Socceroo great Harry Kewell announces his retirement

Socceroo legend Harry Kewell will retire at the end of the current A-League season, bringing the curtain down on an illustrious 18-year career for club and country.

The Melbourne Heart skipper announced his decision to hang up the boots at a media conference on Wednesday.

From Smithfield in Sydney’s west, the 35-year old rose to become one of the greatest ever players Australia has produced. A junior with Marconi Stallions, Kewell left the country at 15 to join English club Leeds United.

He broke into the Leeds first-team as a teenager and helped establish the Whites as a top force in the English Premier League. In a stellar period in Yorkshire, he won the FA Youth Cup in 1997 before graduating permanently to the first-team.

Under the management of David O’Leary, Leeds reached the semi-final of the UEFA Cup in 2000 and the semi-final of the Champions League in 2001.

Before the club imploded due to financial difficulties, Leeds challenged the status quo in England in Manchester United and Arsenal with Kewell at the forefront.

At home on the left wing or up front, Kewell won PFA Young Player of the Year and in total scored 48 goals in 181 appearances for Leeds.

His transfer to Liverpool in 2003 was acrimonious, but Kewell headed to Merseyside despite interest from the likes of Milan, Barcelona and Manchester United.

Injury marred the attacking midfielder’s five years at Anfield, where he managed just 12 goals in 98 matches.

Liverpool won the Champions League in 2005 and the FA Cup in 2006, with Kewell forced off in both finals due to injury. He joined Craig Johnston as the only Australian to have won both trophies.

In 2008 he moved to Galatasaray where his stay in Turkish football rejuvenated him. Injury-free he scored 22 goals in 63 games in a successful three-year spell with the club.

Kewell then joined Melbourne Victory, recovering from a slow start to race back into form with eight goals from 14 appearances.

He left the A-League because of illness to his mother-in-law and returned to the UK. A short three-game stay at Al-Gharafa in the Qatar Stars League in 2013 followed before he returned to the A-League with Melbourne Heart for the start of the 2013-2014 campaign.

This season the Heart captain has notched up two goals from 15 matches. Kewell missed seven of the first eight matches as he recovered from concussion and other injury complaints, but has recovered to play an important role in the club’s recent resurgence under John van ’t Schip.

Until recently Kewell had hoped to push for a spot in Ange Postecoglou’s World Cup squad in Brazil.

On the club front Kewell was an outstanding performer, particularly in England and Turkey, but for the Socceroos he was usually their talisman.

After making his debut at the record age of just 17 and 7 months against Chile in 1996, Kewell quickly became Australia’s star player.

He scored two important goals in the Socceroos’ unsuccessful two-leg playoff against Iran in 1997 and got on the scoresheet in the famous 3-1 victory over England in 2003 at Upton Park.

He banged in a penalty in the historic 2005 World Cup qualifying win over Uruguay and played in three of the Socceroos four World Cup matches in 2006. His late goal against Croatia helped Australia move into the knockout round of the competition for the first time in history.

Kewell was part of the 2010 World Cup squad but played just one match for the Socceroos in South Africa, after being red-carded for handball against Ghana. A year later he helped Australia reach the 2011 Asian Cup final, scoring three goals during the tournament.

After representing the Joeys and Young Socceroos, Kewell went on to score 17 goals in 56 international appearances from 1996 to 2012. During that time he remained one of the Socceroos most important and high-profile players. And one who was often caught in the tug-of-war between club and country.

Kewell was commonly viewed as the star of Australia’s ‘Golden Generation’, one of the most technically brilliant footballers to have come from Australia. A scorer and creator of goals, able to beat defenders with pace and skill and play in a variety of positions, at his peak Kewell was a world-class player.

In 2012 he was named as Australia’s greatest ever footballer, ahead of the likes of Mark Viduka, Johnny Warren, Tim Cahill, Ned Zelic and Ray Baartz.

Kewell was awarded the Oceania Footballer of the Year gong three times in 1999, 2001 and 2003, and was selected in the AFC Asian Team of the year in 2011.

In total he scored 124 goals and notched 92 assists in 532 matches during an illustrious career, which included playing in leagues in England, Turkey, Australia and the Middle East, and in two World Cups and two Asian Cups.