Vincent Kompany feared his season was "dead and buried" before returning to captain Manchester City to a place in the Champions League.
Kompany suffered another injury ravaged campaign and returned to make only his third Premier League start of 2016-17 in last month's 2-1 defeat to champions Chelsea.
But the 31-year-old has since been a mainstay in Pep Guardiola's defence and opened the scoring as City extended their unbeaten run to eight matches with a 5-0 final-day romp at Watford.
"I'm happy I got the goal and I'm really happy with a clean sheet as well," Kompany told Sky Sports.
"I reckon it's a bit of a lesson for any young footballer. My season was dead and buried very early on.
"When you play for big clubs - we didn't even reach a cup final or anything - every minute you get is worth fighting for.
"In the end my games back mattered and I'm really excited about that and looking forward to next season."
Sergio Aguero netted a brace to finish on 33 goals for the season in all competitions - his most prolific in City colours - before Brazilian duo Fernandinho and Gabriel Jesus got in on the act to further punish a woefully overmatched Watford.
"We can be really happy with the performance," Kompany said. "Sometimes you have days like this when you pull on your boots and everything happens.
"We showed in many moments the quality in this team and what the standard should be going forward.
"I believe that you finish a season the way you want to start the next season and we did that.
"We were really aggressive in the pressing and our possession was good. We need to be really focused in the key moments in the boxes, both for us and against us."