Javier Mascherano, the Barcelona legend and Argentina's most capped player, has announced his retirement from football, aged 36.
Mascherano, a combative midfielder at River Plate, Corinthians, Liverpool, and Barcelona amongst other clubs, made his surprise announcement after his side Estudiantes lost 1-0 to Argentinos Juniors in a league match on Sunday.
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"I lived my profession 100%, to the maximum that I possibly can, and for a while now that has been getting harder," he told reporters. "Sometimes you don't choose the end, it happens all by itself."
Mascherano enjoyed his most successful spell at Barcelona, where he won 19 titles in eight years, including five La Ligas and two Champions Leagues and enjoyed success as the heart of defence, having previously played as a defensive midfielder.
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He moved to Camp Nou from Liverpool, where he spent five years. Prior to his stint at Anfield, he had a controversial half-season spell at West Ham, having moved to Upton Park at the same time as his compatriot Carlos Tevez.
He played 147 times for Argentina, appearing in four World Cup finals. He also won two gold medals with the Argentine Olympics team in 2004 and 2008.