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Impact striker, former Serie-A star Marco Di Vaio announces retirement

10/03/2014 09:37 EDT | Updated 12/03/2014 05:59 EST
MONTREAL - Any hopes of keeping Marco Di Vaio on for another season are over for the Montreal Impact.

The 38-year-old striker ended speculation on his soccer future Friday by announcing that he will retire at the end of the Major League Soccer season. Di Vaio said he did not want to continue being separated from his wife and children, who have remained in Italy while he played his final three seasons in Montreal.

He met Thursday with team president Joey Saputo and decided to make it official.

"After I spoke with Joey and I came back to my house, I understood that it was the right moment to say I can't come back," said Di Vaio. "It was a little bit of a sad day for me because I understood that it's done.

"But I lived a lot of moments here that were really important for me, for the club, for history. We won the (Voyageurs) Cup two times. We got to the playoffs (last season). We got to the quarter-finals of the (CONCACAF) Champions League. So I'm really happy with what we've done."

The former Italian Serie-A star, who joined the Impact as their first designated player in May 2012, will play in the team's final two home games of the season Oct. 11 against New England and Oct. 25 against D.C. United.

There was no word on whether he would be in the starting 11 for a game Sunday in Chicago. The 6-18-6 Impact are out of playoff contention with four regular-season matches to go.

Di Vaio has been questioned repeatedly by fans and media over his future. Some wondered if he would stay on to play in the Champions League quarter-finals in February and March. There was hope he would play one more season because of the chemistry he has developed with new designated player Ignacio Piatti.

But he said he will not spend another year away from his family.

And he scotched the notion that he would return to Bologna to retire as a member of his former team, although he hopes to stay in the sport in some capacity.

"The 25th will be my last match," he said. "When I go back to Italy, I'll start a new phase of my life.

"As for the future, I don't know. I'd like to stay in soccer. I grew up with it and I want to stay involved. We'll see what happens in Italy."

The Rome native scored 142 goals in 342 Serie-A matches with Lazio, Bari, Salternitana, Parma, Juventus, Genoa and Bologna. He added another 31 in 72 MLS games.

He will be difficult to replace in Montreal. The stocky forward brought a level of skill that is rare in MLS and he did not short-change his club on effort or intensity.

Montreal has 21-year-old Jack McInerney on its roster, but will likely seek another striker for depth up front.

"Since I've been here I don't think the guy has missed one day of training," coach Frank Klopas said. "He's got a winning mentality and I think we're going to miss that a lot.

"The mentality and effort he brought every day is something we lack a bit. We need to bring in more guys like that."

Di Vaio arrived amid a wave of Italian players who got fans excited for the club's move to MLS in 2012, including defender Matteo Ferrari who is still with the team and legendary defender Alessandro Nesta, who retired at the end of the 2013 campaign.

But Di Vaio was the one people noticed, both for his goal-scoring ability and the emotion he showed on the field.

"In many ways, he was the perfect DP for Montreal," said team captain Patrice Bernier. "Not just for the club, but for the city, because of the style we like and the blend of soccer we want.

"He's on another level. I've told a lot of young kids that they have to pay attention to the way he plays and way he moves because he has the blueprint for how a striker should move."

Added defender Hassoun Camara: "We're very proud to share this moment with him because he's a very good player as everyone knows, but he's also a very good guy. I take him as a friend. I'm happy to have played with him, for sure."

Bernier felt Di Vaio helped put the Impact on the world soccer map and that it helped make the team better-known around Europe.

Saputo said Di Vaio gives the team a link to Europe that may help in recruiting players.

Details are still to be worked out on a tribute for his final game.

Di Vaio, known as Il Bomber, will retire as the team's leader in MLS goals and shots. He scored 20 times in 2013, when he was named to the MLS Best XI and was a finalist for league most valuable player honours. He has made 62 starts and played a total of 5,636 minutes for Montreal.

Asked to comment on his time in MLS, Di Vaio said: "This is the future. MLS will be the future for soccer. I'm sure that in the next few years there's going to be a lot of players coming to play in MLS. They are ready to be one of the best leagues in the world."

Di Vaio began his career with Lazio in 1995.

After bumping around with a few teams, he was sold for 14 million euros in 2003 to Juventus and he helped the club win a league championship. He also helped Juventus reach the Champions League final in 2003, scoring four goals in 11 matches.

He then moved for 10.5 million euros to Spanish club Valencia, where he played from 2004 to 2006, scoring 11 goals in 35 La Liga matches.

Di Vaio joined Bologna in 2008. He served as captain for two seasons and scored 65 goals in 143 games.

He had two goals in 14 international matches for Italy. He played in the 2004 European championship with Ferrari and former Impact forward Bernardo Corradi.

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