Toronto FC's most beloved player is calling it quits.
Danny Dichio officially announced his retirement at a press conference in Toronto on Wednesday and will remain on as a club ambassador while transitioning into the TFC coaching ranks.
"I think it's come at the right time," said Dichio. "My body's been feeling a bit bad at this moment in time.
"Also, I haven't been playing as much as I wanted to. And that's not down just to the coaches' decision. It's down to me not training to my full ability, and also, there's better players in the team at this moment."
He established his TFC cult status by scoring the Reds' first goal in franchise history, in the 24th minute against the Chicago Fire on May 12, 2007.
Paving the way for De Guzman
Danny Dichio has always put the team first.
Could this trait be coming through again with the timing of his retirement?
The beloved striker's announcement clears valuable salary cap space for Toronto FC, space that the club might be using to attract Canadian Julian de Guzman into its ranks.
A source told CBCSports.ca on Tuesday that the 28-year-old from Scarborough, Ont., has reached terms on a designated player contract that ties him to Toronto FC through the 2012 MLS season.
MLS rules permit teams one DP roster spot to sign a marquee star with only $400,000 US counting against the $2.3 million salary cap. The Los Angeles Galaxy famously signed English superstar David Beckham as a DP in January 2007.
An official announcement confirming the deal is expected later this week.
De Guzman spent the last four years with Deportivo la Coruna of the Spanish league.
"It could have been anyone that day, and God was looking down on me, and I was lucky enough to put the ball in the back of the net," Dichio said. "It wasn't a great goal by any means."
To this day, whether he's on the field or not, fans still burst out into song and chant his name in the 24th minute during home games.
The 35-year-old Englishman was renowned for his combative and gutsy playing style and is the team's all-time leading scorer, with 14 goals in 59 appearances.
His status with the team has been a hot topic since he didn't travel with the team to Los Angeles on Aug. 22, when Toronto dropped a 2-0 decision to Chivas USA.
Coach Chris Cummins said the striker was too banged up physically to travel to West Coast games, but Dichio subsequently flew to Seattle and Denver for road games the past two weeks and played the final 20 minutes in Saturday's 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rapids.
Dichio, who was flanked by Cummins and director of football Mo Johnston, will have a variety of roles, including scouting and developing talent at the youth academy.
"Danny's been a massive part of the club for the last three seasons," said coach Chris Cummins. "And he's going to continue to be massive part of that."
The idea is that Dichio will feature in the TFC coaching ranks next season.
"It's a big step for me," Dichio said. "It's going to be a hard transition, but it's one I'm looking forward to."
Dichio played for a handful of English clubs during a 14-year spell before joining Toronto in 2007.
After making his professional debut in 1993 with Queens Park Rangers, Dichio spent time at Sunderland, West Bromwich Albion, Millwall and Preston North End. He also had brief stints with Italian clubs Lecce and Sampdoria.