The PSG midfielder announced on Thursday that he would be calling time on a sensational career that has spanned two decades, and in an interview with Sky Sports News has insisted that he believes it is the right time to bring the curtain down.
DO YOU BELIEVE THIS IS THE RIGHT TIME?
He said: "I think I’m ready [to retire]. It’s a difficult decision. I still feel I could play at the top level and still have done for the last six months but I always secretly said to myself that I want to go out at the top. If you’d said to me eight months ago that I’d be playing in the French League, winning the French Cup, winning the League, and finishing like this I would’ve probably said ‘absolutely no chance’. But I was given the opportunity to come to PSG and I just feel now is the time... I think!
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WHEN DID YOU DECIDE YOU WANTED TO QUIT?
"Probably when Messi was running past me in that home game! No, I actually don’t know. I’ve been so lucky throughout my career, I just feel that the fact that the clubs I’ve played for and the players I’ve played with, won the trophies that I’ve won… playing in the MLS last year, winning the championship there, and then coming to PSG and winning the French League, I think it’s a good way to go out."
DOES IT HELP YOU'RE LEAVING AS A CHAMPION?
"I think it’s every athlete’s dream, every footballer’s dream, to go out on top form or winning a trophy. It doesn’t happen that often but I’ve been lucky. When I left United, we won the league, when I left Madrid we won the league. Leaving the Galaxy; doing two years of winning the championship there, and now obviously coming here and winning the league. It’s nice to go out like that. I think people look back and it’s written. It’s simple. You’re leaving as a champion and I think that’s why it’s the right time."
HOW DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO REMEMBER YOU?
"I just want people to see me as a hard-working footballer. Someone who’s passionate about the game and someone that, every time I stepped on the pitch, I’ve given everything that I have because that’s how I feel going into games and the end of my career. That’s how I look back on it and hope people will see me.
"I think over the years it’s been... my life, my career, people have obviously looked at certain other things that have gone on throughout my career and I think sometimes that’s overshadowed what I’ve achieved on the pitch and as much as I say that doesn’t hurt me, of course it does. At the end of the day, I’m a footballer that’s played for some of the biggest clubs in the world, played with some of the best players in the world, played under some of the biggest and best managers and achieved almost everything in football.
"Of course it hurts when people, not question it, but think about other things. To come to the end of my career now and look back and say ‘I’ve achieved everything with every club that I’ve played for, played for my country 115 times, been runner-up twice in the World Player of the Year to two amazing footballers’. I’m very proud of that."