After announcing his retirement halfway through the season, KFC Germinal Beerschot Antwerpen striker Marc Degryse has completed his farewell tour of the Jupiler League grounds. Rated by many as one of the ten greatest players in Belgian history, the 37-year-old has played for Club Brugge KV, RSC Anderlecht (for whom he was a record €2.25m signing), Sheffield Wednesday FC and KAA Gent as well as Germinal, and was also an irregular star for Belgium with 23 goals in 66 appearances for the Red Devils. In total, the diminutive forward - known as 'the small one' to his fans - scored 276 goals in 739 games in all competitions, and is now looking forward to life on the other side of the touchline.
uefa.com: Supporters in the Jupiler League have demonstrated that they will be sorry to see you give up football. Why did you decide to retire this season?
Marc Degryse: "I still feel very well. The fact that I received flowers, gifts and compliments before every match I played towards the end of the season did not mean that I was going to be nice to our opponents. On the contrary, I always wanted to prove that I was still my old self. I did not want the people who watched me to think that it was about time I retired! This season was difficult to start with - my fitness was not excellent but since October, I have been much better. I am sure I could play one more year at this level, but I took my decision and will not change it."
uefa.com: You announced your retirement at the start of the year during Germinal's training camp. Was it an easy decision?
Degryse: "I took my decision earlier - before the start of the season, in fact, but even if I talked about it openly a couple of times with journalists, the media attention only really focused on me in January. I do not know why, really. For me, nothing had changed."
uefa.com: The crowds at grounds across Belgium made sure they let you know how much they would miss you. How did that feel?
Degryse: "I was very surprised by the welcome I got. Standing ovations everywhere - can you imagine? I had never seen that before for anybody. It means that I represented something for the public but I am a bit ashamed of all that attention, considering what other great players got or did not get in their final seasons. I only hope that this will become a tradition that other players will benefit from when they stop. I have been really delighted with my last season. At every away ground that I played on I told myself, 'I will never play here again - let's give people something to remember me by'."
uefa.com: Do you feel that you will be leaving Germinal in a good state?
Degryse: "When I started here, we were the oldest team in the league and now we are the youngest. This club really gives chances to their youth players."
uefa.com: You only played in two FIFA World Cup campaigns - in 1990 and 1994. Were you disappointed to miss out on the competition in Mexico in 1986 when Belgium performed so well under Guy Thys?
Degryse: "A little, but when I saw Belgium playing in Mexico and reaching the semi-finals, I understood why I did not belong in that team. I was not good enough at that period in my career."
uefa.com: You partnered Enzo Scifo in the 1990 and 1994 World Cups - it looked like a dream pairing for Belgium, but things didn't turn out so well. Why?
Degryse: "I played just behind Scifo, especially during the World Cup in Italy in 1990 and that remains one of my saddest memories. The main problem that year - and in 1994 in the United States - was that we respected our opponents too much and were knocked out by England and Germany without really giving a good account of ourselves. I think Belgians have a tendency to be too shy sometimes."
uefa.com: How do you rate the prospects of Robert Waseige's Belgium side at this summer's World Cup finals?
Degryse: "The results in recent friendlies have been disappointing, but I think that Waseige has learned a lot about the squad in recent games. For instance he now knows that the only back-up for Timmy Simons is Jean-Yves Vanderhaeghe in front of the defence and he will have noticed how slow our central defenders Daniel van Buyten, Eric van Meir and Philippe Clement were. Waseige must try again with Glenn De Boeck or Jacky Peeters to get some speed there. And Marc Wilmots was missing the whole of the Greece game - I firmly believe that with Simons and Wilmots in the midfield it will be OK, with Gert Verheyen right and Bat Goor left, in a 4-4-2. Yes, with two forwards."
uefa.com: At the moment you are writing a column for a Belgian newspaper, but have you thought much about what you will do after your retirement?
Degryse: "I do not want to become a coach for the moment. I am waiting for offers at the moment and I have had a couple of them, the most serious one being from an agents bureau that would like to have me as a scout. I would also like to counsel young players, especially as far as education is concerned and tell them not to be blinded by the money! And as I have always been interested in finances, I would love to think about the future of football in Belgium - being part of a task force would interest me very much."
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