National Writer: Charles Boehm

MLS great Federico Higuain to retire after 2021 season: "Everything has an end"

One of the great playmakers in modern MLS history called time on a glittering 18-year professional career Friday, as Federico Higuain announced his retirement ahead of Inter Miami CF’s final home game of the season, Saturday’s visit from New York City FC (1:30 pm ET | Univision, TUDN, Twitter).

“I would love to play for my entire life,” said the Argentine, fighting back tears during an emotional press conference in which his IMCF teammates filed into the room to salute him with multiple ovations. “But this is how football is, this is how life is. Everything has an end.

“There is nothing left but to thank all the clubs that gave me the opportunity to develop as a footballer, all the people I worked with, all those who have helped me, those who have taught me to think about this game fundamentally,” Higuain continued, adding that he hopes to continue his soccer career as a coach or team staffer with Miami or another club in MLS he’s made his home over the past decade.

“I feel part of it and in the next chapter in my life, I hope I can continue to be linked to it.”

Higuain, who turned 37 on Monday, arrived on these shores in July 2012 when he signed with the Columbus Crew from Club Atlético Colón as the third Designated Player in club history, via what was at the time their largest-ever transfer fee. He won the MLS Newcomer of the Year award that season, flashing the skill, movement and vision of a classic No. 10.

Over eight years in Ohio Higuain became a club icon, racking up 55 goals and 63 assists in 193 regular-season games and leading the Crew to four Audi MLS Cup Playoffs appearances, including a run to the 2015 MLS Cup final.

A torn ACL in May 2019 prompted Columbus to bid farewell to him, at least in playing terms, at that season’s end, offering him a coaching or front-office role. Higuain wasn’t done on the pitch, however, and he signed with D.C. United as a player/coach the following spring.

He turned out to be one of the few highlights of the Black-and-Red’s rough 2020, scoring two equalizing goals at the MLS is Back Tournament before an October trade to Miami to join his younger brother Gonzalo at the expansion side, which he called on Friday “a new possibility to enjoy the last year of doing what I love the most in my life, which is to play soccer.”

Even as a veteran role player with only six starts among his 28 total IMCF appearances, Federico continued to perform. With 3g/4a this season, he ranks joint-third on both the scoring and assists charts for Miami, providing a valuable attacking punch off the bench. His impact on his teammates and the entire organization runs far deeper, though, as Friday’s moving tribute displays.

“It's very rarely in your coaching career where you get special moments like this for special people,” said head coach Phil Neville. “When the group knew that this was going to be his last game tomorrow, every single player, every single staff member came over here to do something special for him. And I think that that is a massive sign.

“When he scores a goal, every single player is first to congratulate him. When they want advice, every single player goes to Federico. So when Federico sits back in his armchair and thinks about things, about what he achieved in his career, I think what he should think about is the people that he's influenced,” Neville added, noting that Federico will captain the Herons on Saturday.

“There's only probably two or three players in this football club that the whole team would come over here for and shout ‘one more year,’ give him a hug, cry emotionally. And that shows the testament of the man.”