LONDON // Paul Scholes, the Manchester United midfielder, announced his retirement from football yesterday, ending the trophy-laden career of a famously low-key player widely regarded as one of the most technically gifted of his generation.
Scholes, 36, made 676 appearances for United. He made his debut in 1994 and was the heartbeat of a team that has dominated English football for the past two decades.
Xavi, the Spain midfielder, said Scholes was "the best central midfielder that I have seen", while the France great Zinedine Zidane once described him as "almost untouchable".
"I am not a man of many words, but I can honestly say that playing football is all I have ever wanted to do, and to have had such a long and successful career at Manchester United has been a real honour," said Scholes, who eschewed the celebrity lifestyle of many modern-day footballers. "This was not a decision that I have taken lightly but I feel now is the right time for me to stop playing."
Scholes won 10 Premier League titles - and 24 trophies in total - with United, scoring 150 goals. He was no longer a regular choice in the first team by the end of the recently completed season, leading to growing speculation about his future.
His last appearance was as a substitute in Saturday's 3-1 defeat by Barcelona in the Champions League final at Wembley Stadium.
Two weeks earlier, he helped United claim a record 19th English title, overhauling Liverpool as the country's most successful league team. He made 66 appearances for England before retiring from international football in 2004 to focus on his club career.
A one-club man, Scholes said he will stay at United by taking up a coaching role next season.
His manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said: "What more can I say about Paul Scholes that I haven't said before? We are going to miss a truly unbelievable player. Paul has always been fully committed to this club, and I am delighted he will be joining the coaching staff from next season. Paul has always been inspirational to players of all ages and we know that will continue in his new role."
Scholes began as a deep-lying forward but eventually dropped back into central midfield where his touch, technique and vision could be more effectively utilised. He never lost his eye for goal, though, and turned his late runs into the penalty box into an art form.
"He can play the final pass, he can score, he is strong, he never gets knocked off the ball and he doesn't give possession away," Xavi said. "If he had been Spanish then maybe he would have been valued more."
His failing was his tackling, which was often late and clumsy.
He missed the dramatic win over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final through suspension but started in 2008 when United beat Chelsea on penalties in Moscow to claim their third European Cup.