Lilian Thuram's retirement has meant one of France's finest players of the past decade, who transcended the sport and made an impact in political and social circles, has finally hung up his boots.
The 36-year-old defender announced his retirement at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Friday just weeks after a one-year contract at Paris Saint Germain was scuppered when his medical examination discovered a heart problem.
Thuram won the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European championship with France and earned a national record of 142 appearances.
The elder statesman of French football was also held in high esteem in the dressing room and was admired by team-mates.
The former Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona defender had his greatest hour for his national team when scoring twice in the 1998 World Cup semi-final against Croatia to propel Aime Jacquet's team into the final where they beat Brazil 3-0 at the Stade de France.
Former international teammate Bixente Lizarazu, speaking on RTL radio on Friday, said of Thuram: “He can retire with a great deal of pride because he had an immense career. It has been a pleasure to play at his side.
Fellow defender Lizarazu earned 97 caps himself and played alongside Thuram in those World Cup and European championship winning teams.
“On a human level, he is also an extraordinary guy and on the pitch he was a warrior who never gave up,” added Lizarazu. “I have a lot of memories of him but I think there comes a point when it is time to retire.
“He extended his sell-by-date for as long as possible and he needed to retire. What he has done has been exceptional.”
The coach of Bordeaux Laurent Blanc paid homage too. “Lilian has had a great career. I looked at the number of appearances he made and they just went on and on,” Blanc said.
“I spoke to him about two or three months ago and asked him what he had planned. The career he had was always at the highest level and when there is a health risk it is better that he retires.”
Blanc, known as the “President,” scored a crucial second round goal against Paraguay in the 1998 World Cup though missed the final after being sent off against Croatia.
Thuram himself said there were other reasons for his retirement other than the health aspect. “There are family reasons which have also been taken into account,” he said. “I wanted to be the (Paolo) Maldini of PSG but that has not been possible. It's sad to end a career like this.”
The question was asked how could a man who has played 18 seasons of professional football never had a heart problem previously diagnosed, even by the French team medical staff before Euro 2008.
A “hypertrophy” of the heart had been previously diagnosed though Thuram said on Friday that he did not in fact have this condition.
“There was nothing detected before and I had a well-muscled heart. But I was pleased to find out I did not have this condition (hypertrophy),” Thuram said.
Thuram had already stepped down at international level on June 17 following France's final match at Euro 2008, a 2-0 defeat to Italy in the group phase.
He was not even fielded in this match by coach Raymond Domenech who preferred to play Eric Abidal in central defence.
So Thuram's final match was in their 4-1 thrashing by Holland in the previous game of the tournament held in Austria and Switzerland.
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