Federico Higuain emotionally announces retirement plans: "I have to close this chapter"
The Inter Miami playmaker will play the last game of his professional career on Saturday vs. New York City FC
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — It might be tough to say goodbye, but that is exactly what one of Major League Soccer’s best playmakers of the last decade will do on Saturday.
An emotional and grateful Federico Higuain announced on Friday in a heartfelt press conference that he will be calling it a career following Saturday afternoon’s match between his Inter Miami and visiting New York City FC. Higuain will not only cap 18 years as a professional player by starting for the South Florida side in the game at Drv Pnk Stadium, but will do so as the Inter Miami captain for the first and last time.
“This is a decision that has been considered all year,” said Higuain in Spanish during his opening remarks. “All my family and I can do is thank all the clubs that gave me the possibility to develop as a professional player.”
As poised during the start of his press conference as he was during much of his time on the field when he picked defenses apart with his vision and creativity, a grateful Higuain lost that trademark composure shortly thereafter when his Inter Miami teammates surprised him by walking into the room to honor him.
They watched, clapped, chanted — “One more year!” and cheered. It moved him. The attacking midfielder, who just celebrated his 37th birthday this past Monday, went from being all smiles to filled with tears. He was choked up for much of the remainder of his chat with the press.
It was a touching farewell message, especially since younger brother and teammate Gonzalo was present to share the moment near the end of a season that has seen them go through difficult moments following the passing of their mother back in April.
“Playing together was a gift that soccer gave us,” said Federico, who received a warm embrace from Gonzalo and the rest of the Inter Miami players after the 13-minute press conference concluded. “If the chance to play for this club existed, he had a lot to do with it. It was a wish we always had.”
“… To have the possibility at the end of my career to share time with him, to watch him train, to watch him play, to know what he is thinking and how he is feeling was wonderful. To be with your brother playing soccer and to know that we did it well, just as we wanted to when we were kids, gives us peace.”
The traditional South American-style No. 10 who spent a decade in MLS playing first for the Columbus Crew and then D.C. United and Inter Miami has shown as of late that he still has enough in the tank to continue playing for another season if he wanted. He scored in both of his recents starts and set up the game-winner in the latter, helping Inter Miami to post a pair of victories that temporarily injected some life back into the side’s dwindling playoff hopes.
Federico, however, is moving onto the next chapter. He has already begun taking courses to obtain his coaching license, has sat in on meetings with the Inter Miami academy staff, and wants to eventually become a manager.
The South Florida side will meet with the creative attacker and discuss possibilities for him within the organization after the campaign concludes, but the idea is to try and keep him involved because of his work ethic, soccer IQ, professionalism, and experience.
“The door will always be open for him to keep learning as a coach at this football club,” said Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville. “He is too important a character, he has had too much of an influence at this place for us to just say goodbye.”
Before that happens, though, Federico has one more game to play. He will have an opportunity in Inter Miami’s 2021 home finale against New York City FC to add to the 64 goals and 72 assists he has recorded in the 245 matches he has featured in during his MLS career.
The game will give him another chance to perform, another chance to dazzle, and another chance to do what he enjoys most.
“I would love to play my entire life,” said a tearful Higuain. “I do not think any player likes to go through this, but that is how it is. That is how soccer is, that is how life is, and everything must come to an end.
“I have to close this chapter to be able to continue to grow in another space in the world of soccer.”