Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe retires from professional football after 22 years

Jermain Defoe playing for Sunderland in 2022
Defoe made his final appearance in Sunderland's 0-0 draw at Lincoln on Saturday. Credit: PA

Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe is hanging up his boots and retiring from professional football after 22 years.

The 39-year-old made the announcement on social media, thanking fans at each club he has played at.

The former England international scored 20 goals in 57 games for his country and travelled to the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012.

His career ended with a second spell at Sunderland AFC, with his final appearance coming as a substitute in Saturday's 0-0 draw at Lincoln.

In a statement, he said: "After 22 years in the game, I have decided to retire from professional football.

"It's been a really tough decision and one I have discussed with my family and those closest to me."

Defoe is famed for his dedication to his fans, most notably six-year-old Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery.

Bradley, from Blackhall Colliery, died of a rare childhood cancer in 2017.

On his return to the club last month (February 2022), £1 from every ticket for his homecoming match went to the Bradley Lowery Foundation.

Bradley Lowery with his "best friend" Jermain Defoe

On the pitch, Defoe is the ninth highest scorer in Premier League history, having netted 162 goals in 496 appearances.

Sunderland AFC isn't the only club Defoe returned to, with the forward also doing two spells at Tottenham and Bournemouth - as well as playing for West Ham, Portsmouth, Rangers and Major League Soccer side Toronto.

He continued in his post: "I made my professional debut at 17 years old in 1999, and I feel now is the right time to bow out".

"I have had an incredible journey, and have met some amazing people in the game.

"Football will always remain in my blood, and it gives me great pride and satisfaction to look back on the blessed career that I've had.

"I now look forward to spending some quality time with my friends and family before moving forward onto this next chapter in my career."

'Thanks for the memories'

Fans have been reacting to Defoe's announcement.

Some have criticised the club's decision to bring the striker back for a goalless two months, however, the overwhelming feeling amongst fans appears to be gratitude.

Facebook user Anita Armstrong commented: "I'm so glad he came. Gutted he didn't score for us but so grateful for what he did on AND off the pitch. What a legend."