Bruno was 27 years old when he finally made his first top-flight start – in a three-goal away win.

It was a long time coming, secured the hard way through a series of clubs, lower division football and one sub appearance very early on at Espanyol.

Unai Emery gave him that full debut among the Spanish elite and he helped Almeria, with whom he had won promotion, ease to a 3-0 success at Deportivo La Coruna.

That was almost 12 years ago.

Yesterday he bowed out – in another three-goal away win at the age of 38 (and seven months).

And the biggest compliment that can be paid among the many that came his way on this emotional occasion was that he might have gone too early.

Or, put it this way. He went on his own terms – when he is good enough and fit enough to continue for at least another season in the world’s most demanding league.

One of Albion’s most technically gifted players for generations (Or ever? Older fans will know better than me) and perhaps one of their finest icons.

Yes, icon, in an Albion context.

Icon is a four-letter word in our office. We are not supposed to go there other than in exceptional circumstances. Apparently, it is over-used.

But, with his playing style and poise, distinctive appearance and name and the fact he is one of only two captains to have ever led Albion to the top-flight, Bruno will remain an icon among those who follow his club.

Young Albion fans 30 years from now will have been told the legend, know the name and recognise his picture.

For the glorious moments but also the tears and emotion after, for example, the play-off at home to Sheffield Wednesday.

So what of this final fling? Bruno bowed out looking the part against a side who play the way he would probably want his own team to, should he ever go into management.

And against the man, Pep Guardiola, he idolised as a kid.

Guardiola was the local boy, the quiet and thoughtful Catalan, among a host of stars, some from abroad, who dictated and prompted from the Barcelona midfield.

For kids like Bruno back then, he was one of their own.

The Argus:

Bruno with wife Raquel and their children Pol and Adriana

Bruno is not a rabid Barcelona fan. He also loves Espanyol.

And he is from the countryside, not the big city.

But he is a proud Catalan and Barca are the global face of Catalan football.

And, of course, he loves to see and play that type of football. So Pep was a perfect opponent – but City the greatest test.

The first time the ball went out to his side, Bruno won it from Riyad Mahrez, worked space with a slick step-over and played a pass.

Right in front of the North Stand, who loved it.

Fans further up the West Stand touchline did not get to offer their praise of Bruno until a bit later, given that he rarely got forward.

But they rose to chant his name when he ventured their way to take the long throw which led to the corner which led to Glenn Murray unleashing bedlam.

History tells us City recovered like champions and turned the second half into a celebration on and off the pitch.

It was a Manchester party with Albion out on their feet.

And there, amid it all, was the skipper, working a one-two with Shane Duffy and then a drag-back to create his side some respite as the final moments ticked down on his career.

That might actually have been the last thing he did as a professional footballer. I’m not sure.

By then, we were looking at the technical area, where Martin Montoya was waiting.

His presence on the bench allowed Bruno to make his own special exit.

(Manchester City did similar for Vincent Kompany soon after and he was given a fantastic ovation by fans on all sides of the stadium).

Bruno handed over the armband to Lewis Dunk and the right-back spot to Montoya, his fellow Catalan, as he made his way off.

His number went up in the 83rd minute. The substitution was probably completed in the 84th.

That was how long it took him to exit. Hugged by team-mates, congratulated by opponents and then applauded by Guardiola.

They made the champions wait after the game.

Wait for Albion to say farewell to their captain – as a player at least.

Then the skipper held back the tears to say a few words after team-mates had given him a guard of honour.

He said: “It’s really difficult, to be honest.

“I would like to say thank you first of all to my missus and my kids for all the sacrifice.”

The applause started so he paused for a moment or two.

“And I’d like to say thank you as well to all my family here. Without them, this wouldn’t be possible.

“I’d like to say thank you to my team-mates, to the club and, really special, to all of you. I will be always in debt to all of you.”

And he ended it: “Once a Seagull, always a Seagull.”

As he headed off to a celebratory dinner with wife Raquel, their children Pol and Adriana and relatives from both sides of the family, that last line will not have been a bad toast with which to begin or end the evening.

Always a Seagull - whatever happens next.