Today, a working man hangs up his hard hat.
Andoni Iraola has retired from soccer after sixteen years. The first man ever to retire as a New York City FC player, the 34 year old bows out with 40 MLS appearances to his name.
As he told NYCFC.com today:
“I would like to thank everyone inside and outside of the club who has made me feel at home from the very first moment. I would especially like to thank my teammates who I have learned from until the last day but also all of the coaches, medical personnel, sporting staff and everyone inside the office who always help to make our lives easier. I would also like to thank our fans for their constant support, especially the support they give us when we least deserve it. I feel very privileged to have lived this experience - ever since the beginning of this club which will continue to grow.”
A native of the Basque Country in northern Spain, Iraola joined the youth system at Athletic Bilbao in 1999. He made the first team in 2003, where he starred at right fullback for a dozen years, including an extended stint as captain. He made more than 500 total appearances.
“Andoni has been a fantastic servant to this football club and it’s been a pleasure to have coached such a dedicated and talented player,” NYCFC gaffer Patrick Vieira said. “He is somebody who does not covet the limelight but is content to do his job quietly to the highest standards, making those around him play better as a result.”
Iraola was selfless in his time in the Bronx, making a surprise move from right fullback to defensive midfield earlier this year. He provided vision, flexibility, and a tremendous sense of calm behind Frank Lampard and Andrea Pirlo.
“I believe his experience and professionalism have made a huge impact in the young history of NYCFC, showing the younger players in the locker room the standards they must aspire to in order to compete at the top level year after year,” sporting director Claudio Reyna said today.
As for the player himself, he’s sold on this little experiment we call New York City FC.
“From this moment on, I will continue to support this club - now as a fan,” he said. “Let’s go NYCFC!”
Fare thee well, Andoni.