Paul Stalteri Retires from Professional Soccer

Paul Stalteri captains Canada at BMO Field - by Jason Gemnich

Canada's most capped male player has officially decided to call it a career taking with him over a decade of top flight European experience and 84 Canadian caps.

Paul Stalteri may well go down as one of the best Canadian players of all-time. He may have been left out of the CSA's All-Time XI for the men's team in favour of a back-line consisting of Robert Iarusci, Randy Samuel, Jason DeVos, and Bruce Wilson (none of which are right-backs!) but his legacy with Canada is clear.

With his retirement being made official on Wednesday afternoon, Stalteri goes into the history books as the most capped Canadian international of all time. He made 84 total appearances for his country and on 30 of those occasions he led the team out and wore the captain's arm band.

Serving as both a right back and a midfielder Stalteri found success for both club and country. His resume with Canada is highlighted by being part of the team that won the Gold Cup back in 2000. He was also selected the Canadian Male Player of the Year on two occasions taking home the award for his performances in 2001 and 2004.

There is no doubt that the man referred to as 'diesel' had a very successful career for Canada and was an integral part of the little success that the program has tasted in recent years. Sadly though, it is injuries that have forced the 35 year old Etobicoke native to hang up his boots.

Stalteri was forced to have two operations in recent years and has been on the sidelines trying to make a comeback for the past two years. His final game for Canada came back on October 8th, 2010 when the then 32 year old Stalteri went the full 90 minutes in a 2-2 draw against Ukraine in a friendly match.

The other end of his career for Canada came when a 19 year old Stalteri earned his first cap. The teenager came on to play the second half of a 1-0 defeat in a friendly against Iran on August 17, 1997, the same game Jason De Vos made his debut. He made his debut for the senior team after a very successful career for Canada at the youth levels which included competing in World Cups at both the under 17 and under 20 levels. He was also a member of the Canadian team that won the 1996 CONCACAF U20 Championship thanks to a 2-0 win over the United States in the final.

If Stalteri's career with Canada was good his club career was great. He reached height in the European game that very few other Canadians have achieved and remains the only Canadian player who can boast owning a Bundesliga winners medal.

His career got off to a modest start as he signed his first professional deal with the Toronto Lynx but an impressive debut season saw him catch the eye of Werder Bremen who purchased the defender from the Toronto club. It took him some time to work his way up from Bremen's reserve side but once he broke into the first team he quickly became a regular racking up over 150 appearances for the club.

His best year with Bremen came in 2003/2004 when he was a key member of their double winning side as the club brought home the Bundesliga title along with Germany’s top domestic cup, the DFB-Pokal Cup. A year later he would use all that success to seal a move to Tottenham Hotspur.

He joined Spurs in 2005 and was a regular in their starting lineup during his first season with the club helping them to a strong league finish that saw them just miss out on a Champions League place. In the following years though the club would bring in other players and Stalteri found his minutes limited.

Spurs' new additions made Stalteri surplus to their needs and he was eventually sent out on loan to Fulham in 2008. He had some success at Craven Cottage but at the end of his loan spell with the club he returned to Tottenham where his contract was terminated by mutual consent.

Stalteri would end his career back in Germany as he joined fellow Canadian Rob Friend at Borussia Mönchengladbach. He would have one decent season with them in 2009 but then the injuries began to slow his career down.

Now, nearly 16 years after making his professional debut for the Toronto Lynx, Paul Stalteri is calling it a career. Taking with him over 200 appearances in two of Europe's top leagues, 84 caps for Canada, and some memorable goals along the way.

When asked about his legacy Stalteri said it best when he remarked, "It will be up to the fans to decide how I am remembered." I can only speak for myself but as someone who watched a lot of Premiership games in the mid-2000's Stalteri is someone I will remember very fondly as he was the one Canadian player that I got to watch going up against some of the best players in the World.

What will be your lasting impression of Paul Stalteri? Should he go down as one of the Canadian greats?

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