Zoltán Gera retires from professional football
The 39-year-old, 97-time Hungary international midfielder has announced the end of his career in the professional game.
Hungary's most successful footballer this century, Zoltán Gera, has retired from the professional game. After starting his professional career in 1997, Gera went on to win three Hungarian league titles, five Hungarian Cups, three domestic Super Cups and one League Cup with Ferencváros, whom he joined in July 2000 from boyhood club Pécsi MFC. He was voted Hungarian Player of the Year in 2002, 2004 and 2005, NB I Player of the Year in 2016 and his goal for Hungary against Portugal in Euro 2016 was voted the tournament's best goal.
In between two stints at Hungary's most successful club, Gera spent ten years in the top two divisions of English football, moving to West Bromwich Albion in 2004 and spending three years at Fulham FC from 2008 to 2011, during which time the club reached the Europa League final in 2010, before another three-year period back at the West Country club until 2014 when he returned to Hungary. The run to the Europa League final was particularly special, Gera scoring twice against Juventus, and once against both Shakhtar Donetzk and Hamburg, as well as making several assists, before his team's dream run finally came to an end after extra-time against Atlético Madrid.
The mercurial midfield playmaker suffered two serious knee injuries during his career but despite this, he still made 97 appearances for Hungary (only Gábor Király and József Bozsik have made more), scoring 26 goals for his nation including a hat-trick against San Marino in October 2002. Hi last appearance came away against Portugal in March 2017, after which recovery from his second serious knee injury proved to be insurmountable. In typically brave fashion, Gera battled back onto the pitch and made his reappearance on the last day of the 2017/2018 season for Ferencváros against Balmazújváros, but this turned out to be his farewell match too, as yesterday's announcement has confirmed.
"I've come to this decision to end my playing career because following last year's injury I'm not able to build up my condition as would have wished. Currently, I'm unfortunately unable to produce the performances for my club or my national side which I expect of myself, indeed, which are necessary to help my teams and moreover, it is accepted that the danger of injuring myself again is now greater", Gera told mlsz.hu.
"It's every footballer's biggest dream to play for their country", Gera continued. "I was among those lucky ones who realised their dreams. Of the 97 international matches I played, 50 of them were as team captain, which I'm particularly proud of. I'm extraordinarily grateful to every national-team head coach with who I've worked together and of course to every teammate I could play together with. I have many great memories of the national team, naturally, the 2016 European Championship participation being foremost among them. I'm happy that I was successful in enjoying that unbelievable event. I won't be breaking all my ties with football though; I would like to complete my coaching badges and I hope that I can help Ferencváros and the national team in a high-quality way too".