Former Iran international and Persepolis star Ali Karimi has decided to hang up his boots.
The 35-year-old made the announcement in a letter published on his Instagram account on Sunday.
Karimi was without a team since his one-year deal with Tractor Sazi expired in May. For the past two months, it was reported that he was holding negotiations with clubs in Iran and other countries, but he finally decided to retire.
“All I have is due to the help of God and the support of my fans. The fans will always stay in my heart. I’m not sad because I couldn’t spend the last season of my career on my favorite team, Persepolis. Here in Iran, it is not strange at all. We had great legends who bid farewell to their careers in silence,” he said in the statement.
Karimi began his career with the Fath Tehran youth club and joined Persepolis in 1998. In his first season, he won the domestic double in 1999 and the championship again in 2000.
Karimi attended a trial with Italy’s Perugia Calcio, but the transfer was aborted when Perugia deemed the transfer fee too high. There was also reportedly an offer from Spain's Atlético Madrid, which was ready to pay Karimi $5 million in a six-year contract, but Karimi rejected the offer.
Karimi signed with Al Ahli in the United Arab Emirates in 2001. In that season, Al Ahli won their first trophy, when they won the President Cup in the 2001–02 season. He scored a league-high 14 goals for Al Ahli in 2004 and was named the Asian Footballer of the Year in that year.
On May 3, 2005, Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich's website announced that Karimi had signed a one-year contract with the club for an undisclosed fee.
On August 13, 2005, in the second week of the Bundesliga, Karimi made his debut for Bayern when coach Felix Magath put him in the starting lineup for a game against Bayer Leverkusen. He made an assist to Roy Makaay for Bayern's second goal followed by his first goal in the Bundesliga in a 5–2 victory. In his first UEFA Champions League appearance, Karimi scored against Rapid Vienna on November 22, 2005.
After leaving Bayern Munich, Karimi had some Bundesliga offers but rejected them to return to the Middle East, playing for Qatar SC, Al-Sailiya, Steel Azin, Persepolis, and Tractor Sazi.
Internationally, Karimi has been capped 127 times since making his debut in October 1998, and has scored 38 goals. He is currently Iran’s third most capped player and third highest scorer in history. He has participated in five major tournaments, the 1998 Asian Games, the 2000, 2004, and 2007 Asian Cups and the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Karimi, who was known for his amazing dribbling skills, was arguably one of Iran’s all-time best players. He was often referred to as the Asian Maradona and was regarded as one of Asia's greatest footballers.
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