Former Leeds, Liverpool and Socceroos star Harry Kewell has announced his retirement from professional football.
Kewell, 35, plans to play his final match when he captains second-last Melbourne Heart in their final round match against Western Sydney Wanderers at AAMI Park on April 12.
After another injury-marred season, Kewell appeared philosophical about missing out on the World Cup starting in June, accepting he probably wasn’t part of coach Ange Postecoglou’s plans.
“For the World Cup I can sit back and enjoy it,” he said.
“There’s obviously going to be questions asked about the World Cup but I haven’t been part of the Australian squad for a while.
“For me it was time to step aside and let young players stand up.
“I think they will surprise a lot of people.
“I always said, it was a privilege and honour to play for your country and you’ve got to be playing at the highest level to do that.
“I had a year out and, yes I played well for the Heart in games I played but I think it’s time to pass on and let youngsters step up and be counted for.”
Kewell said he would concentrate on his junior academy and putting back into the sport.
“It’s been tough,” Kewell said of his retirement decision.
“I’ve talked to a lot of people recently and it’s hard because it’s the only sport I’ve ever known.
“I started when I was four and started professionally when I was 17 and had a career of 18 years.
“It’s a life I’ve already lived and now I get a chance to live another one.”
Kewell thanked his father Rod and wife Sheree, describing them as the biggest influence on his illustrious career.
Kewell was the Socceroos’ youngest-ever debutant when he played for Australia in 1996 against Chile at age of 17 years and seven months.
The speedy and skilled attacker went on to score 17 goals in 56 appearances for the Socceroos, which included consecutive World Cups in Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010.
Kewell thanked Leeds United for giving him a chance and English Premier League powerhouse Liverpool where he won the UEFA Champions League in 2005 and the FA Cup in 2006.
Tributes followed quickly for Kewell, as well as debate about whether he bows out as Australia’s greatest-ever player.
— Tim Cahill (@Tim_Cahill) March 26, 2014
“I think his big dream was to go to the World Cup and he realises now that is not going to happen,” said former Socceroo Robbie Slater, describing him as “perhaps the most naturally gifted player we have produced” and in a coin toss with Tim Cahill and Mark Viduka as the greatest Socceroo.
Another former national teammmate, Mark Bosnich, praised Kewell’s decision to call time on his career and described him as “arguably one of Australia’s greatest players ever”.
“He’s done the admirable thing by retiring now,” said Bosnich.
England star Rio Ferdinand, a former teammate of Kewell in his younger days at Leeds, was among those to speculate on what “magic things” he could have achieved if injury hadn’t blighted the latter part of his career.
— Mark Bosnich (@TheRealBozza) March 26, 2014