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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Japan legend Nakata retires at 29
Hidetoshi Nakata
Nakata enjoyed an illustrious career in the Italian league
Japan midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata has announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 29.

Nakata, who spent last season on loan at Bolton, played his last game at the World Cup as Japan bowed out at the group stage after losing 4-1 to Brazil.

"I decided half a year ago that I would retire after the World Cup in Germany," Nakata told his official website.

"I will never again stand on the pitch as a professional player. But I won't stop playing the game."

Nakata joined Bolton in August and scored one goal in 21 league appearances.

Bolton boss Sam Allardyce paid tribute to Nakata but said he was not shocked at the midfielder's decision to retire at such a young age.

He will be remembered as the catalyst of Asian and Japanese football

Sam Allardyce

"The news isn't a surprise as far as I am concerned," he said. "Hide has had the time to think about his future and has decided the best outcome is to hang up his boots.

"He's had a glittering career and has achieved plenty in the domestic game.

"He will be remembered as the catalyst of Asian and Japanese football, and also the first Japanese export to European football.

"It was a privilege to work with him last season, and I'd like to wish him well.

"He will always be welcome as a guest at this football club in the future."

Nakata spent seven years in Italy's Serie A, where he played with Roma, Parma, Bologna and Fiorentina.

In 2005 he was honoured with one of Italy's highest awards - Knight of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity - for helping to promote Italy's image overseas.

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