Tokyo: Uruguay's most-capped player Diego Forlan, so often his country's talisman, announced his retirement from international football on Thursday.
The 35-year-old striker played 112 games for Uruguay and scored 36 goals, representing the South Americans at three World Cups and helping them lift the Copa America in 2011. "This was an extremely difficult decision," Forlan told a news conference at his Japanese club Cerezo Osaka.
Uruguayan striker Diego Forlan (L) receives a flower bouquet from his wife Paz Cardoso (R) as he announces his retirement. Pic/ AFP
"But I felt it was time. Everything has a beginning and an end -- I felt it was time to make way for a new generation of players. It's time for the national team to go in a new direction.
"It was a great honour to play for the national team and wear the shirt with such great players," he added. "It was my dream since I was a kid to play for Uruguay. I remember watching the players on TV singing the national anthem. It fills me with emotion to think I achieved that dream, to pull on the shirt and sing the national anthem."
Forlan, who won the Golden Ball as the 2010 World Cup's best player and finished joint top-scorer with five goals as Uruguay reached the semi-finals in South Africa, insisted he had no plans to quit club football. "I'm not thinking of retiring from football at all," he said, despite a frustrating season at J-League side Cerezo last year which saw the Osaka side relegated from Japan's top flight.
"Physically my condition hasn't dipped in the past few seasons at all. "I want to help Cerezo win promotion this season and I've put in a lot of hard work in pre-season. My decision to retire from international football is purely down to timing -- with the Copa America taking place this year and the World Cup qualifiers, I felt I should step aside."
Forlan, who had spells at Manchester United, Villarreal and Atletico Madrid in an illustrious career, bows out of international football as Uruguay's second highest scorer behind Luis Suarez (43), having made his final appearance for Uruguay against Colombia at last year's World Cup in Brazil.
"It will be a strange experience to go from a Uruguay player to a supporter but I will continue to support the national team with all my heart," said the forward.
"I always tried to show my quality and spirit on the pitch, not in words. The Uruguay players don't need me to tell them what it means to wear the shirt." J-League chairman Mitsuru Murai praised Forlan for deciding to remain in Japan. "I'm very happy that he has stayed," Murai told AFP. "He's shown he is up for the challenge. In the short term you don't always get the results you want but he's shown his desire to stay and fight to help Cerezo's recovery."