Manchester United FC defender Nemanja Vidić said that it is "with a heavy heart" that he has decided to retire from the Serbian national team.
The 30-year-old issued a statement explaining why he has called time on his 56-cap Serbia career: "I would like to take this opportunity to explain the reasons for my decision, which has been made with a heavy heart. The main reason is that, for a long time now, the media and consequently the public have criticised my relationship with the national team, even though I often played while carrying an injury.
"I do not want to put negative pressure on my team-mates, or the next generation of players, and possibly spoil the atmosphere in the squad before the next qualification campaign. I am convinced the generation of players coming through have all the qualities needed to cheer the nation and I will be right behind them, offering my support as a fan."
Vidić, who made his debut for Serbia and Montenegro in a 1-1 UEFA EURO 2004 qualifying draw in Italy in October 2002, was capped 56 times and scored two goals. He was a cornerstone of the rearguard that conceded just one goal in 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying and also appeared in all three matches at the 2010 finals in South Africa.
A Football Association of Serbia (FSS) spokesman said "the door will always be open" for the former FK Crvena zvezda and FC Spartak Moskva centre-back, who joined Manchester United in January 2006, won the UEFA Champions League in 2008 and became club captain at the start of this season. "He is one of the most important players in Serbia's football history."
Serbia, whose captain Dejan Stanković also retired recently, failed to qualify for UEFA EURO 2012 after being pipped to second place in Group C by Estonia.
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