Boss Derek McInnes admits departing skipper Graeme Shinnie put himself medically at risk to help Aberdeen’s bid to secure Euro qualification.
Shinnie, who has exited Pittodrie having signed a three-year deal at Derby County, battled through the pain barrier to start the final two games of the season despite an ankle injury.
Shinnie bowed out on a high with a 2-1 win at Hibs in the final game of the season but the Dons were still beaten to third and automatic European qualification by Kilmarnock.
Aberdeen’s Europa League hopes now hinge on Celtic retaining the Scottish Cup on Saturday.
McInnes said: “Shinnie should probably not have been on the pitch for the last couple of games with that ankle.
“Medically he was putting himself at risk but he played the games and that says everything about Shinnie.
“He has given me everything, he has given us everything.
“That connection Shinnie has with the supporters is very rare because they see so much of him in themselves.
“He plays the game properly.
“It was important for loads of reasons that he went out a winner and on the back of a winning performance.”
Shinnie and the Dons may be on close-season holiday now but all attention will be drawn to Hampden at the weekend.
Shinnie will also be watching the coverage of the Championship play-off final on Monday.
Should Derby beat Aston Villa at Wembley the 27-year-old will be joining a Premier League side for next season.
Shinnie will also be in contention for Scotland’s upcoming Euro 2020 qualifiers next month under new boss Steve Clarke.
However, McInnes confirmed the Aberdonian put his health on the line by playing in the season finale to help the Reds’ Euro bid.
McInnes said: “It was with a heavy heart that Shinnie is going and we all understand his reasons for going.”
With his Dons deal set to end, McInnes did all he could to retain Shinnie on a new contract. The lure of the Championship, potentially the top flight, and working with England and Chelsea legend Frank Lampard proved too strong.
There were fears the Aberdonian would be denied a farewell appearance when he sustained an ankle injury in the 1-0 win at Kilmarnock in the first post-split fixture.
The initial assessment was he could be out for the rest of the season – meaning he would never play for the Reds again.
However, on the eve of the 2-1 defeat of Hearts, despite having only returned to training earlier that week, Shinnie informed McInnes he was ready to play.
It required a heavily-bandaged ankle and painkillers to get through the match. But Shinnie led the Reds to a vital three points in the battle for third and automatic European qualification.
McInnes said: “He has unbelievable, fantastic service. Good things happen to good people and he is a good person. As good as there is.
“We will keep in touch with Shinnie, we wish him well and his family well. I have no doubt he will do well.”
Shinnie is not the only one departing Pittodrie this summer.
The future of winger Gary Mackay-Steven remains unclear, as the Scotland cap has yet to make a decision.
Mackay-Steven’s deal expires on June 1 and Aberdeen want to retain him, but he is wanted by MLS side New York City. The 28-year-old has confirmed he will discuss his future with his agent and family this week.
Defender Greg Halford has left the club after his short-term emergency contract ended. Loans for Dom Ball (Rotherham), Max Lowe (Derby County), Greg Stewart (Birmingham), James Wilson (Man United) and Tommie Hoban (Watford) have all expired.
McInnes said: “At Hibs we were as one with the support to get the job done.
“We are disappointed we did not get our 70 points, because I think that is the tally that guarantees you Europe.”