While the term legend can often get thrown around easily, six-time WorldSBK champion Jonathan Rea believes there’s no better description for nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi.

Rossi, who brought his incredible 26-year Grand Prix career to an end at last month’s MotoGP season finale in Valencia, will leave behind a void that no one rider can fill. 

The global effect and fan support Rossi has been able to generate over those 26 seasons has without doubt put the Italian firmly amongst the sporting greats as he embarks on the next chapter of his career in 2022.

Despite never getting the opportunity to fully test himself against Rossi during their careers - Rea had just two wildcard MotoGP appearances for Honda in 2012 (Misano and Aragon), the Kawasaki rider is a big admirer of what Rossi has been able to achieve, especially after understanding what it takes to win on a consistent basis in WorldSBK.

"Nowadays I think everyone throws the word legend around loosely, but he is a motorcycle legend," Rea told Crash.net. "It’s funny because when I was a kid [Mick] Doohan was dominating and you didn't really respect it, you didn’t really understand his domination because you were so young and dumb. 

"I was riding motocross back then whereas with Rossi he was racing when I was a fan of the sport and I watched him dominate for so long. 

"Nine world championships is crazy. You know, to be the reference is hard. To win one world championship is so difficult, it’s so much work that goes into it from when you're a kid, your family and to getting sponsors. 

"But to do it year-on-year and dominate a series like MotoGP is incredible. I can only talk from a Superbike point of view, but it’s such a difficult and hard sport as injuries or confidence, like a lack of confidence is all too easy. 

"So, to see what he’s done at the highest level is impressive. He seems like an amazing guy and he’ll send me messages after a race if I’ve done well and it was great to do a helmet swap with him a few months ago. 

"Just a massive congratulations on his career, and it will be exciting to see what he does. He’s not done with motorsport and has put a lot into it with his academy program which I can only admire."

While Rea is focused on taking back the WorldSBK championship in 2022 after losing out to Yamaha’s Toprak Razgatlioglu this season, Rossi will be making the switch to car racing, although it remains to be seen in what championship.