Socceroos great Brett Emerton has announced his retirement from football after a decorated 18-year career.
The 34-year-old represented Australia in two World Cup campaigns, as well as enjoying stints at Blackburn Rovers and Feyenoord, before making his move to the A-League’s Sydney FC amid much fanfare.
But he has battled persistent back problems since his return to Australia, and was taken off early in the second half of Sydney FC’s Sydney Derby loss to the Wanderers last weekend.
This Saturday’s A-League clash against the Central Coast Mariners is set to be his final game.
“The decision to retire from football wasn’t easy. It’s been my life for almost 20 years now and means the world to me,” Emerton told a media gathering in Sydney.
“Injuries … got the better of me in the end. It was the right time for myself and for the club to part ways in the right way.
“I’d like to thank Sydney FC for giving me the opportunity to come back to Australia and give to a game in this country that has given so much to me.
“Hopefully I’ve contributed to the A-League’s growth. It’s a fantastic competition and I look forward to watching on from the stands.”
He was tracked by a number of high-profile teams – including Manchester United and Arsenal – during his time with the Dutch club, but signed for Blackburn in 2003.
He made 247 appearances for the Rovers, before joining Sydney FC in 2011.
Emerton said his retirement could make way for a replacement in January, potentially Socceroos playmaker Tom Rogic as a marquee signing.
“It’s a shame I couldn’t finish the season with Frank [Farina] and the rest of the team. I’ve got the utmost respect for Frank and all of the players.
“I’d like to think I’m not one to complain too much. Injuries have plagued my last couple of years, which is a shame.
“I hope through other ways, I’ll contribute to football in this country in helping the A-League grow. On the pitch [with Sydney FC] it hasn’t been as successful as I would have liked, but all in all it’s been a great few years.
Asked about his favourite moment of his career, Emerton said Australia’s dramatic qualification for the 2006 FIFA World Cup was the undoubted highlight.
“To represent your country is something very special and hard to describe to other people. To qualify for the biggest tournament in the world and go there … was a real honour.
“I think I’ve made the right decisions throughout my career. It’s gone very smoothly. To look back and see what I’ve been able to achieve, I’m very proud of myself.
“It’s been an amazing ride. It’s come to an end and now it’s time to look forward to a new chapter in life.”