Man Utd star Fernandes pays tribute as ex-Barca man Mathieu is forced to quit

Omnisport

Former Barcelona and France star Jeremy Mathieu has retired after suffering a knee injury in training at Sporting CP - news that has left Bruno Fernandes "crestfallen".

Manchester United midfielder Fernandes paid tribute to his former Sporting team-mate who quit after damaging the medial collateral ligament in his left knee on Wednesday, calling Mathieu "a centre-back with the quality of a number 10".

Mathieu, 36, won only five caps for France but shone in spells with Valencia and Barcelona, playing for the Catalan giants from 2014 to 2017 before joining Sporting.

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At Barcelona, he won two LaLiga titles plus the Champions League in 2014-15, coming on as a late substitute in the 3-1 final win over Juventus.

Portuguese newspaper Record quoted a statement from Mathieu, in which he said: "I thought I would end my career in another way, but it is part of football. I wanted to finish on the pitch so badly, but destiny decided otherwise.

"Anyway, I spent 19 years living my life with intense passion, with ups and downs, joy and crying, victories and defeats and incredible trophies."

Mathieu played in France with Sochaux and Toulouse before moving to Spain with Valencia.

Fernandes posted on Instagram: "I had news that left me sad and crestfallen.

"I learned that the best centre-back I ever had as a team-mate was injured and decided to end a career full of titles and unforgettable moments."

Fernandes added: "I had two and a half years with you, two and a half years of apprenticeship, two and a half years of eternal bets in training to see who scored the most free-kicks, two and a half years to see magic come from the feet of a centre-back, yes from a centre-back."

He stressed Mathieu "was a centre-back with the quality of a number 10 and extreme speed" and said he intended to reunite with him on the golf course.

Fernandes said: "Thanks for the tears in the final of the Taca de Portugal that showed me what it is like to love the game and how all victories are as important as the first."

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