aren Carney has today announced her retirement from football with immediate effect, bringing to an end a wonderful club and international career.

The Chelsea captain made the announcement on Friday morning ahead of England’s World Cup third-place play-off match against Sweden on Saturday.

She said: ‘I am incredibly proud to have achieved so much in the game but now is definitely the right time to retire. To have played for England was my ultimate ambition and to do so at four World Cups and represent Team GB at a home Olympics was beyond the wildest dreams I had when first starting out.

‘I would like to thank everyone who has made this all possible from my family and friends, everyone I have played for and worked with and, of course, the England squad and staff. I owe everything I have to all of them.’

Emma Hayes, Chelsea Women manager said: ‘It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Karen as a professional football player.

‘What Karen has achieved is nothing short of remarkable, from being a 17-year-old teenage sensation to becoming both a world-class player and person is something she can be immensely proud of.

‘She is one of a kind, her football intelligence has always been beyond her years and I have personally loved coaching every minute with her and will miss her presence on a regular basis considering we have worked together for so long.

‘Kaz will always be involved with Chelsea at some capacity and I am sure she will go on to even greater things in her next career but for now congratulations on such a wonderful, inspiring, long and successful career.’

Carney will go down in history as one of England’s all-time greats, an accolade underlined by being made an MBE in January 2017.

She has been a revelation since signing for Chelsea in 2016, winning the Player of the Year award in her first season, and despite injury was able to help us to a Super League and FA Cup Double during the 2017/18 campaign.

She was made Chelsea captain after Katie Chapman’s retirement a year ago, and was a pivotal figure that reached the UEFA Champions League semi-finals last season.

The Solihull-born playmaker started at her hometown side Birmingham City, before a highly successful spell with Arsenal. She spent time in the United States with Chicago Red Stars before returning to Birmingham, and eventually the Blues.

On the international stage, she won a bronze medal at the 2015 World Cup in Canada and helped Phil Neville’s squad to win the SheBelieves Cup in the United States earlier this year. Overall, she has won 143 caps and scored 32 goals – having made a goalscoring debut in a 4-1 defeat of Italy in 2005.

Neville said: ‘Karen deserves all the plaudits that will come her way. It has been a privilege to work with her over the past 18 months but even more special has been the chance to get to know someone who is an incredible person and a special team-mate. While she will not want a fuss, Karen is someone who deserves total recognition and respect as a true legend of the game.’

Baroness Sue Campbell, director of women’s football at The FA, added: ‘Karen will be regarded as one of English football’s great names. Her humility despite all she has achieved on the world stage is one of many endearing qualities. She has played a huge part in the Lionesses’ incredible progress on the pitch and the inspirational impact the squad has had off it.

‘I know Karen will be much missed by everyone at Chelsea and England – but I am certain she will stay in the game as she has so much to offer. She will always be welcome at Wembley and St George’s Park and it is right and proper that The FA mark Karen’s wonderful career in a fitting way in the months to come. We are all so very proud of her.’