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‘The Beast’ Julio Baptista announces his retirement from football

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Former Real Madrid forward Julio Baptista has hung up his boots at the age of 37 to “begin a new life” after his playing career.

Upon coming through the youth ranks at Sao Paulo, Baptista first made his mark in Europe at Spanish side Sevilla in 2003. He ended up scoring 43 goals in 73 matches during a two-year stay before Real and Arsenal came calling.

Following a squabble for his services, Los Blancos signed Baptista in 2005 for €20m along with future captain Sergio Ramos from Sevilla.

However, the former Brazil international’s time at the Santiago Bernabeu proved to be a disappointment. Thus, he was loaned out to Arsenal in 2006.

Despite struggling to adapt to the Premier League, Baptista starred for Arsenal in the League Cup and memorably scored four times in a thrilling 6-3 quarter-final win at Liverpool.

The 37-year-old then returned to Real and made a more positive impact to help the club win the 2007/08 La Liga title. He later had spells with AS Roma and Malaga before returning to Brazil in 2013 at Cruzeiro.

Further stints with MLS side Orlando City and Romanian club CFR Cluj followed.

And now Baptista (a.k.a. “The Beast”) has announced his retirement after thrilling fans with his spectacular goals down the years.

“After more than 20 years in the football elite, it is time to step aside and announce that I have decided to end my career as a player,” he wrote on Twitter.

“I begin a new life, and I want to show my gratitude to all those who have made it possible for me to fulfil my dream. Thank you all.”

Baptista scored a total of 112 goals in 358 club career matches. He also represented Brazil at international level 47 times and chipped in a further seven goals.

The former Real star tasted league glory in his homeland, Spain and in Romania.

The two-time Copa America winner told AS: “I consider myself to be very fortunate. I achieved my childhood dream – to play football for some of the top clubs and represent Brazil at the World Cup finals. I’m very, very happy I did all that”