Former Argentina international Ezequiel Lavezzi hangs up his boots

For all the talk of returning to Argentina to see out his playing days, Ezequiel Lavezzi had always maintained he would only do so if still 100% fit. On Friday afternoon, after much deliberation, the former Albiceleste favourite confirmed he would be calling time on his illustrious career after four seasons in China.

Lavezzi has been at Chinese Super League club Hebei China Fortune since joining from Paris Saint-Germain in 2016 and after struggling with knee problems ended speculation linking him with a move to Rosario Central.

“They were amazing years of this story. Years marked by learning, unique moments and lots of memories that will stay in my heart for good,” Lavezzi posted to his Twitter account.

“I am forever grateful for those who have stayed by my side throughout this journey. With lots of joy, I say goodbye to the most amazing phase life has given me. I’ve been extremely happy!”

Despite coming through the youth system at local club Rosario Central, Lavezzi began his professional career at Estudiantes de Buenos Aires. It took only a season for the youngster to catch the eye of Italian club Genoa but an initial loan and a deal that subsequently collapsed saw Lavezzi spend three seasons with San Lorenzo.

Helping El Ciclón to the 2007 Clausura, Lavezzi made his Argentina debut that same year and when signing for newly promoted Napoli for €6 million, the 22-year-old looked destined for big things.

Lavezzi proved an instant hit in Naples, scoring a hat-trick in a Coppa Italia win over Pisa soon after joining and going on to form a fearsome attacking unit alongside Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik.

The trio would help Napoli to victory over Juventus to lift the 2011-12 Coppa Italia before PSG swooped for Lavezzi, prizing away the Argentinian in July 2012 for €26.5 million.

Four consecutive Ligue 1 titles, two Coupes de la Ligue and one Coupe de France followed and it was during this period that Lavezzi became an instrumental part of the national team set up. Coach Alejandro Sabella had restored confidence in La Albiceleste and as Argentina swept to 2014 World Cup qualification, Lavezzi played a key role as Argentina came within a whisker of lifting the trophy in Brazil.

A hugely popular figure within the squad, Lavezzi would remain a leading figure within the group as Argentina slipped to two consecutive Copa América final defeats, missing the final in 2016 after breaking his elbow in the semi-final when falling over the advertising hoarding.

Earlier that year Lavezzi had been one of the high-profile transfers to the Chinese Super League and as that injury hampened his first season it also closed the door on his international career.

Lavezzi was unable to end his career with a title for Hebei China Fortune but did manage an impressive 35 goals in 74 appearances.

There was to be no swan song back in Rosario but Lavezzi’s enjoyed a career that most can only dream of.