Football: Papin announces end to glittering career

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The Independent Online
JEAN-PIERRE PAPIN, one of France's greatest strikers, ended his playing career yesterday. "I am going to grant myself a long break devoted to my family, especially my daughter Emily, who is disabled," Papin said.

The 35 year old, who scored 326 goals in 584 matches for eight clubs and the French na-tional team, is retiring completely from playing but will coach the amateur side of Arcachon, in south-west France.

In 54 matches for France, including 11 as captain, Papin scored 30 goals - a record bettered only by Michel Platini - and played in the 1986 World Cup finals and 1992 European Championship. He made his last appearance for France in 1995.

Papin shot to fame in 1986 after signing for Marseilles, where he scored 181 goals in 279 games, won four championship medals and was leading French goalscorer for five seasons. His goals helped Marseilles reach the 1991 European Cup final, in which they were beaten on penalties by Red Star Belgrade in Bari. "If I had one regret, it would be that I never won the European Cup with Marseilles. I have replayed that final in Bari so many times," Papin told the French sports daily L'Equipe.

After transferring to Milan in 1992, Papin won a European Cup medal in 1994, though he did not play in the final against Barcelona. Papin also played for Bayern Munich, helping the German club win the Uefa Cup in 1996, before returning to France. After a spell at Bordeaux, he moved to the French Second Division club Guingamp in pre-season, but struggled to hold down a place.

Papin, who also had spells with Vichy, Valenciennes and Bruges, said that he is now a different person from the "temperamental, naive and inexperienced," youngster who signed for Marseilles.

"I thought that I knew a lot of things about which I knew nothing," he said. "I have changed a lot, that is clear. I have been divorced, had setbacks, injuries and put confidence in people that I later regretted. But what changed me above all was Emily. She changed the centre of gravity of my life away from soccer."

In Tirana, special police units were guarding the stadium in which Albania are scheduled to play Greece tonight in the first international to take place in the country since 1996 when Armenia were the visitors.

"Units have been posted in and around the stadium since Sunday," Artan Bizhga, the Interior Ministry spokesman, said yesterday.