SAO PAULO, Brazil -- Former Brazil and Barcelona star Rivaldo officially retired on Saturday after a 24-year career that he said was built "upon a miracle" that allowed him to overcome financial challenges and disappointments.
The 41-year-old midfielder, a World Cup winner with Brazil in 2002, hadn't been playing at a top level for several years and finally decided to end his career with an announcement on his Twitter and Instagram accounts.
FIFA's player of the year in 1999, Rivaldo had been playing sparingly for minnow Brazilian club Mogi Mirim. He is expected to remain as the president of Mogi Mirim, where his 18-year-old son is now playing.
"With tears in my eyes today I would like first to thank God, my family and all the support (and) the affection that I received during those 24 years as a player," Rivaldo said in a statement published both in Portuguese and in English. "Today, I communicate to all my fans in the world (that) my history as a player came to the end."
The talented playmaker thrived in Brazil and abroad in the 1990s, winning two Spanish league titles with Barcelona and the 2003 Champions League trophy with AC Milan, which was his last top European club, before spending time in Greece and finally returning to Brazilian football four years ago.
The last top team he played in Brazil was Sao Paulo in 2011, but he was released after an unsuccessful stint in which he played only a few matches as a starter. Before rejoining Mogi Mirim, the team that launched him to the national scene in 1994, Rivaldo played for Kabuscorp in Angola and then for Sao Caetano in Brazil, which he left last year citing knee pain.
In his statement, Rivaldo mentioned the hardships that he had to overcome early in his career. He said there were "many obstacles, challenges, waivers, longings, disappointments," but also "much greater joys, achievements, growth (and) change" that allowed a "distant dream" to come true.
"I built my career upon a miracle, (living) in (the small city of) Paulista, no financial resources, no businessman, incentives only of my family, discredited by doctors and trainers," he said. "With persistence, dedication and especially with the hand of God, I came to be recognized as the best player in the world, world champion."
Along with his statement, Rivaldo published a photo of him with tears in his eyes and another of him alongside his son, Rivaldo Jr. Last month, they got to play together in a Mogi Mirim match and Rivaldo said he fulfilled a longtime dream.
Rivaldo also played in the 1998 World Cup, when Brazil was runner-up to France. With the Selecao, he also won the 1997 Confederations Cup, the 1999 Copa America and a bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Rivaldo also previously played for traditional Brazilian clubs Palmeiras and Corinthians, as well as for Deportivo La Coruna in Spain, Olympiacos and AEK Athens in Greece, and Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan.