Northern Ireland great and former Kerala captain Aaron Hughes retires

The most capped outfield player in Northern Ireland’s history and a former Kerala Blasters captain, Aaron Hughes called quits on his illustrious playing career which stretched over 22 years on Wednesday. He made this announcement after his country's 1-0 win over Belarus in the Euro 2020 qualifiers.

With a total of 112 international caps under his name, the 39-year-old has captained his nation in 48 matches over the years. After having played for the U16, U18 and the ‘B’ level sides, he eventually made his international debut in March 1998 against Slovakia. Since then to now, for a period of 21 years, he has been a solid part of Northern Irish football, leading from the front and guiding the next generation of players.

A robust defender who is never shy to make a tackle or two, Hughes has played for English clubs like Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Fulham, Queens Park Rangers and Brighton & Hove Albion in both the Premier League and the Championship. After a glittering career in Europe and a short stint in the A-League, Hughes came to India to ply his trade for the two-time runners up as their marquee signing in 2016.

Known as a cultured defender, he added enough composure to the Kerala backline and guided them to the final, which they eventually lost to their old foes ATK (then Atletico de Kolkata). In the course of the season, he made 11 appearances and alongwith making 55 clearances, 9 interceptions, 15 blocks and 5 tackles, he also slotted home a goal.

Alongside all such honours, he also holds the coveted distinction of not getting sent off in any of his 455 Premier League appearances, the second-most in the league’s history, behind only the legendary Ryan Giggs of Manchester United.

As we bid him adieu from the beautiful game, take a look at some of his best moments in the Kerala yellow from the 2016 season:

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