French FIFA World Cup™ winner Lilian Thuram, who has been diagnosed with a heart defect, announced his retirement from football on Friday.
The 36-year-old former Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona defender was a key member of the French teams that won the FIFA World Cup in 1998 and the UEFA European Championship two years later, and holds his country's appearance record of 142 matches. Thuram, without a club, had been expected to join French first division side Paris Saint Germain in June but his medical had shown up a heart defect which ruled out him signing a one-year contract.
Thuram said there were other reasons for his retirement. "There are family reasons which have also been taken into account," he said. "I wanted to be the (Paolo) Maldini of PSG but that has not been possible. It's sad to end a career like this."
The question was asked how could a man who has played 18 seasons of professional football never had a heart problem previously diagnosed, even by the French team medical staff before Euro 2008. A 'hypertrophy' of the heart had been previously diagnosed though Thuram said at a press conference at the Parc des Princes on Friday that he did not in fact have this condition.
"There was nothing detected before and I had a well-muscled heart. But I was pleased to find out I did not have this condition (hypertrophy)," Thuram said.
Thuram had already stepped down at international level on 17 June following France's final match at UEFA EURO 2008, a 2-0 defeat to Italy in the group phase. He was not even fielded in this match by coach Raymond Domenech, who preferred to play Eric Abidal in central defence. So Thuram's final match was in their 4-1 thrashing by Holland in the previous game of the tournament.
His career-defining moment came in the 1998 FIFA World Cup semi-final when he scored two goals against Croatia to propel France into the final against Brazil. Thuram had a big influence on the team personally, in the same way that Patrick Vieira still does, and was one of the rare French sporting stars to have made an impact in other areas such as the political and social arena.