Antonio Valencia announces retirement at 35

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Former Manchester United club captain Antonio Valencia has announced his retirement from football at the age of 35.

The Ecuador international, who won two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, two League Cups, three Community Shields and the Europa League during a 10-year stay at Old Trafford, has decided to hang up his boots two years after returning to his native country.

Valencia began his professional career at home with El Nacional before moving to Villarreal in Spain, but it was in England that he made his mark, firstly with Wigan and then at United following a £16million switch.

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In a message to United fans on his official Twitter account, he said: “At the age of 14 as a child, I left my family, my village and my first team to travel to the capital of my country. I travelled with a lot of nostalgia, but full of hope.

“A few years later, I was able to travel to Europe, something I had never dreamed of. I played in Spain and then came to my second home, England.

“Wigan was a unique experience, and then God gave me the opportunity to join Manchester United. I will never forget everything I experienced at Old Trafford. I will never forget every goal, every trophy and the wonderful fans.

“I did not think this moment would come so soon, but my body has asked me to make this decision. I am announcing my retirement from football.

Antonio Valencia in action for Manchester United
Antonio Valencia in action for Manchester United (Martin Rickett/PA)

“I want to thank everyone who has been part of my career and my life, God in the first place for always blessing me; Zoila and my daughter Domenik, who have been my pillars; my parents for giving me so much.

“To fans of all the countries where I have played, I always tried to give my best. Thank you for your affection and support.”

Valencia left United in the summer of 2019 and later signed for LDU Quito after returning to Ecuador.

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Former United team-mate Rio Ferdinand paid tribute to Valencia, writing on Twitter: “What a career, what a player, what a man….One of the most humble men I know. Painfully shy but always made me smile with how shy he was!

“What a professional too, always doing extra training in the gym (so he could look like me).

“Pleasure to play with you. Enjoy retirement Tonio.”