LIVERPOOL defender Jamie Carragher has signalled the end of an era at Anfield by announcing he will retire from football in May.
The Bootle-born 35-year-old has been at the club since the age of nine, making 723 appearances, but with his contract due to expire this summer he has decided to call time on his career.
Ironically, Carragher has only just forced his way back into Brendan Rodgers’ firstchoice line-up after spending five months restricted to just cup and European matches.
However, the former England international has moved to end speculation about his future in order – typically for one of the club’s most loyal servants – for the focus to remain on football for the remainder of the campaign.
‘‘This will be my last season at Liverpool and my last as a professional footballer,’’ said the centre-back in a statement.
‘‘I’m making this announcement now because I don’t want the manager or the club to be answering questions on my future when I’ve already decided what I am going to do.
‘‘I will be fully committed between now and the end of the season to doing the very best for Liverpool Football Club, as I’ve done my entire career since joining aged just nine-years-old.
‘‘I won’t be making any further comment on this decision until the end of the season.
‘‘All our focus and concentration should be on achieving the best possible finish in the league this season and trying to win the last remaining trophy we are competing in.’’ Only a fortnight ago Carragher, after his return to the Premier League starting line-up, insisted he was ‘‘openminded’’ about the future.
However, despite his recent recall he has known the writing has been on the wall for some time, with Martin Skrtel and Daniel Agger previously established as the preferred central-defensive partnership, and admitted his frustration at having to watch from the bench.
While Carragher’s playing future has been decided what awaits after that is still to be determined.
A well-known football fanatic off the field with an encyclopaedic knowledge it has been suggested the defender could move into coaching, with possibly a role within the club.
Rodgers has admitted Carragher was one of the players he sought opinions from when he took over from Kenny Dalglish in June.
But for now the Reds boss wants to get the best out of what remains of the defender’s career.
‘‘Jamie has been absolutely outstanding for me since I joined the club,’’ he said.
‘‘He has been a model professional on and off the pitch and has shown an unswerving commitment to our work.
‘‘We still have a lot to play for as we look to finish as high up the Premier League as possible and continue our progression in the Europa League, a competition we’d like to win.
‘‘He will have a significant role to play for us between now and May, and I know his commitment and dedication on the pitch will remain as it has done his entire career at Liverpool.
‘‘When the time is right we, as a team and a club, will give the man the tribute and recognition he deserves; I know the supporters will want to say thank you to someone who has served them with such distinction for so long.’’ Carragher has won every major honour with Liverpool – the highlight being the Champions League in 2005 after beating AC Milan – except the league title.
He insists he will not allow himself to start looking back just yet.
‘‘It has been a privilege and an honour to represent this great club for as long as I have and I am immensely proud to have done so and thankful for all the support I have had,’’ he said.
‘‘There are many memories I want to share and people to thank, but now is not the time for that.’’