Magical Argentine playmaker Juan Román Riquelme has finally called time on his playing career at the age of 36.
A player who captured the real essence of the Number 10 shirt, Riquelme, who played the game at his own pace – in tantalising slow-motion – was also best known for his flawless technique, mesmeric trickery, set-piece specials and long-range shooting.
“I have decided to no longer play football – now I am just a fan. I will go and suffer in the stadium,” the playmaker announced on Sunday.
I am very pleased with the career I had. I enjoyed football to the maximum. I hope the people have enjoyed it alongside me. I tried to have a good time. I tried to give everything I could to fans of Boca, Argentina, Villarreal and Barcelona, in the youth teams and the full team.
I am someone who makes decisions calmly, who thinks a lot. It’s clear now that I’ll be on holiday, I’ll have fun, enjoy time with my children. From now on my football life ends and a new life starts. Let’s see what it holds.
A genuine Boca Juniors legend, Riquelme made his debut for the club from Buenos Aires in 1996 at the age of 18, winning five league championships and three Copa Libertadores titles over two periods.
His brief stint with Barcelona was less successful, however he managed to settle in La Liga for a few seasons with Villarreal whom he helped turn into one of the most attractive playing sides in Spain and Europe, inspiring them all the way to the Champions League semi-finals before narrowly succumbing to Arsenal – with Riquelme missing a last-minute penalty.
Riquelme also represented Argentina with aplomb and was the real heartbeat of an exciting side the no doubt underachieved at the World Cup in 2006 – a side that is now synonymous with collapsing in the quarter-finals against Germany after manager José Pékerman withdrew Riquelme to play a more defensive game.
The Number 10 did find glory with the national team in 2008 however when he captained his side to Olympic gold and ended with a total of 51 caps, scoring 17 goals.
Having returned to Argentinos Juniors (where he began his career in their youth team) in 2014, it’s now time to say ‘Chau!’ to another true fantasista of the game.