For any player with over 60 Argentina appearances and a club career that took him from Boca Juniors to Real Madrid and ended with 14 titles, it’s perhaps difficult to suggest that they underachieved and yet when Fernando Gago confirmed his retirement there was an overwhelming sense of what might have been.
The 34-year-old decided it was time to hang up his boots almost 16 years since making his Boca debut and for anyone who had the pleasure of watching the graceful midfielder at his best they know that his achievements in the game fail to capture his natural talent.
“I’ve taken the decision to finish my career as a professional footballer,” Gago posted on his Instagram account.
“After 15 years of playing, I’m choosing this path with total calm and satisfaction. As everyone knows, I’ve lived some fantastic moments and I’ve enjoyed a career that I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams as a child.
“I also had difficult moments, repeated injuries which affected me in these last few years, but at the same time they taught me and they made me the person I am today. Now I find myself without physical problems, I’ve achieved the objectives I wanted to and that’s why I’m deciding to take a step aside.
“I’m happy to be leaving football my way, through my own decision, at this moment.”
Ending his career on his own terms and not on the treatment table is a positive that many didn’t expect when Gago resolutely continued to fight back from multiple career threatening injuries. Three achilles ruptures and two cruciate knee ligament operations in the past five years would have been enough to persuade most that their time is up.
Gago though, persuaded by former teammate Gabriel Heinze, worked his way back to fitness once more to continue at Vélez. A new season under a new manager Mauricio Pellegrino it was perhaps Sunday’s physically demanding draw with Gimnasia that proved the final straw for Gago. The midfielder was far from his best and appeared targeted by the home team with a series of heavy challenges.
Financially comfortable and with the realisation that he is no longer able to perform at the level he once did, Gago has opted to walk away. An astute move from an intelligent footballer who can now focus on the next stage of his career – one that looks destined for a coaching role of some description.
A new generation of Argentine players could certainly benefit from the insight of Gago.