New Zealand Football chairman Frank van Hattum hails Ryan Nelsen

Van Hattum hails Nelsen
© PA Photos
Frank van Hattum describes Ryan Nelsen as one of New Zealand's greatest footballers of all time.

New Zealand Football chairman Frank van Hattum has hailed the retiring Ryan Nelsen as one of the country's "all-time greats".

The 35-year-old defender, who will quit playing for Queens Park Rangers to join MLS club Toronto FC as their manager on February 1, featured in 49 international matches for the All Whites.

"Like many of sports greats, he has gone out on his own terms," Van Hattum told reporters. "His contribution to New Zealand Football has been significant as an inspirational leader in every respect. Without doubt he is one of our all-time greats.

"The fairytale would have been for the All Whites to qualify for the World Cup in Brazil with Ryan at the helm, but this is the reality of professional football.

"These opportunities don't come around too often - it's an exciting chance for him to move into the next phase of his career, and that opportunity is now."

Nelson has been playing in England since 2005.

QPR's Ryan Nelson celebrates his equaliser against Wigan on December 8, 2012
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