Melbourne Heart midfielder Josip Skoko has announced his retirement from professional football.
The 35-year old playmaker will play his final matches before calling quits on a highly-successful 16-year career at the end of the A-League season.
The 51-time capped Australian international, Skoko made his name in Croatia with Hajduk Split in the mid-to-late 1990s before enjoying stints with Belgium’s Racing Genk and Turkey’s Genclerbirligi.
After that he returned to Split to play out his European career before coming back home to Australia where he joined the Heart for their inaugural A-League season.
Skoko said he just knows now is the right time to call it a day.
“I’ve decided to call it a day at the end of the season due to a combination of factors from old age to family reasons. Putting it all together, I feel like it is the right time to end my professional career and move on,” he said.
“I’ve always said that I don’t want to find myself in a position where I can’t be giving it my best every week, and I feel that while I’m still contributing and playing some good football, it’s time to hang up the boots.”
Heart coach John van ‘t Schip, who has had just a small amount of time in charge of Skoko, said he can clearly see why the South Australian native made it so far.
“While I only coached Josip for a year, in that time, I have understood why he has had such a great career. He’s a real professional, he loves football, and he’s a purist,” the Dutchman said.
“He still enjoys playing and I think that’s the main reason why he still at this age is performing at a high level. Josip is a player who has grown as a person in the game; he experienced a number of different types of cultures, playing in Belgium, Croatia, Turkey and England.
“And you can see he brought this experience with him to our club, and especially for the young boys, he was a very good example to show what it means to be a professional football player.”
Skoko will be involved in the Heart’s last two matches of the season, with both being at home against Central Coast Mariners tomorrow night and Sydney FC next week, as they strive to push for a spot in the final six.