Martin Laursen has bid an emotional farewell to Aston Villa FC after admitting defeat in his battle to overcome the latest in a series of knee injuries that have hampered his career over the past five years.
"I'm retiring from football," confirmed the Danish centre-back, who called time on his international career that brought 53 caps in January. "I've spent a while making up my mind, thinking about things, deciding whether I wanted to go ahead with an operation and see if I could come back or whether I should retire. But I'm almost 32, not 22, and you have to stop at some point. You can't keep playing football forever."
It brings a premature end to a five-year spell at Villa Park which has seen his increasingly dominant presence in an upwardly mobile Premier League side punctuated by a succession of knee problems. Having arrived in Birmingham in a €4.5m switch from AC Milan in summer 2004, he was limited to just 25 league appearances in his first three seasons before coming back with a vengeance. An ever-present in 2007/08, he was named both Villa and Danish player of the Year and earned a new contract. "For the past two years I've been playing the football of my life for Villa and that's the sad and frustrating thing about it," said Laursen.
The former Silkeborg IF and Hellas Verona FC defender began this season in similar vein having been made club captain as Villa pushed for a UEFA Champions League place. He suffered a knock in December's 1-0 victory at West Ham United FC and, despite returning for one more game, that was the final straw. "It's so strange, so weird to be sitting here, making an announcement that I'm not going to be playing any more," said Laursen, in whose absence Villa have won just five out of 20 matches. "Five months ago I was flying, in the shape of my life, playing every game and felt so well, physically. Now, I'm sitting here. I'm really sad but I can honestly say 'That's life'. And it has to go on for me as well."
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