Former Man Utd captain Valencia announces retirement

Quito (AFP) –


Former Ecuador and Manchester United skipper Antonio Valencia on Wednesday announced his retirement from football.

The 35-year-old, who was playing for Queretaro in Mexico, had been suffering from long-standing injury problems.

"I'm ending my career in Queretaro," he wrote on Twitter. "I didn't think this moment would come so soon, but my body has asked me to take this decision."

He spent a decade at United from 2009-19 and ended his spell there as club captain after Michael Carrick retired in 2018.

Originally a dashing and explosive right winger, Valencia later played as a full-back.

He thanked his family and fans, adding that "if in this career I failed them, I'm sorry.

"I always tried to give my best. To my country and the national team: thank you for everything."

Valencia suffered a badly broken ankle in 2010 and fractured his foot in 2015 but it was his left knee that forced his retirement.

"If I could have changed one thing, I would have changed my knee," he said in a press conference streamed on Queretaro's social media accounts on Wednesday morning.

Queretaro's team doctor, Hugo Soriano Ramirez, who joined Valencia in the press conference, explained the player developed knee problems aged 29.

He said the injury "limits his movement and is intensely painful," adding that treatment has been ineffective and an operation would offer no guarantees that he could play football to the necessary level.

Valencia began his career at Nacional de Quito in 2003 before moving to Villarreal in Spain in 2005 after winning the Ecuadorian league.

He joined Wigan Athletic a year later where he caught the eye of former United manager Alex Ferguson.

Valencia joined United in 2009 and went on to win two Premier League titles, the FA Cup, Europa League and the League Cup twice with the Red Devils.

"I was able to travel to Europe, something I would have never dreamed of," added Valencia.

"I played for Villarreal and Recreativo de Huelva (on loan) to then arrive in my second home: England.

"Wigan was a unique experience and then God gave me the opportunity to arrive at Manchester United and be captain."

In 2019 he returned home to join Liga de Quito, the only Ecuadoran side to ever win the Copa Libertadores (2008) and Copa Sudamericana (2009) -- the respective equivalents of the Champions League and Europa League.

A year later, with the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on South American club football competitions, Valencia switched to Queretaro.

He played 98 times for Ecuador, scoring 11 goals and represented his country at the World Cup in 2006 and 2014, and four Copa America tournaments.

He was awarded the National Order of Merit in 2019.