South Shields captain and Sunderland and Boro legend Julio Arca retires from football
South Shields captain Julio Arca has retired from football in a move that will stun the club's fans.
The decision brings an end to the 37-year-old's illustrious career, which included spells at Sunderland and Middlesbrough before a trophy-laden three years with South Shields.
Arca has retired in order to spend more time with his young family, as the travel commitments are becoming more challenging with Shields playing in the Evo-Stik Premier Division.
The club do remain in discussions with him as to a potential non-playing role, however, especially after the impact he has had at Mariners Park.
Club chairman Geoff Thompson said: "Julio has been an inspirational figure since joining the club almost three years ago.
"He has played a key role in transforming the club's fortunes and provided some unforgettable moments, and we cannot thank him enough for his incredible efforts.
"Everyone at the club hoped he would be able to continue his playing career for one more year, but we are fully respectful of his decision, which has been made for family reasons.
"He ends his playing days having won a league title in each of his three seasons here, and departs with his powers undimmed.
"He leaves while at the top having just won a league title as captain, which not many are fortunate enough to say."
Arca, who made more than 150 appearances for Sunderland in a six-year spell after moving from Argentina, captained Shields to the FA Vase win at Wembley last year, the first time he had played at the famous stadium in his prestigious career.
After leaving Sunderland, Arca joined Middlesbrough in 2006 and played more than 160 times for them, and was named their Player of the Year in 2011.
He was forced to retire from professional football in 2013 with a foot injury, but after a couple of years away from the game, returned to the game, first appearing for Sunderland pub side Willow Pond before then-Shields boss Jon King persuaded him to join the Mariners in September 2015.
"We are in discussions with Julio as to a future role and very much hope we can find a resolution so that he can continue to benefit the club with his expertise in an off the field capacity.
"It goes without saying that he and his family will always be welcome at Mariners Park."
He won three league titles, three promotions and six trophies during his time with the club.