'It is time to step aside' – Ex-Real Madrid and Arsenal forward Julio Baptista announces retirement

Julio Baptista Real Madrid
Philippe Desmazes/AFP/Getty
The Brazilian, who had his best years at Sevilla, has called a halt to his playing career

Julio Baptista has announced his retirement at the age of 37, declaring his intention to "begin a new life" after his playing career.

The former Brazil international started out at Sao Paulo before heading to Spain, where he played for Sevilla – scoring 20 goals in the 2003-04 La Liga season – and Real Madrid.

Baptista helped Arsenal reach the League Cup final during a loan stint in 2006-07, including an astonishing four-goal haul against Liverpool in a 6-3 quarter-final win at Anfield.

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There were also spells with Roma and Malaga, as well as a return to his homeland with Cruzeiro in 2013, prior to joining Orlando City in MLS.

Last at CFR Cluj, Baptista made just two appearances for the Romanian club in 2018 and, via Twitter, confirmed on Thursday he is hanging up his boots.

"After more than 20 years in the football elite, it is time to step aside and announce that I have decided to end my career as a player," he wrote.

"I begin a new life, and I want to show my gratitude to all those who have made it possible for me to fulfill my dream. Thank you all."

Known as "The Beast", Baptista scored a total of 50 goals in his two seasons in Sevilla before the move to Real Madrid, where he was a member of the club's 2007-08 La Liga-winning team.

He finishes his career with a total of seven club trophies, including five in his native Brazil with Cruzeiro and Sao Paulo.

Baptista, who was recognized as La Liga's Breakthrough Player of the Year in 2004 for his efforts with Sevilla, represented Brazil at seven senior tournaments, including the 2010 World Cup.

He also featured in two Copa Americas, three Confederations Cups and a Gold Cup, winning both Copa America titles and two Confederations Cup crowns.

Baptista earned a total of 47 caps for Brazil, and scored the opening goal in Brazil's 3–0 victory over Argentina in the 2007 Copa America triumph.