By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Harry Kewell, Australia's first world-class footballer, will call time on his 18-year career at the end of the A-League season next month, the 35-year-old said on Wednesday.
The Sydney-born former Leeds United, Liverpool and Galatasaray forward signed a one-year deal with Melbourne Heart in a bid to play in a third World Cup finals, but has spent much of the 2013-14 season sidelined by injury.
"It's been a pleasure to finish my career at Heart," he told a news conference in Melbourne.
"My last game will be on the 12th of April at AAMI Park against my home town, Western Sydney Wanderers."
Voted Australia's greatest ever footballer by fans in 2012, Kewell won 56 caps and scored 17 goals for his country.
He scored 45 goals in a glittering 181-game stint with Leeds, his trademark dashes down the left wing and combination with compatriot striker Mark Viduka thrilling home fans.
Leeds' financial implosion saw Kewell cross to Premier League heavyweights Liverpool in 2003, but a succession of serious injuries left the player and fans frustrated.
He shared in Liverpool's 2004-05 Champions League triumph, lasting 23 minutes before coming off injured after being named as a surprise starter in the final victory over AC Milan in Istanbul.
His role in the penalty shoot-out victory over West Ham to seal the FA Cup the following year was similarly ill-fated, another injury seeing him substituted after halftime.
Kewell, nonetheless, remained revered in Australia, helping the Socceroos qualify for the 2006 World Cup finals to break a 32-year drought since their maiden appearance.
He shrugged off injury to play a decisive role in Germany, scoring an equalizer against Croatia that put the Socceroos into the knock-out round of 16 where they were beaten by eventual champions Italy.
After parting ways with Liverpool in 2008, Kewell revived his career with a successful three-year stint with Turkish giants Galatasaray, and played another important role in securing Australia a second World Cup appearance.
He endured a torrid tournament in South Africa, however, sent off for a deliberate handball in a group match against Ghana as the Socceroos crashed out.
Kewell returned home in 2012 to play with Melbourne Victory in a huge boost for Australia's fledgling A-League competition, but left the club after a season for family reasons.
He played a telling role in the Socceroos' march to the final of the 2011 Asian Cup, but has been largely overlooked in recent years, winning his final cap under Holger Osieck in 2012.
His season as Heart captain has been emblematic of his career, brief flashes of brilliance on the pitch tempered by long spells injured on the sidelines.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)