BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – Lionel Messi
“A great player is retiring, one of my idols. Pablo Aimar, I wish you the best in the next stage (of your life),” the Argentina captain wrote on his Facebook page.
“Thanks for all the enjoyment you gave us with your magic,” added Messi, who was Aimar’s team mate at the 2006 World Cup in Germany and 2007 Copa America in Venezuela where Argentina reached the final.
Messi has often said that the former River Plate, Valencia, Benfica and Argentina midfielder Aimar — who won 52 caps and scored eight goals — was a player he idolised as a child.
Aimar announced that he was quitting football having failed to make River’s squad for the last two rounds of the Libertadores Cup.
The playmaker, who was nicknamed ‘Payaso’, meaning clown, because he always wore a smile, returned home last year hoping for one last fling at River.
He had surgery on a nagging ankle problem in April, which restricted him to a couple of substitute appearances for the club in May.
The 35-year-old, who also played at the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, complained this month that the pain remained and told coach Marcelo Gallardo, another former team mate, that he was retiring.
River are 90 minutes from a place in their fifth Libertadores final after a 2-0 home win over Guarani of Paraguay in the first leg of their semi-final on Tuesday.
They are looking to win South America’s top club prize for the third time. (Writing by Rex Gowar, editing Tom Hayward)