Franck Ribery has revealed his devastation after being forced into retirement by a knee injury.
At the age of 39, Ribery hoped to play a full campaign with Salernitana in Serie A this season, and he was counting on being able to go out on his own terms.
Instead, a knee problem that first surfaced in July has finished off his playing career.
The Bayern Munich and France great admitted he had been reduced to tears some days ago.
He said he was not “really prepared” for the moment of calling time on his playing days.
The former France international explained that three months ago he was feeling healthy, only for problems to then begin.
Ribery featured in Salernitana’s Serie A opener against Roma but conceded he “played in pain.”
Ribery said: “I’m not a fragile person, but for the next three days I couldn’t move. The doctors said the situation was very serious.
“I tried to recover. I couldn’t believe I was forced to stop. I wanted to choose when I would say enough. But my football career is over.”
He was shown a video celebrating his career.
“And I cried,” Ribery said. “I have a sensitivity, a heart. I knew this day would come, but this is bad. It all happened very quickly. Too much. And it hurts me.”
On Saturday, he took an emotional bow before Salernitana’s game against Spezia, appearing in full kit on the pitch to take applause from the crowd.
This, too, was a tearful moment, as he had envisaged it being.
Ribery won 81 caps for France and played in the 2006 World Cup final.
At club level, his greatest successes came at Bayern Munich.
He helped the German giants win nine Bundesliga titles in 12 years, as well as six German Cups, one UEFA Champions League, a UEFA Super Cup and a Club World Cup.
In his time with the Bavarian giants, Ribery made 273 Bundesliga appearances, recording 86 goals and 92 assists.
It was back to Bavaria that Ribery went recently in a last-ditch bid to extend his career.
“Less than a month ago I went to Munich for a consultation,” Ribery said. “I thought: maybe a solution is found.
“Instead, I will have to be operated on, but only to be able to lead a normal life.”
He thanked Salernitana for their support, after being promised another role within the club —- “any other role I wanted” —— and spoke of what he felt his legacy would be.
“My style of play, my mentality, my hunger,” Ribery said. “I am someone who came from the street, and perhaps today there are not many who like me have the dribbling, the spark, the fantasy.
“I can’t say I was the best, but I was certainly different.”