Skoko announces retirement

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Socceroos great Josip Skoko has called time on a glittering career that spanned sixteen years and five countries, seeing him feature in the UEFA Champions League,and UEFA Cup, as well as a World Cup campaign.

The diminutive midfielder says his decision is down to a combination of factors.

‘I’ve decided to call it a day at the end of the season due to a combination of factors from old age to family reasons.

‘I’ve always said that I don’t want to find myself in a position where I can’t be giving it my best every week, and I feel that while I’m still contributing and playing some good football, it’s time to hang up the boots.’

Skoko, a former AIS graduate and North Geelong Warrior, hit the big time when he moved to Croatian side Hadjuk Split in 1995. His four year spell yielded an impressive 20 goal return from 97 appearances, and earned him a move to Belgian side Genk. He eventually captained the side to the Belgian First Division Championship in 2002, as well as through a UEFA Champions League campaign including a trip to the Santiago Bernabeu to face Real Madrid.

Turkey was next for the Socceroo, and he was an important member of the Genclerbirligi side that stormed into the business end of the 2004 UEFA Cup. His performances caught the eye of Wigan Athletic manager Paul Jewell who brought Skoko to the English Premier League where he eventually became a mainstay in their midfield before returning to Croatia due to work permit issues in the UK.

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More important to Australian fans however, is his performances and dedicated service to the Green and Gold. Skoko played for the Socceroos for ten years, participated in five major international tournaments, and was an integral part of the leadership ground amongst the squad for the 2006 world cup.

The Socceroos captaincy is something only 40 men have achieved, and this dream was realised for Josip Skoko on four occasions. His finest moment in Socceroos colours however was his wonder goal against Greece in 2006. His volley from 25 yards sent 95,000 fans in the MCG into raptures in Australia’s final home appearance before the world cup in Germany.

Skoko’s final year in professional football saw him return to Australia as marquee for the Melbourne Heart in their inaugural campaign. While it has perhaps not been his most memorable, it has given him the chance to farewell Australian fans, who have clearly enjoyed the opportunity to see one of their national team heroes play on home soil.

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No indication has yet been made as to any post-football career pursuits, but what is certain is that fans of the national team and Hyundai A-League will sorely miss a player of his unique talents.

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