One of Australia's all-time greats is calling it a career. Brett Emerton is retiring at age 34 after an eighteen professional seasons, spanning Australia, Holland and England. Emerton, who most famously played at Blackburn Rovers, got his start at Sydney Olympic in the NSL before joining Feyenoord at age 21 in 2000. He earned 95 caps for the Socceroos between 1998-2012, scoring twenty times and featuring in the World Cup, Asian Cup and the Olympics. His return to Australia in the 2011/12 season was hailed, along with Harry Kewell's move to Melbourne Victory, as a new chapter in the A-League. Unlike Kewell, Emerton never left Sydney FC and was a solid if unspectacular contributor over two-and-a-half seasons. His retirement was announced in an A-League press release. Sydney FC released its own press release.
Said Emerton, of his lengthy and prestigious career:
"It was an absolute honor to represent my country and to be able to do it for 15 years and play in two World Cups is really special. Playing for the Socceroos is an honor and a privilege and I enjoyed every single match I played for the National team.
"The memories I have from wearing the green and gold are something I will cherish forever.
"I have been fortunate enough to share in some very special moments with the Socceroos but it is hard to go past the win over Uruguay to qualify for the World Cup in 2005. It was a memorable night for me as a football player but the joy it brought to all Australians and the football community was amazing.
"I've had a fantastic career and I was incredibly fortunate to play professional football for 18 years but I know now is the right time to call it a day and I hope to be able to stay in the game moving forward and continue to contribute to Australian football.
"It's widely known I've been struggling for fitness this season and those injury concerns have meant it has become increasingly difficult to perform to my best.
"With the transfer window open I wanted to give Sydney FC the opportunity to replace me if they wished to and I feel it's the right time and the fairest way for the club and I to part ways."
David Gallop, the FFA's CEO, added his own comments about Emerton's career:
"Brett is the quintessential Australian football success story, from the suburban fields of Western Sydney to the FIFA World Cup.
"At every stage, from youth national teams to the Olympic Games, the English Premier League and back to the Hyundai A-League, Brett lived the dream with integrity and supreme dedication.
"His playing career will serve an inspirational story for every boy and girl with ambitions to play football at the highest level.
"On behalf of Football Federation Australia and the football community I'd like to congratulate Brett on a memorable career and thank him for his enormous contribution to the game in this country."
Many around the A-League suspect Emerton's retirement paves the way for Tom Rogic to return to Australia from Celtic during the January transfer. But for now, Sydney FC and all of Australian football will honor Emerton and leave the transfer rumors at least until tomorrow.