England and Manchester City goalkeeper Karen Bardsley will retire at the end of the season after a 13-year career at the top of women’s football.
The 37-year-old has 81 England caps, while winning eight major trophies with City, including her first Women’s Super League title.
However, Bardsley has struggled to gain playing time. since he injured his hamstring at the 2019 World Cup.
“Ultimately, I want people to know that I always gave my best,” he said.
Bardsley’s last league game for City was against Aston Villa in January 2021.
“When your body doesn’t match what your mind wants to do, it’s frustrating,” he told BBC Sport.
“The risk outweighed the rewards in terms of life after football. If I had to go through another surgery like the ones I’ve been through, I don’t think it would be good for me, physically or psychologically.”
“[Retirement] it was hard to accept. If she had had this conversation a few years ago, she would be crying, unable to utter a word.
“I always tried to be the best leader and goalkeeper I could be.”
Bardsley played in three World Cups and two European Championships for England, win the SheBelieves Cup in 2019.
He also played in the 2012 London Olympics with Team GB, who lost 2-0 in the quarterfinals to Canada.
Bardsley has been at Manchester City since 2014, winning a Women’s Super League title in 2016, three FA Cups and four League Cups.
“One of the most significant experiences of my life was win the League Cup final in my first season with Manchester City,” he said.
“We were a group of heterogeneous girls who got together. Nobody expected anything from us.
“We all came together as a group and I just remember that first goal coming on, a header from Izzy Christiansen, I just couldn’t believe it was happening.
“It cemented everything we wanted to see happen. It was a very good start to the club’s history.”
‘We haven’t always had the respect we deserve’
The American-born goalkeeper also said she was proud to be part of an England team to “break down some historic barriers”, including reach the semi-final of the World Cup in 2019.
“Ultimately, it’s an honor to be part of a community of incredibly talented female athletes who have persevered through situations where they really haven’t been given the respect they deserve,” added Bardsley.
“We’ve built and built, and now we’re in a place where young girls can join a grassroots football club and aspire to be a Lioness or a professional footballer.”
Bardsley began his career in 2009 with US side Sky Blue FC, before spending time in Sweden with Linkopings. She then moved to the WSL Lincoln City Ladies side, now Notts County, in 2013 before switching to City.
After spending the last season on loan at US side OL Reign, signed a one-year contract extension with City in July.
Bardsley is already looking to the next stage of her career and wants to use her experience to help increase girls’ participation in football and build on the legacy of this summer’s European Championship in England.
She added: “What really excites me, what really drives me, is giving people the best possible opportunity to develop their potential, whether it’s in football or in another environment.
“I’m really looking forward to giving back to football and the goalkeeping community in particular. There are a lot of things I would do differently if I were a young goalkeeper, with the knowledge that I have now.”