Juninho Pernambucano, arguably the greatest free-kick taker of all time, has announced his retirement from football at the age of 39.
The decision was revealed by Roberto Dinamite—president of Vasco da Gama, Juninho's current club—as reported by Matt Jones of Goal.com:
I want to make the decision of Juninho Pernambucano official. During the week we already talked about it and he decided to call an end to his career,
On Monday, Juninho will make his farewell as an athlete of Vasco. He will give a press conference and journalists will be able to ask whatever they want.
Does Juninho deserve to be remembered as a legend?
Juninho's career spanned three decades after he made his debut with Sport Recife in 1993. He spent six years with Vasco before moving to Europe in 2001, where he became a favourite at Lyon.
This is where the classy player made his name, and indeed, the club with which he experienced the most success. Lyon captured the Ligue 1 title for the first time during Juninho's debut season and went on to win the division across eight consecutive years.
While at the height of his powers in 2005, Juninho was part of the Brazil squad that captured Confederations Cup glory in Frankfurt, coming on as a late sub for Robinho in the 4-1 final win against Argentina.
He also scored during the 2006 World Cup group stage match with Japan, but the Samba Boys would eventually go on to lose against France in the quarterfinals.
Juninho is most famed for his stunning ability to take free-kicks and set pieces, many of which led to memorable goals.
He could deliver accurate balls from anywhere across the pitch, boasted eagle-like vision and had the guts to unleash powerful shots from the most ridiculous of positions.
The former New York Red Bulls star, who also spent time with Qatari club Al-Gharafa, utilised the "knuckleball" technique that is now used by the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale. He hit the ball with so much force that it would unpredictably weave through the air, giving goalkeepers little chance of stopping its flight.
Of course, he was also able to pull off a deft dink, curl or simply placed effort that didn't rely on extreme power.
Prior to the announcement, Squawka posted a rundown of Juninho's best free-kick goals to coincide with his birthday, summing up the magic of a player who enjoyed a professional career of over 20 years:
Happy 39th birthday to Juninho Pernambucano. In celebration, here's a video of 75 of his best free-kicks. Enjoy. http://t.co/H4iWOEZBiw— Squawka Football (@Squawka) January 30, 2014
Similarly to players such as Andrea Pirlo and Paul Scholes, Juninho is the type of great who will remain in the consciousness of football fans long after retirement. He is a universally respected individual who deserves to be celebrated—much like those wicked free-kicks of old.