Aston Villa captain Martin Laursen announced on Friday that he has been forced into retirement at the age of 31 after a succession of knee injuries.
The Danish centre back made 51 appearances for his country, with his debut coming back in 2000 against Portugal and partaking in a World Cup and two European Championships.
He made 209 appearances for the clubs he has played for. Having competed in two of the best leagues in the world, it marks the end of a highly accomplished career. After leaving Denmark for Italy in 1998, he made his debut at Hellas Verona in Serie B, but had an injury-plagued season.
He cemented his place in the starting lineup the following season, after the club was promoted to Serie A. Co-owned by Parma, he moved there in 2001. After only three weeks training at the club, he was picked up by AC Milan as cover for Ã‚Â£8.7 million.
In his first four games for the club he scored twice. Yet as the more experienced players like Paolo Maldini and Allesandro Nesta returned from injury, Laursen found himself spending more time on the bench. He did however pick Serie A, Champions League and Coppa Italia medals in his time at the San Siro.
Due to the tough competition at Milan, Laursen moved to Aston Villa in 2004 for a snip at Ã‚Â£4 million. However the knee injury that had troubled him at Verona returned and despite some promising performances in 2004-05 and 2005-06 season, he spent most of his time under the knife or recovering.
He managed to overcome his problems in early 2007, and soon made himself an integral part of OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢NeillÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s team. He soon won the fans over earning the nickname Ã¢â‚¬ËœLion heart LaursenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. He extended his stay at the club by 2 years at the beginning of the 2007-08 season.
He impressed throughout the season, and earn the accolade of Ã¢â‚¬ËœSupporters Player of the Season 2008Ã¢â‚¬â„¢, while establishing himself as one of the leagueÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s top defenders. After the Gareth Barry transfer saga in the summer 2008, OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill handed Laursen the captainÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s armband on a permanent basis.
Villa started 08-09 strongly. Soon surpassing Arsenal in the league table, they looked favorites to claim the fourth and final Champions League spot. Laursen left the Villans in fourth place when his reoccurring knee injuries flared up and forced him to sit out the rest of the season. Since, Martin OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢NeillsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ team’s form has slumped they have dropped down the table and could be now overtaken by Everton, leaving them in sixth.
At the back, the absence of Laursen has left a more youthful centre back pairing of Knight and Davies. Laursen was a great reader of the game and was an elegant centre back to watch. His courage and ferocious heading, earned him many plaudits and OÃ¢â‚¬â„¢Neill will have a difficult job replacing him.
Laursen spoke to the press on Friday and said:
“This time, it would be even harder to recover than before. Because it would take a minimum of one year to recover and I had just one year left on my contract, I decided to stop now.
“I am pleased with what I achieved during my career. I am proud of the matches IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve played and IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m proud of what I did for Aston Villa.
“My only regret is that I did not come to England sooner. That is where I have been happiest. Here, my abilities were really appreciated.”
Aston Villa also released a statement saying:
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Villa are sad to announce Martin Laursen’s retirement from football.
“The retirement of the lion heart defender will be a huge loss to the players, the manager and the fans.”
Laursen will certainly be missed in the Premiership. A player with easily enough ability to have played for a Ã¢â‚¬ËœBig FourÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ club, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a shame that injury prevented him from fulfilling Aston VillaÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s dream of Champions League football next season.
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