Terry says his ‘heart will always belong to Chelsea’ as he announces retirement

John Terry remains an icon at Chelsea. [Picture: Nck Potts/PA Wire]

Chelsea legend John Terry has announced his retirement from playing.

The former Blues and England captain, who played for his country 78 times, has hung up his boots at the age of 37 and is understood to be primed for a quick return to Aston Villa.

Announcing his retirement, Terry declared that his “heart will always belong to Chelsea” – the club where he spent almost his entire career, winning five Premier League titles, five FA Cups and three League Cups.

He also picked up Champions League and Europa League winners’ medals but did not play in the finals.

He made 717 appearances for Chelsea, who paid tribute to their former skipper on Twitter, calling his “one of the finest careers of any Englishman in the history of the game.”

Terry is poised to become Thierry Henry’s assistant at Villa, where Terry spent last season after leaving Stamford Bridge.

Former Arsenal star Henry is in pole position to be named as manager of the Championship club following their recent sacking of Steve Bruce.

Terry wrote on Instagram: “After 23 incredible years as a footballer, I have decided now is the right time to retire from playing. I have many people to thank.

“My wife Toni and my two children, Georgie and Summer, for being my rocks throughout my career – I couldn’t have done it without you, I love you with all my heart.

“I thank my parents, Sue and Ted, for the sacrifices they made for me as a boy, giving me the best opportunity to fulfil my dream and become a professional footballer.

“My brother, Paul, for his help and advice throughout my career – and all my family and friends for their great support.

“As a 14-year-old, I made my best and biggest decision: to sign for Chelsea Football Club. Words will never be enough to show how much everyone at the club means to me, in particular the fans.

“Right from the outset they have given me total support, on and off the pitch, and I have a tremendous bond with them.

“We achieved so many great memories together and I couldn’t have succeeded without you. To me, you are the best fans in the world. I hope I have done you all proud wearing the shirt and the armband.

“My club career and heart will always belong to Chelsea, but I am grateful for my loan spell at Nottingham Forest in 1999, which was invaluable for my development as a young player.

“And I also want to say a huge thank you to Aston Villa for giving me the opportunity to play at such a big club and captain it throughout the 2017-18 season. It was a privilege to represent such a renowned football club with great fans.

“I look forward to the next chapter in my life and the challenges ahead.”

Terry turned down a move to Spartak Moscow last month, despite having a medical, saying it was not the right option for his family.

His final game as a professional was Villa’s 1-0 Championship play-off final defeat against Fulham at Wembley in May.