Dejan Stanković bowed out of professional football on Friday by setting a national appearance record as Serbia beat Japan 2-0 in a friendly also notable for Andrija Živković becoming the Balkan country's youngest player.
Stanković overtook Savo Milošević's 102-cap mark with his cameo in Novi Sad, bringing down the curtain on a magnificent 15-year spell in the international setup. The midfielder had already brought his club career to a close, ending a long association with FC Internazionale Milano at the conclusion of last season.
"My feelings are so mixed," said the 35-year-old. "I am happy, proud – I have lived all my life for this. On the other hand, I have been crying uncontrollably, as one big part of my life is over.
"I want to smile and be strong, but that is hard today. I gave 100% in every match I played for my country and have some great and some painful memories. I shall always be at the disposal of this team."
Stanković made his international debut on 22 April 1998 in Belgrade in a friendly against South Korea, scoring twice in a 3-1 win. He is the only Serbian player to have featured in three World Cups – participating in France in 1998, Germany in 2006 and South Africa in 2010.
Stanković's club career started as a 12-year-old at FK Crvena zvezda and following a trophy-laden four years in the first team he joined SS Lazio in July 1998. Success followed in the Italian capital and he claimed the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup in 1999 and a league and cup double in 2000. He moved to Inter in January 2004, where he won a host of titles, including the UEFA Champions League in the historic treble-winning campaign of 2009/10.
As one chapter ends, though, another begins. In the second half of the same match, the introduction of 17-year-old Živković broke Mitar Mrkela's record for youngest Serbia debutant by 50 days – a milestone that had stood for 31 years.
"I'll never forget this day," said the delighted FK Partizan midfielder. "My idol Dejan Stanković played his farewell match and I made my debut, two huge things in my life. I know how hard the task is in front of me; I have to learn and make sure I stay in the national team."
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