Karen Carney has announced her retirement from football to bring to an end a distinguished career for club and country.
The Chelsea and England midfielder will sign off after the Lionesses conclude their 2019 FIFA World Cup campaign against Sweden in Nice on Saturday.
On the eve of the third-place play-off, 31-year-old Carney believes the time is right to look for a new challenge and her service will be commemorated at a forthcoming international.
An England centurion - she won her 100th cap against Germany at Wembley in November 2014 – Carney will go down in history as one of England’s all-time greats, an accolade underlined by being made an MBE in January 2017.
She won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Cup in Canada and helped Phil Neville’s squad to win the SheBelieves Cup in the United States earlier this year.
Overall, she picked up 143 caps and scored 32 goals – having made a goalscoring debut in a 4-1 defeat of Italy in 2005.
“I am incredibly proud to have achieved so much in the game but now is definitely the right time to retire,” said Carney.
“To have played for England was my ultimate ambition and to do so at four World Cups and represent Team GB at a home Olympics was beyond the wildest dreams I had when first starting out.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has made this all possible from my family and friends, everyone I have played for and worked with and, of course, the England squad and staff. I owe everything I have to all of them.”
Phil Neville, England head coach, added: “Karen deserves all the plaudits that will come her way. It’s been a privilege to work with her over the past 18 months but even more special has been the chance to get to know someone who is an incredible person and a special team-mate.
“While she will not want a fuss, Karen is someone who deserves total recognition and respect as a true legend of the game.”
The Solihull-born playmaker started out with Birmingham City, before moving on to Arsenal where she won a memorable quadruple in the 2006-07 season.
A spell in the United States with Chicago Red Stars followed before returning to Birmingham in time to score the winning penalty in the 2012 Women’s FA Cup Final shootout defeat of Chelsea, the team she would join in 2015.
She won the player of the year award in her first full season with the west London club and was part of the 2017-18 double-winning squad – despite an injury hit campaign.
Baroness Sue Campbell, The FA’s director of women’s football, said: “Karen will be regarded as one of English football’s great names. Her humility, despite all she has achieved on the world stage, is one of many endearing qualities.
“She’s played a huge part in the Lionesses’ incredible progress on the pitch and the inspirational impact the squad has had off it.
“I know Karen will be much missed by everyone at Chelsea and England – but I’m certain she’ll stay in the game as she has so much to offer.
“She’ll always be welcome at Wembley and St. George’s Park and it’s right and proper that we mark Karen’s wonderful career in a fitting way in the months to come. We’re all so very proud of her.”