Karen Carney is heading into retirement feeling content there is nothing more she could have given during her glittering career.
The 31-year-old England midfielder announced on Friday that she will retire following Saturday’s World Cup third place play-off against Sweden in Nice, in which she is set to win a 144th cap.
Carney, who is at her fourth World Cup and represented Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympics, is second on England’s all-time appearances list and has scored 32 international goals.
Speaking at a pre-match press conference at the Allianz Riviera, the Chelsea player said: “I’ve probably known for quite a while now. My mind still wants to do everything, but I don’t think my body can any more.
“My mind would want to continue until I was 100, but at some point your body tells you enough is enough, and I think I’ve got to that point.
“I remember reading a quote from (former Germany forward) Birgit Prinz, one of the greatest female players ever – she said you keep going until you’ve got nothing else more in the tank, and I don’t think I have any more.
“So that’s why I’m confident and I know it’s the right decision for me, because I feel I’ve given my heart and my soul for the clubs I’ve played for and especially my country. I don’t think there’s anything more I could physically or mentally give and I don’t have any regrets with how that has happened.
“I think probably a career highlight would be telling my mum when I was 11 that I would play for England and then at 17 doing it.”
Carney’s international debut came in 2005. She subsequently played that summer at the European Championships hosted by England, something else she spoke about on Friday as having been a highlight.
“It was my first tournament, I was literally the water girl, nobody knew who I was,” she said.
— Lionesses (@Lionesses) July 5, 2019
“I’m still the water girl now! We just went and had fun and I think that was a big moment for women’s football.”
Carney added: “I think the thing I will miss most is singing the anthem – that will be tough. And just kicking a ball, and being like a little kid.”
Asked where she thought she would be without football, she said: “My first job was at Sainsbury’s. My mum worked there and I was a bag-packer. I probably would have worked my way up the ladder there.
“I wasn’t very good at school. I wouldn’t have gone to university or anything like that. I’m so grateful to football in so many ways and I wouldn’t change anything.”
Carney said that while it was something she, England manager Phil Neville and Chelsea boss Emma Hayes had known about for a few months, she only informed her team-mates about her decision to retire on Friday morning.
Regarding her future, she said: “I don’t really know what I want to do. There is an opportunity within the media for me. I would like to give back to football in some capacity.
“All I do know is I’m going to spend time with my family because it feels for a long time I haven’t been able to.”
The Football Association plans to honour Carney’s career at a future international.
Neville on Friday described the former Arsenal, Birmingham and Chicago Red Stars player as “unbelievably driven on and off the pitch.”
And he said: “143 caps for England, 144 at some point tomorrow. It deserves the utmost respect.
“We at the FA have been speaking for a long time about how we recognise the legends of our game and maybe in the past we haven’t done that.
“But I think over the last two or three years on both the men’s and women’s side, I think we’ve now started to recognise that things like this need to be celebrated and recognised.
“I feel incredibly honoured that I, in a short space of time, got to know one of our greatest players, and more importantly, what an amazing person. That makes me a lucky manager.”
— England (@England) July 5, 2019
Carney helped England claim bronze at the 2015 World Cup, and win the four-team SheBelieves Cup for the first time earlier this year.
Baroness Sue Campbell, the FA’s women’s director, said: “Karen will be regarded as one of English football’s great names. I’m certain she’ll stay in the game as she has so much to offer.
“She’ll always be welcome at Wembley and St George’s Park and it’s right and proper that we mark Karen’s wonderful career in a fitting way in the months to come. We’re all so very proud of her.”