Melbourne Victory has a giant hole to fill in the heart of its A-League defence with Matthieu Delpierre announcing his retirement from football.
The towering French defender is a tough loss for the A-League heavyweights after an instrumental role in the club’s championship last season and another fine campaign this year.
He finished the A-League campaign with his future in the air after previously declaring his intention to retire only to withdraw that claim a month later.
Coach Kevin Muscat and fellow international Fahid Ben Khalfallah have both spoken of their desire to retain Delpierre, however the centre back said his time reflecting convinced him to hang up the boots.
“It was a difficult decision for me to make, but I believe now is the right time to finish my career,” he said in a statement.
“My teammates have been a pleasure to play with, Kevin Muscat and the coaching staff have been extremely supportive, and the Victory fans have shown me the greatest respect.”
Delpierre is a strong favourite to claim Victory’s player of the year award to be awarded next month.
His long limbs and timing in the tackle made the 35-year-old a firm favourite with fans and his coach.
Muscat has referred to Delpierre as the best defender in the league and on Tuesday said he’d been a pleasure to coach.
“Matthieu has been a superb contributor to Melbourne Victory over the last two seasons,” he said.
“Since the day he arrived, he has demonstrated true professionalism and provided a fine example to our playing group, both on and off the pitch.
“He will be missed by everyone at the club, but definitely not forgotten.”
Delpierre played for five clubs in four countries – France, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia – across a 17-season professional career.
He won a Bundesliga title with Stuttgart in 2007 before helping Victory to the A-League double and the FFA Cup in two seasons.
Next Tuesday’s Asian Champions League match against Gamba Osaka of Japan looms as a potential farewell.
Unless Victory win through to the last 16 of the continental competition, Delpierre will join Kosta Barbarouses and potentially veteran Archie Thompson to play his last game for the club then.