Malaga's Dutch striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy retired from professional football on Monday, ending a stellar career that included stints with Manchester United and Real Madrid.
"Yesterday I played my last match as a professional," Van Nistelrooy, 35, told a news conference, a day after Malaga won a place in next season's Champion's League by winning their last league game against Sporting Gijon.
"There could be no better way to say goodbye than this, in a euphoric moment for the club," Van Nistelrooy said.
"I wanted to play in the Champions, but the moment has come to stop. I have reached my physical limit and I cannot play at the top level," said the Dutchman, who earned the nickname "Van Gol" in Madrid.
"I feel happy to have taken this decision. I thank Malaga for an unforgettable year."
During his two-decade career, Van Nistelrooy won leagues and was crowned top scorer in three countries -- England, Spain and The Netherlands, where he played for PSV Eindhoven and Heerenveen.
With 60 goals in the Champions League, he remains that competition's second-highest scorer, behind his former Real Madrid teammate Raul Gonzalez of Spain who has scored 71.
He played for five seasons with Manchester United, winning the English league in 2003 and the cup in 2004, the league cup in 2006 and the Community Shield in 2003.
During four seasons with Real Madrid he played a part in two Liga titles, in 2007 and 2008, and a Spanish Super Cup in 2008.
In the Netherlands, he won the league twice as a striker for PSV -- but never won a title with the Dutch national team despite his 70 caps.
"I am proud to have won team and individual titles, but my greatest satisfaction was the work from season to season," Van Nistelrooy said on Monday.
After a two-season stint with Hamburg, he moved to Malaga last year, where he had a low-key season.
"I had challenges this year, but I realised that I could not meet them. Around February to March the moment came when I knew for sure that I was going to retire," he said.
But the finale to the Spanish league on Sunday was the favourite moment of his career.
"The last is always the best. This year has been a total success," he said.
"This qualification for the Champions feels like a victory."
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