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By ESPN Staff

Shearer, 'enduring image of soccer,' retires

NEWCASTLE, England -- Alan Shearer's right arm-raised goal celebration has been an enduring image of English soccer for the past 18 years.

A man who rose from a modest background to become England captain and the world's most expensive soccer player, Shearer was a classic center forward.

The 35-year-old had a rocket shot, was strong in the air and there are few center backs in the Premier League who have not felt the force of his elbows.

Shearer won a league title with Blackburn Rovers but could have won many more trophies if he had not turned down Manchester United to join Newcastle United, his beloved hometown team.

He signed for Newcastle for a then-world record fee of 15 million pounds ($26.69 million) in 1996, declaring: "Not bad for a sheetmetal worker's son from Gosforth."

Shearer had been allowed to leave Tyneside as a child after being spotted playing for the city's boys' team, and he began his career on the south coast with Southampton.

He scored a hat-trick on his first Southampton start against Arsenal in April 1988, the youngest player to achieve that feat in the top flight of English soccer, at the age of 17 years and 240 days.

Shearer earned a call-up to the England under-21 side in 1991 and scored 13 goals in 11 appearances at that level before earning his first full cap in February 1992.

He scored on his debut in a 2-0 win over France at Wembley, and, as his reputation blossomed, attracted interest from all the top English clubs.

He chose Blackburn in a 3.6 million pounds British record deal in July 1992 after scoring 43 goals in 158 games for Southampton.

Under the guidance of manager Kenny Dalglish, and in an 'SAS' strike partnership with Chris Sutton, Shearer's 34 goals fired Blackburn to the Premier League title in 1995.

That championship medal remained his only major honor.

He did, however, play for his country 63 times, scoring 30 goals including five at Euro 96 when Terry Venables's team reached the semi-finals before going out on penalties to eventual winners Germany.

After the tournament in England, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson was desperate to sign Shearer, but Newcastle smashed the world transfer record to recruit him from Blackburn where he had notched 130 goals in 171 games.

Many fans believed he would be the final piece in Kevin Keegan's jigsaw following their narrow failure to win the Premier League the previous season.

Newcastle had to settle for second place in Shearer's first season and that was as close as the striker got to doubling his collection of medals.

A serious knee injury put him out for five months in his second season, and Newcastle have rarely threatened to win the title since. They also suffered dismal defeats in FA Cup finals against Arsenal and Manchester United in 1998 and 1999.

Shearer retired from internationals after Euro 2000 to concentrate on club soccer but his final six years in the black and white shirt yielded no medals.

He continued to score goals regularly and was persuaded to postpone his retirement for one last season.

In February, Shearer passed the Newcastle record of Jackie Milburn with his 201st goal against Portsmouth.

His farewell was ruined by a knee ligament injury sustained at Sunderland on Monday which put him out for the remainder of the season.

Typically he signed off with a goal in a 4-1 victory over Newcastle's archrivals, which took his tally at the club to 206.

The father of three will now step away from full-time soccer. He plans to spend more time with his family, play more golf and pursue a career in the media which will take him to the World Cup in Germany.

The romantics among Newcastle's fans believe it is only a matter of time before he manages his hometown club.

For now, though, he will be remembered as one of the greatest goal-scorers in British soccer history.