Liverpool defender Carragher to retire this summer

STEVE DOUGLAS AP Sports Writer Published:

LONDON (AP) -- Long-serving Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher will retire at the end of the season, concluding a distinguished one-club career that marked him as one of the Premier League's most competitive and tough-tackling center backs.

Labeled "Mr. Liverpool" by the club, the 35-year-old Carragher has played 723 times for the first team since making his debut in 1997, putting him second on the all-time appearance list behind Ian Callaghan (857).

"It has been a privilege and an honor to represent this great club for as long as I have," Carragher said on Thursday, "and I am immensely proud to have done so."

Carragher, who won 38 caps for England, is no longer an automatic first choice for Liverpool but was recently brought back into the team by manager Brendan Rodgers and produced a string of impressive performances.

Primarily a center back blessed with strong leadership skills and a good reading of the game, his versatility made him an ideal fill-in at fullback on either side or in central midfield. He made up for his limited technical ability by having an inspirational work ethic and a big heart, allowing him to thrive in the all-action Premier League.

Eloquent in his rare appearances as a television pundit, a career in the media appears a likely future path for Carragher.

"He's a real student of the game and watches every single football match on television so that's something he might want to do," said former Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp, who described Carragher as an "icon of the Premier League."

"He has many, many options."

Others believe coaching would be a natural fit.

"After retirement I am sure he will march quickly up the coaching ladder and become one of the country's top young coaches," said England coach Roy Hodgson, who also managed Liverpool for six months during the 2010-11 season.

Carragher, who filled in as Liverpool captain in the absence of close friend Steven Gerrard, was a member of the team that won three trophies -- the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup -- in 2001 and then the Champions League in 2005. Around that time, his center-back partnership with Sami Hyypia was widely regarded as one of the best in Europe.

Especially considering his international experience, Carragher's absence will leave a big hole in Liverpool's squad next season, especially with Gerrard coming toward the end of his career.

"He has been a model professional on and off the pitch and has shown an unswerving commitment to our work," Rodgers said of Carragher, who joined Liverpool at the age of 9.

"He will have a significant role to play for us between now and May and I know his commitment and dedication on the pitch will remain as it has done his entire career at Liverpool."