Former Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard has announced the end of his playing career.
Gerrard, 36, had been without a club following the end of his 18-month spell at MLS side LA Galaxy earlier this month.
The midfielder had previously spent his entire playing career at Liverpool, where he captained the club to their fifth European Cup triumph in 2005.
Gerrard said in a statement: “Following recent media speculation surrounding my future I can confirm my retirement from playing professional football.
“I have had an incredible career and am thankful for each and every moment of my time at Liverpool, England and LA Galaxy.
“As a teenager I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the famous red shirt of Liverpool, and when I made my debut against Blackburn Rovers in November 1998 I could never have imagined what would then follow over the next 18 years.”
Gerrard made 710 appearances for the Reds, scoring 186 goals.
He led Liverpool to their incredible comeback victory in the 2005 Champions League final, where they trailed 3-0 to AC Milan in Istanbul at half-time before pulling back to 3-3 in the second period and winning the match on penalties.
Gerrard also won two FA Cups, three League Cups, the UEFA Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. He won 114 England caps, captaining his country at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.
He added in his statement: “I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career. I am proud to have played over 700 games for Liverpool, many of which as captain, and to have played my part in helping the club to bring major honours back to Anfield, none more so than that famous night in Istanbul.
“At international level, I feel privileged to have won 114 England caps and to have had the honour of captaining my country. I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the England shirt. I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had, but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.
“Firstly, I would like to thank everyone at Liverpool Football Club. I am proud to have played for and captained Liverpool for so many years and to have achieved what we achieved during my time at the club.”
Gerrard’s career in MLS came to an end when the Galaxy lost to the Colorado Rapids in the Western Conference semifinals. He held talks with English third-tier club MK Dons about their vacant managerial position, but ultimately decided against the role as the opportunity came “a bit too soon.”
He had fitted work as an analyst for BT Sport around his time with the LA Galaxy, and he said in an interview with the broadcaster about his retirement: “There’s a few reasons really.
“Obviously you’re aware of this time coming towards the end and the body starts talking to you. The pains and the aches get more regular. The way you feel out there on the pitch changes, over the last couple of years I’ve felt myself slowing down a little bit if you like and I basically can’t deliver what I used to be able to deliver and that becomes a little bit frustrating as time goes on.
“And also I’ve listened to people over the years, important people in the game who I trust and have a lot of respect for have said to me always go with a tiny bit left, never overstay your welcome and play on too long where it becomes embarrassing. I can feel that’s not too far away so now is the right time.
“[There wasn’t] one moment. I think it was more a period. I think my last three or four months at the Galaxy I was getting too many injuries. I didn’t really feel as sharp as I used to, the games were becoming more challenging, especially in altitude and heat, humidity. The travel was affecting me so it was more a period of time rather than a particular moment.
“In saying that I’ve had a few moments in the last six months where I’ve thought I didn’t play well today or that guy got the better of me and I don’t like saying that to myself so now is the right time.”
Culled from ESPNFC