Wellington Phoenix midfielder Albert Riera will not return to the football club next season after terminating the final year of his contract.
The 32-year-old former paramedic, who arrived in New Zealand as a backpacker and finished up as one of the most respected players in the A-League, has decided that the rigours of day-to-day training is no longer for him.
After the Phoenix' final game of the season Riera told coach Ernie Merrick that he no longer wanted full-time football and while the coach persuaded him to think it over there was no going back for the easy-going Spaniard.
"It was a very hard decision to make but I had been thinking about it for seven months," Riera said from Spain where he is travelling with his family.
"My time at the Phoenix has been the highlight of my life; a fairy tale that it was hard to believe was happening.
"I've had a few injuries lately and as you get older it becomes harder to shake them off.
"It has nothing to do with money; it is a very personal thing and it was difficult to tell Ernie what I wanted to do.
"I only went to the Phoenix for a year and ended up at the club for three years loving every minute of it and making some great friends.
Merrick said it was "a big surprise" when the player said he wanted to finish so he "could do a lot of other things" and that he asked him to take some time to think it over.
"He did that but is convinced it is the right decision for him," the coach said.
"I have to respect what he has decided because he has been fantastic to have at the club.
"You can see why he was a paramedic because he wants to help people. Everyone liked him and he had time for everyone.
"He also made the A-League All Stars team to play Juventus and had a terrific game.
"Signing Albert was one of my best decisions in football."
Riera played 68 games for the Wellington Phoenix.