Former Tottenham and England striker Jermain Defoe has officially announced his retirement as a professional footballer.
Defoe, 39, signed off his playing days with a second stint at Sunderland after joining from Rangers in January, making seven appearances before making the decision to call time on his career.
In a statement on Twitter, Defoe wrote to his fans that it was ‘the right time to bow out’ after ‘an incredible journey and said football would ‘always be in my blood’.
‘After 22 years in the game, I have decided to retire from professional football. It’s been a really tough decision, and one I have discussed with my family and those closest to me.
‘I made my professional debut at 17 years old in 1999, and I feel now is the right time to bow out. I have had an incredible journey, and have met some amazing people in the game.
‘Football will always be in my blood, and it gives me great pride and satisfaction to look back on the blessed career that I’ve had. I now look forward to spending some quality time with my friends and family before moving forward on this next chapter in my career.
‘Thank you to all the fans from each club I’ve played for. The love I have received and endured throughout my career will never be forgotten, and I will always have a special bond with you all.
‘Thank you also to my amazing team-mates, coaches and staff for playing such an integral part in my career.
‘Lastly, I want to say thank you to my mum. You gave me a ball at two years old and you made me believe my dream could happen. All that I am is because of you, and I owe everything to you and God.’
He spoke to Sky Sports about his decision to retire and admitted it felt ‘strange’ that he would never take to the field again but said he felt he had to listen to his body.
‘It’s a little bit strange’,’ he said. ‘A lot of emotions, it was a tough decision because growing up when it’s your dream to play at the top level and knowing at some stage you have to stop it’s unthinkable. To get to 39 it’s good going. I’m proud of what I’ve done but it hasn’t sunk in yet.
‘I think it’s the right time. Over the years I asked players “did you know it was the right time to stop?” It’s something I’ve been thinking abot for a couple of weeks. I was in London over the weekend with family. I had a two day coversation with my mum. We spoke about the club and it was just an honest conversation.
‘She asked me, “hows your body, how do you feel?” I was honest and thought it’s the right time for me to stop. I would never want to get into a situation where you long it out or block an opportunity for a youngster to come through.
‘You’ve got to listen to your body. You’re going to get the aches and pains and the niggles. That’s normal. It’s a tough decision but I believe in my heart that it’s the right one.
Defoe’s 162 Premier League strikes mean he is the ninth highest scorer in top-flight history, above Michael Owen and Spurs legend Teddy Sheringham – and only one-off Liverpool icon Robbie Fowler.