Sydney: Former Italy midfielder Alessandro Diamanti has drawn down the curtain on a career that took him through 15 clubs on three continents over 23 seasons, retiring as "the happiest man in the world" after his final A-League match for Western United.
The charismatic Italian, who scored the winning penalty when Italy knocked England out of the quarter-finals in a shootout at Euro 2012, played his final match in front of 5,000 fans in Perth on Saturday night as United edged the home side 2-1.
A few days short of his 40th birthday, Diamanti was embraced by his team mates and applauded by both sets of fans as he walked off the pitch after being substituted in the 64th minute. "Honestly, I'm the happiest man in the world at the moment," Diamanti said. "The last week I got a lot of love, from everyone. Italy, here, every part of the world. I'm just happy. "I just play football, it's fun this game. Like I said to my team mates, 23 years flew by for me so just enjoy every moment." A skilful and creative attacking midfielder, Diamanti played for much higher profile teams than Western United with spells at Bologna, West Ham United and Guangzhou Evergrande as well as in 17 internationals for Italy.
While always a popular player, it is unlikely that he will be remembered as fondly anywhere else as he will be at the A-League expansion team on the outer fringes of Melbourne.
He joined the club on a one-year deal as a marquee player for their inaugural season in 2019 and by the end of the campaign had won the Johnny Warren Medal as the best player in the A-League.
Diamanti stuck around throughout the grim years of the COVID pandemic, when Melbourne endured one of the world's toughest and longest lockdowns and players had to make late night runs for the state border to keep the A-League going.
Although a knee injury deprived him of playing much of a role on the pitch last season, his leadership helped Western United to the A-League title with a shock victory over Melbourne City in the championship final.
This season's title defence has been a disappointment and Saturday's match against Perth Glory was a dead rubber with both clubs out of the running for the playoffs, which start next week. "The last four years was phenomenal," Diamanti added. "I love Australia, I love A-League, I love staying in this country and I may stay. I'm excited to start my new chapter."