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Blanc to quit at end of season

Tuesday 22nd January 2002

French defender Laurent Blanc has confirmed he will retire when his short-term deal with Manchester United runs out at the end of the season. "This time arrives for us all," said the 36-year-old.

The legendary former international has pledged, however, to enjoy every last moment of his playing career.

"What you have to do above all is take a maximum of pleasure and, even if this is certainly my last season, I'm trying to take as much pleasure from my football as possible," he said.

Blanc, who moved to Old Trafford from Internazionale earlier this season on a free transfer after Jaap Stam was surprisingly sold to Lazio, has borne the brunt of criticism for United's poor defensive record this season.

Yet long-time admirer Sir Alex Ferguson has constantly refused to blame the Frenchman for his side's defensive shortcomings.

The United manager said recently: "I should have got him five years ago. They will all say he's slow and all the rest of it, but there is not one goal he has been responsible for this season."

And Blanc, despite the media flak, has no regrets about ending his career with United. "I'm still enjoying my football, but eventually time catches up with you and you have to think about the end of your career,'' he said.

Blanc played 97 times for France, scoring 16 goals, before retiring from the international game after helping his country to European Championship success in 2000.

He was also an integral part of the World Cup triumph two years earlier, though he had to sit out the final after being red-carded in the semi-final following a controversial incident with Croatia's Slaven Bilic.

The President, as he is known, was an inspirational figure for the French during the tournament and would famously kiss Fabien Barthez's bald head before each game.

His club career, which began at Montpellier, took him to Napoli, Nimes, Saint-Etienne, Auxerre – where he won the French double – Barcelona, Marseille and Inter.

Ferguson has no doubt about the value of all that experience.

"He talks such great sense about the game and I think the players he is playing with today will look back years from now and say 'He was a great player. He taught us this, he taught us that and we learned from him.'

"The French players all looked up to him as the man and it's just unfortunate that he is getting the criticism that he is. He's not the quickest. He never was the quickest, but that is never going to be accepted," he said.
 

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Great player, and is a legend of soccer, right up there with Beckenbauer, Sammer and Baresi. And probably better than the last two.
 

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I will always remember the way Blanc used to bring the ball out of the defense!

He was so elegant! Probably one of the best defender to pass the ball and to start the play from the defense.

Great spirit! Great leadership!

Mr Blanc I am proud you had Inter's shirt!

;)
 
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