Former Liverpool and Brazil midfielder Lucas Leiva has announced his retirement from football at the age of 36 following the diagnosis of a heart condition.
Back in December, it was announced that Lucas would be forced to take an indefinite break from football after a routine scan showed irregular cardiac rhythms.
The ex-Brazil international had ended his stint in Europe to return to boyhood club Gremio in the summer of 2022, but he was unable to take part in their pre-season training schedule due to the diagnosis.
Three months on from the discovery of his heart condition, Lucas has now tearfully hung up his boots, bidding an emotional farewell to Gremio during a press conference with club chiefs and doctors.
"First I would like to thank Grêmio for all the support in these three months. Today I am announcing my retirement. It's been a difficult period, I think this is the first time I've cried over this case," Leiva told the media, as quoted by Globo.
"But I can only thank you. I'm ending where I'd like, not the way I'd like. But I'm sure a new cycle will begin. I had a lot of hope that it could reverse, but it was not the case. My health comes first."
Doctor Marcio Dornelles was also present at the press conference, during which he confirmed that Lucas had been diagnosed with myocardium scarring, and the midfielder was advised to end his professional career after no changes were noted since the initial discovery of his condition.
"After evaluating this fibrosis and the risks we found for this pathology, we advised Lucas not to continue with high-performance activities because it could pose health risks, one of which could have arrhythmias, and serious health risks," Dornelles said.
Lucas enjoyed his first foray into football with Gremio, breaking into the senior team and earning a €10m (£8.8m) move to Liverpool in the summer of 2008, and he would become a fan favourite during a nine-year spell at Anfield.
The South American scored seven goals and provided 21 assists in 346 games for the Reds, winning one EFL Cup in the 2011-12 campaign before transferring to Lazio for €5.7m (£5m) in 2017.
Immediately establishing himself as a vital player for the Biancocelesti, Lucas scored four goals and provided 12 assists in 198 matches in Italy, winning one Coppa Italia and two Supercoppa Italiana crowns in the process.
Lucas returned to Gremio for the second half of the 2022 season, scoring three goals in 17 games as the Immortal Tricolor finished second in Serie B to earn promotion back to the top flight.
Gremio president Alberto Guerra left the door open for Lucas to return to the club in a non-playing capacity in the future, saying: "I wanted to congratulate you on the successful career in the clubs you passed, Gremio, Liverpool and Lazio.
"It's all very recent, I'm very happy that you're going to go on with a normal life. I want to say on behalf of all the Gremistas that few have represented us like you, that's why so many people are moved by this moment.
"I leave it here that we will give you time, if you want to rest, but if you want to help the club, let's talk. You are a great leader in the locker room that we all learn to respect."
A 24-cap Brazil international, Lucas represented his country at the 2008 Olympics and 2011 Copa America, although he never played in a World Cup for the Selecao.