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'What a career, what a man' - Ferdinand and De Gea lead tributes as ex-Man Utd star Valencia announces retirement

5:08 AM EDT 5/13/21
Antonio Valencia Manchester United 2018-19
The former Ecuador international, who won two Premier League titles while at Old Trafford, has called time on his career aged 35

Rio Ferdinand and David De Gea have been among the stars to pay tribute to former Manchester United defender Antonio Valencia, who has announced his retirement from professional football aged 35.

Valencia spent 10 years at Old Trafford, between 2009 and 2019, where he was converted from a winger into their first-choice right-back, and went on to win two Premier League titles and make 339 competitive appearances in all competitions.

The 99-cap Ecuador international, who also played in the Premier League with Wigan Athletic, decided to call time on his professional days following a stint in Liga MX with Queretaro.

What did Valencia say?

In a statement posted on Twitter, Valencia said: "At the age of 14, I left my family, my village and my first team to travel to the capital of my country. I travelled with a lot of nostalgia but full of hope.

"A few years later, I was able to travel to Europe, something I had never dreamed of. I played in Spain, then came to my second home: England. Wigan was a unique experience, then God gave me the opportunity to join Manchester United. I will never forget everything I experienced at Old Trafford. I will never forget every goal, every trophy, and the wonderful fans."

What has been said of Valencia?

Ex-United defender Ferdinand and current Red Devils goalkeeper De Gea, who played alongside Valencia in his title-winning campaigns of 2010-11 and 2012-13 respectively, were among those to show their respect for their former team-mate.

De Gea wrote: "Congrats for your amazing career! Enjoy your retirement, hermano. We miss you!"

Ferdinand said: "What a career, what a player, what a man. One of the most humble men I know. Painfully shy but always made me smile with how shy he was! What a professional too, always doing extra training in the gym (so he could look like me). Pleasure to play with you. Enjoy retirement Tonio."

The club also posted a message on their official account: "A special farewell to our former captain, who has called time on his playing career today. Thank you for everything during your time at United and best of luck for your next chapter, Antonio."

Valencia's career

After starting his professional days at El Nacional in Ecuador, Valencia moved to Spain with Villarreal before spending time at Recreativo. He then went on loan to Wigan, where he established himself in English football over three seasons and eventually made a permanent move.

He joined United in 2009 for a reported fee of £16 million, and over the course of the next decade helped the club to two league titles, two League Cup wins, the FA Cup in 2016 and the Europa League in 2017. He also started the 2011 Champions League final, which United lost to Barcelona.

Valencia also played at two World Cups for Ecuador, in 2006 and 2014, and spent a season back home with LDU Quito before his final year in Mexico.

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