Former Argentina captain Ayala retires

BUENOS AIRES - Former Argentina captain Roberto Ayala, his country's second most-capped player, has told his club that he is retiring, according to Argentine media reports.

The reports said the former Napoli, AC Milan, Valencia and Real Zaragoza player had informed Racing Club of his decision on Thursday, although Ayala has not made any public comment himself.

Ayala, 37, won 115 caps for Argentina, second only to Javier Zanetti, but bowed out in unhappy style when he scored an own goal in a 3-0 defeat by arch-rivals Brazil in the 2007 Copa America final, his last international.

Ayala played at the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, though he missed the 2002 tournament after injuring himself during the warm-up for Argentina's first match against Nigeria.

He was in the Argentina side who won gold at the 2004 Olympics after being included in the Under-23 tournament as one of his team's three permitted overage players.

Ayala also helped Valencia reach the Champions League final in 2001 and win two La Liga and one UEFA Cup title during a spell when he was considered one of the world's top defenders.

He returned to Argentina to play for Racing Club, one of the country's most popular sides, at the start of this year but failed to hold down a regular place.


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