By Andy Hall
Bolton Wanderers FC centre-back Fernando Hierro has announced he will retire from professional football at the end of the season. "I'm clear about the decision," the former Spain and Real Madrid CF defender said. "I want to quit while I'm still playing at a high level."
Hierro has enjoyed a glittering 18-year career, most notably with Madrid where he won five Primera División titles and three UEFA Champions League crowns. He was also capped 89 times by his country. Hierro, who turned 37 in March, made his Spanish top-flight debut on 4 October 1987 in a 1-0 home win for Real Valladolid against RCD Espanyol. After two terms with Valladolid, he joined Madrid where he would spend the next 14 seasons.
Madrid landed the league title in 1989/90 with Hierro missing just one game in his debut campaign. More trophies followed and, in acknowledgement of his leadership skills on and off the field, he was named one of the team's four captains. At the Santiago Bernabéu, Hierro claimed one Copa del Rey and four Spanish Super Cups to add to his championship medals, but his greatest achievements came helping return the club to the pinnacle of European football.
Champions League triumphs
Madrid won their first Champions League tournament and seventh European Champion Clubs' Cup by defeating Juventus FC in May 1998. They repeated the feat two years later against Valencia CF and again in 2002 against Bayer 04 Leverkusen - this time Hierro lifted the trophy.
Hierro unexpectedly left Madrid in June 2003 - the day after they clinched their 29th league title - to play one season at Qatar-based Al Rayyan before signing for Bolton at the start of the current campaign. While Madrid have not won a major trophy since, Hierro has scored one goal in 28 Premiership appearances for Bolton to help the English side qualify for Europe for the first time.
On the international scene, Hierro made his debut in a 1-0 victory against Poland on 20 September 1989, the first of his 89 Spain caps. He retired from the national team after FIFA World Cup 2002 having scored a record 29 goals - a feat only recently bettered by his former Madrid team-mate Raúl González.
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