Santalab to retire after 'biggest six weeks of my career'
Perth Glory striker Brendon Santalab will call time on his 20-year professional career at the end of the Hyundai A-League season.
The 36-year-old has played 133 Hyundai A-League games in total, including stints at Sydney FC, North Queensland Fury and Western Sydney Wanderers, where he developed a cult hero bond with Wanderers fans.
Santalab enjoyed a hugely successful five-year stint with the Red and Black, in which he continually advanced his goal-scoring craft despite his veteran status.
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The Wollongong-born forward was also part of the club’s historic AFC Asian Champions League win in 2014, an achievement masterminded by current Perth boss Tony Popovic.
That remains the former South Coast United junior’s lone piece of major silverware to date, but Santalab is intent on finishing a career which began with Parramatta Power in 2000 by riding off into the sunset in Western Australia.
“It’s been a fantastic year and the best part is that I have the biggest six weeks of my career coming up right now,” he told the club’s official website.
“I’ve waited 20 years to win a Premiership and a Grand Final and it would mean a lot to me to lift a couple of trophies at this stage of my career.
“There have been many top memories along the way, but this next six weeks could see another top memory being created that would be right up there with my Asian Champions League winners’ medal.
“There are many, many people that I’d like to thank, one of whom is Tony Popovic who has been such an influence on the latter part of my career.
“The belief and confidence that Popa instilled in me enabled me to achieve many great things while working together with him.
“He is not only a fantastic coach, but an incredible motivator and mentor.
“It’s been an amazing journey, especially over the last five years when I’ve been constantly learning and improving every day.”
Popovic also had massive praise for Santalab – on the field and off.
“On the field he’s always been fiery, a winner and someone who plays on the edge,” said Popovic.
“He has that fire in his belly and I’m sure many a defender has found it very tough to mark Brendon over the years.
“Whenever he’s crossed that white line, I’ve always felt that he’s someone I can rely on, someone who will put the team first and he always walks off having given everything that he’s got.
“Off the field, he’ll do anything for anyone. He does so much charity work and all the kids love him.
“When we were at Wanderers, even my own boys would look up to him and loved him.
“That’s the kind of character Brendon is.”