Star striker David Villa, Spain's top goalscorer, Wednesday announced he will retire next month, ending a glittering career in which he won the World Cup, European Championships and Champions League.
The 37-year-old Vissel Kobe striker said he will call it a day at the end of the 2019 J-League season after a 19-year career that took in Barcelona, Atletico Madrid and Valencia while accumulating 98 caps for his country.
"I have decided to end my professional career and that I have decided to retire," Villa told reporters in Kobe, his voice occasionally breaking with emotion.
"I've been thinking about this for a long time. This is the result of discussions I had with my family and people around me... I wanted to retire from football, not be forced to retire from football," he said.
After 19 years as a professional, I have decided to retire from playing football at the end of this season. Thank you to all the teams, coaches and teammates that have allowed me to enjoy this dreamed career. Thank you to my family, that has always been there to support me. pic.twitter.com/E82vb3tNwT— David Villa (@Guaje7Villa) November 13, 2019
Villa will become an investor in Queensboro FC, a new franchise based in the New York district of Queens that will play in the second tier of US football.
"Even though I will no longer be on the pitch, I will continue to be involved in football in other ways and will continue to contribute to the football world," he said.
Villa played in three World Cups and was a member of the Spanish side that lifted the trophy in 2010 and won the European Championships in 2008, though he missed out on the 2012 triumph through injury. He scored 59 times for Spain, a national record.
His club honours include the 2010-11 Champions League, the 2011 UEFA Super Club, 2011 Club World Cup and two La Liga wins in 2010-11 and 2012-13 with Barcelona.
Villa scored the third goal for Barcelona at Wembley in the 3-1 win over Manchester United in the 2010-11 Champions League Final.
He won a third La Liga with Atletico Madrid in his one season there in 2013-14 after leaving Barcelona.
After leaving Atletico, Villa embarked on a successful spell in Major League Soccer for New York City, where he scored 80 goals in 124 appearances.
Villa was New York City's first-ever signing and his haul included the first goal scored at Yankee Stadium in an opening home victory over the New England Revolution.
At Vissel Kobe, he played alongside fellow Spanish legend Andres Iniesta and German striker Lukas Podolski but the presence of the ageing foreign stars has done little to bring success to the ambitious Japanese club.
Vissel Kobe are currently languishing 10th in the J-League after 31 games -- the same position they finished last year.
Villa has scored 12 goals in 26 appearances for Vissel. He is expected to play three more J-League matches as well as semi-finals and finals of the Emperor's Cup.
His retirement ceremony will be on December 7, the day of his last J-League game.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Gabriel Bouys