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Former Japan midfielder Yuki Abe announced he would retire at the end of the season on Sunday, bringing down the curtain on a career that saw him win two Asian Champions League titles with Urawa Reds.

The 40-year-old Abe, who started his career in 1998 with JEF United Ichihara (now Chiba), was a key player as Japan made the knockout stage at the 2010 World Cup before spending a season-and-a-half at Leicester City, then in the English second-tier.

Abe is known for his quality set-piece deliveries and tactical awareness. His 589 appearances are the fourth-most in the J. League top-flight.

“Around the new year, I was thinking this season would turn out to be my final season, my ultimate challenge,” he told a news conference.

Abe’s versatility allowed him to play in defense, and he was treasured by former JEF and Japan manager Ivica Osim. After Osim stepped down due to health issues in late 2007, Takeshi Okada succeeded him with the national team.

Okada deployed Abe in the defensive midfield role when Japan reached a World Cup last 16 for the first time on foreign soil in South Africa in 2010.

Aside from his spell at Leicester, Abe has been with Urawa since 2007, winning the ACL in his first season and 2017.

Reds’ current manager, Ricardo Rodriguez, who named Abe captain this season, lauded his attitude and leadership.

Abe has three goals in 53 appearances for Japan.

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