Chester, Pa. (January 18, 2012) – Philadelphia Union and Veljko Paunović today announced the 34-year-old’s decision to retire from professional soccer due to personal reasons. The Serbian national’s 18-year career has spanned five countries, over 400 career games played and includes 86 goals scored.
“I want to thank the great Union family for welcoming me from the very first day that I came here,” said Paunović, who jokingly referred to himself as a Serb of Ben. “I've been so many places around the world and I have never felt as happy as I have been here. It is with great sadness that I announce my retirement from soccer due to family reasons but I will never forget the Union fans and the atmosphere at PPL Park every game. I have proudly worn the Union jersey wherever we have played throughout the country and I will always feel like a Union "soldier" wherever I am in the world.
"I also wanted to give a special thanks to my teammates, coaching staff, [CEO & Operating Partner] Nick Sakiewicz, [head of scouting and player development] Diego Gutierrez, and all the employees that work so hard for all of us. I especially would like to thank [team manager] Peter Nowak, who gave me this opportunity. His knowledge of soccer and great ability to lead the team have taught me so much. I am deeply grateful to everyone associated with the Philadelphia Union.”
Paunović signed with the Union in June of 2011 after three years away from soccer, netting three goals and notching three assists in 16 starts. He played in a total of 17 games, including 67 minutes in the Union’s second playoff game against the Houston Dynamo.
“We are all very grateful that Veljko joined our club and helped us in a very important stage of our season,” said Nowak. “He's been a top professional both on and off the field since he arrived and throughout his stay he has made the Union a better club. We understand that family is more important than anything and, as much as we are all sad to see him go and that we are losing such a great guy, we will always cherish his time with us. We wish Veljko and his family the very best.”
Paunović made his professional debut in 1994 with Partizan FK at the age of 17. Only a year later, Paunović made his move to Spain, where he represented seven clubs in his 13 years in the country, netting 73 goals in 341 matches. Starring the vast majority of the time with Atletico de Madrid (1996-98, 1999-00, 2001-02, 2003-05), Paunović also had stints with UD Marbella (1995-96), RCD Mallorca (1998-99, 2000-01, 2001-02), Real Oviedo S.A.D. (2000-01), CD Tenerife (2002-03), Getafe C.F.S.A.D. (2005-07) and Unión Deportiva Almería (2007-08).
Paunović was transferred to Bundesliga club Hannover 96 in 2005, and a year after returned to La Liga’s Getafe for two seasons. The striker was then sent out to FC Rubin Kazan in the Russian Premier League for a brief stint in 2007 before heading to his final Spanish destination, Almería.
He was called up to the Serbian National Team in 2002, debuting on February 13 during a 2-1 victory over Mexico. The striker’s second and last cap came in a friendly with Northern Ireland on April 28, 2004, where he scored the lone goal in a 1-1 draw.
WATCH: Paunović comes in at No. 5 in Philadelphia's top 10 goals of 2011