Nigeria

Former Man Utd star Antonio Valencia announces retirement

Ecuador's Antonio Valencia, pictured in 2018, won two Premier League titles during a decade at Manchester United

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

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

"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."

Valencia first broke his foot in 2015 in the Manchester derby.

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 began his career at Nacional de Quito in 2003 before moving to Villarreal in Spain in 2005 after winning the Ecuadoran 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 99 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.

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