Blaise Nkufo's 17 year career has officially come to an end today as the Seattle Sounders have announced the Swiss forward's retirement from football. Nkufo, known mostly for a seven-year spell at FC Twente in the Eredivisie, had left the club by mutual agreement shortly before the beginning of the current MLS campaign, reportedly over tactical differences with coach Sigi Schmid.
In a press release issued by Seattle, general manager Adrian Hannauer heaped praise on his former striker:
"During our relationship we have found Blaise to be both a gentleman and a great sportsman. We wish him all the best and believe that, much as he did on the pitch, he will find great success in whatever he chooses to pursue in the future."
While the northwest will probably always see Nkufo, 35, as something of a failure - his intelligent, efficient style of play never endeared him to Seattle fans - the rest of the world will remember him as a major goalscoring menace for Twente, who turned from a mid-table Eredivisie side into a Champions League team over the course of his career there. Nkufo made 223 appearances for Twente and scored enough goals (114, to be exact, a club record) for the team to erect a statue in his honour after he left for a designated player role with Seattle following the 2010 World Cup.
Zaire-born Nkufo also had a fairly sucessful international career with the Swiss national team despite being left out for the 2006 World Cup, and was capped 34 times, scoring seven goals. His finest moment in Swiss colours was undoubtedly the shock 1-0 win over Spain to begin the 2010 World Cup in South Africa - Switzerland were the only team to defeat the eventual champions and Nkufo himself had an excellent match. However, that would prove to be the big striker's swan song - he retired less than ten months later.
Nkufo also issued a statement thanking the Sounders organisation and fans for his short time with them.
"In announcing my retirement from playing, I want to thank the Sounders organization and their fans for making me feel so welcome in Seattle. I also would like to extend my gratitude to my teammates and wish them great success."
The plan for now is for Nkufo to stay in North America (his wife is from Vancouver B.C., so Canada seems a possibility) and work on teaching children the tools necessary to play top-level football. After his glittering European career, Nkufo seems like just the man to help his pupils realise their dreams.