Frank Lampard hinted at targeting a future career in management when he announced the end of his 21-year playing career on Thursday.
The 38-year-old former England, Chelsea, Manchester City and West Ham midfielder revealed he declined offers to continue playing.
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After 21 incredible years, I have decided that now is the right time to finish my career as a professional footballer. Whilst I have received a number of exciting offers to continue playing at home and abroad, at 38 I feel now is the time to begin the next chapter in my life. I’m immensely proud of the trophies I’ve won, of representing my country over 100 times and of scoring more than 300 career goals. I have many people to thank. I thank my parents for instilling in me the values of hard work, dedication and professionalism, values which I have carried with me in everything that I do. I am forever grateful for the support of my family, my wife Christine and my two daughters Luna and Isla. What you have given me off the pitch has always been my strength on it. I love you all very much. Also, my friends and my own team that have always been there for me. I would like to thank the amazing team-mates, coaches, managers and backroom staff that I was privileged to work with. I’d also like to pay tribute to the clubs that I have represented. Firstly, West Ham United who gave me my debut in 1996. Thanks to the people there that believed in me at that young age. More recently Manchester City and NYCFC. I greatly enjoyed my last playing years at these two clubs and really appreciate the support I received from City Football Group and both clubs’ fans. Of course, the largest part of my heart belongs to Chelsea, a club which has given me so many great memories. I will never forget the opportunity they gave me and the success that we managed to achieve together. It is impossible to give thanks individually to all the people that helped and supported me in my 13 years playing there. All I can say is from the day I signed until now and going forward, I'm eternally grateful for everything and to everyone. Chelsea fans gave myself and my teammates such incredible support. Their passion and hunger drove me on personally to give my best year after year. I couldn't have done it without them. Looking forward, I'm grateful to the FA for the opportunity to study for my coaching qualifications and I look forward to pursuing the off-field opportunities that this decision opens.
"After 21 incredible years, I have decided that now is the right time to finish my career as a professional footballer," Lampard wrote on Instagram.
"Whilst I have received a number of exciting offers to continue playing at home and abroad, at 38 I feel now is the time to begin the next chapter in my life.
"Looking forward, I'm grateful to the FA (Football Association) for the opportunity to study for my coaching qualifications and I look forward to pursuing the off-field opportunities that this decision opens."
That leaves open the prospect of a return to Chelsea, who have long stated a desire to retain a lasting affinity with players of Lampard's generation, through ambassadorial, commercial or coaching roles.
Although with Antonio Conte's side nine points clear and favourites for the Premier League title, Lampard will likely have to wait to fulfil his ambition of managing the Blues.
Former Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard retired last November and has since taken up a role with the Reds' academy.
A similar role at Chelsea would offer a possible route into management for Lampard.
Lampard received a glowing tribute from John Terry, his long-time friend and Chelsea team-mate.
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@franklampard has today announced his retirement from football. The GREATEST player in the history of our great football club @chelseafc It was an absolute pleasure playing with you mate and seeing first hand the dedication and hard work you put in, on and off the pitch, the best trainer by a million miles every single day, inspiring me and everyone at the club. I miss you next to me in the dressing room and miss you grabbing a bag of balls after training when everyone went inside. You stayed out working on your finishing, 20 goals a year wasn't good enough for you, every year you wanted 25,30 goals I love that about you ⚽️👊🏻 I will miss you getting 4 cones and doing sprints after training 🏃🏻💨 setting the example for the kids in the academy. All the great memories together winning trophy after trophy year after year I will never forget 🏆 you have won everything and should be extremely proud. It's been my pleasure and honour to play and experience all those great moments with you. 648 appearances ( we nearly caught Peter Bonetti and Ron Harris 😜) 211 goals ⚽️ unbelievable achievement 👊🏻 A gentleman both on and off the pitch, leader in the dressing room and if I could choose one person next to me in the trenches it would be you. A great dad to your two beautiful girls and I'm proud to call you my mate Good Luck for the future, whatever you choose to do will be a huge success Love Ya Lampsy 💙 LEGEND HERO INSPIRATION + THE BEST EVER
"The GREATEST player in the history of our great football club," Terry wrote.
Gerrard, with whom Lampard tussled often in opposition and never quite gelled with England, added his congratulations to an "incredible player".
For club and country, Lampard made 1,019 appearances, scoring 302 goals. He left New York City FC last autumn.
His retirement statement was full of thanks - for West Ham, the club which gave him his debut in 1996, City, but most notably Chelsea.
He did not mention Swansea, where he made nine appearances on loan from the Hammers in 1995-96.
Swansea boss Paul Clement on Thursday revealed he had tried to coax Lampard back to south Wales, without success.
Lampard is Chelsea's record goalscorer. He scored 211 goals in 648 appearances over 13 years at the club he joined from West Ham for £11million in 2001.
He netted the goals in a win at Bolton which in 2005 secured the club's first championship title in 50 years.
And, with Terry suspended, Lampard was captain on the night Chelsea won the 2012 Champions League in Munich. He won every major club honour with the Blues.
"The largest part of my heart belongs to Chelsea, a club which has given me so many great memories," he added.
He scored against a record 39 Premier League opponents. And with England he netted 29 goals in 106 caps.
It is a 'goal' which was not awarded which gives him a lasting legacy on the field.
His 2010 World Cup strike against Germany clearly went across the line and expedited the introduction of goal-line technology.