the team in 2017.

“It is always difficult to say goodbye, but this goodbye hurts a little more. After 10 years it is time to leave a place which has felt like my home,” Morales’ statement read.

The post made no mention of retirement, or where the 36-year-old midfielder might play next, but it certainly won’t be at Rio Tinto Stadium.

“Thank you for sharing these 10 years with me. I would love to say goodbye on the field, one more game with the Rio Tinto packed as usual, but it isn’t that case,” Morales wrote. “For this and much more this goodbye hurts. So I won’t say “Goodbye”. I’ll say Go Real!!”

Morales’ spent 10 years with Real Salt Lake and was as instrumental as anyone in turning the club into one the marquee teams in MLS over a six-year period from 2009 to 2014. He was the catalyst in the midfield during the MLS Cup in 2009.

He played in 240 regular season games with RSL, recording 49 goals and 81 assists. In 21 playoff games he finished with three goals and nine assists.

https://twitter.com/RealSaltLake/status/794328322704490497Morales joined RSL on Aug. 16, 2007 — one month after RSL traded for Kyle Beckerman — as part of a massive roster overhaul after Jason Kreis took over as head coach.

Morales was named an MLS All-Star in 2009 and 2010, and in 2010 he earned MLS “Best XI” honors.

Two of the most defining moments of his RSL tenure came two weeks apart in 2011.

On April 21, 201, in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Monterrey in Mexico, Morales scored an 89th-minute equalizer that put RSL on the doorstep of winning the continental title. Monterrey ended up winning at Rio Tinto Stadium a week later.

Sixteen days later he suffered a gruesome broken ankle in a game against Chivas USA. As he proved throughout his career, Morales could heal quickly and he returned to start RSL’s last four games of the season.

Some of his most productive seasons came after the injury. He recorded nine assists in 2012, 10 assists in 2013 and 12 assists in both 2014 and 2015.

The Argentine native’s four assists in 2016 were his fewest in his eight full seasons with RSL. His post on Twitter came one day after all the players met with the coaching staff for their exit interviews.

A couple hours after Morales’ announcement, Real Salt Lake’s official Twitter account tweeted out, “Thank you for everything, Maestro. You will always have a home at the RioT. #RSLfamily.”

Deseret News prep editor and Real Salt Lake beat writer. EMAIL: jedward@deseretnews.com