BERNE, May 30 (Reuters) - Former Switzerland striker Johan Vonlanthen, the youngest player to score a goal at the European Championship, has retired at the age of 26, he told the Swiss daily Blick on Wednesday.
The Colombian-born player, whose career failed to take off after he scored against France at Euro 2004 at the age of 18, said he could not face the prospect of undergoing a knee operation.
“Football does not mean the same to me know as it did before,” he said.
Vonlanthen’s story is typical of many players from smaller football countries who leave home at an early age, fail to settle at new clubs and see their careers go off the rails.
Vonlanthen, son of a Colombian father and Swiss mother, was raised at Young Boys Berne where he made his debut at the end age of 16.
He left Young Boys in 2003 and joined PSV Eindhoven but he had loan spells at Brescia, in Italy, and Breda before leaving the Dutch club in 2006.
After being ruled out of the 2006 World Cup with a hamstring injury, Vonlanthen joined Austrian side Salzburg for three years before returning to Switzerland to play for FC Zurich.
Last year, he went back to the country of his birth to play for Itagui in the top flight of Colombian football.
Vonlanthen made 40 appearances for Switzerland and scored seven goals. (Reporting by Brian Homewood; Editing by Ed Osmond)