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Júlio Baptista announces retirement: "It is time to step aside"

Former Sevilla, Malaga and Real Madrid player Julio Baptista, who also had a spell on loan at Arsenal, has called a halt to his playing career.

It is time to step aside – Julio Baptista announces retirement

Júlio Baptista has announced his retirement at the age of 37, declaring his intention to "begin a new life" after his playing career. The former Brazil international started out at São Paulo before heading to Spain, where he played for Sevilla – scoring 20 goals in the 2003-04 LaLiga season – and Real Madrid. Baptista helped Arsenal win the League Cup during a loan stint in 2006-07, including an astonishing four-goal haul against Liverpool in a 6-3 quarter-final win at Anfield.

Júlio Baptista's wonderful overhead kick against Getafe

Baptista's overhead-kicks

In Spain, Baptista - who was known as The Beast (La Bestia) will always be remembered for several spectacular goals he scored during his time at Real Madrid and Málaga - in particular, two acrobatic overhead kicks - one for Real Madrid against Betis, and probably the best of all and one he admits was among his best - a stoppage-time winner for Málaga against Getafe.

Baptista visited AS yesterday and says he's hanging up his boots happy with all he's achieved. "I consider myself to be very fortunate. I achieved my childhood dream - to play football for some of the top clubs and represent Brazil at the World Cup finals. I'm very, very happy I did all that"

Júlio Baptista visited AS yesterday

Baptista's travels

There were also spells with Roma and Málaga, as well as a return to his homeland with Cruzeiro in 2013, prior to joining Orlando City in MLS. Last at CFR Cluj, Baptista made just two appearances for the Romanian club in 2018 and, via Twitter, confirmed on Thursday he is hanging up his boots.

"After more than 20 years in the football elite, it is time to step aside and announce that I have decided to end my career as a player," he wrote. "I begin a new life, and I want to show my gratitude to all those who have made it possible for me to fulfill my dream. Thank you all."

Baptista told AS that he has amassed quite a collection of shirts which he swapped with players over the course of his career: "I've kept all of the shirts from other players, they're safe in boxes at home. I've quite a few... Stevie Gerrard, Thierry Henry, Raúl, Totti, Leonardo, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, Xavi, Iniesta, Messi... and all of the players who played in LaLiga too".