London (AFP) – Former Tottenham and England striker Jermain Defoe on Thursday announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 39.

Defoe is the ninth-highest scorer in Premier League history, with 162 goals in 496 appearances.

His career ended with a second spell at Sunderland, with his final appearance for the League One side coming as a substitute in Saturday’s 0-0 draw at Lincoln.

“After 22 years in the game, I have decided to retire from professional football,” he posted on Instagram.

“It’s been a really tough decision, and one I have discussed with my family and those closest to me.”

Defoe played for a number of clubs in a long career including West Ham, Tottenham, Rangers and Toronto FC.

He scored 20 times in 57 appearances for England.

“I made my professional debut at 17 years old in 1999, and I feel now is the right time to bow out,” he said. “I have had an incredible journey, and have met some amazing people in the game.

“Football will always remain in my blood, and it gives me great pride and satisfaction to look back on the blessed career that I’ve had.”

Defoe was part of the Tottenham side that won the League Cup in 2008 and last year lifted the Scottish Premiership title with Rangers.

The forward developed a close friendship with terminally ill Sunderland supporter Bradley Lowery.

Lowery, who died aged six in 2017, featured in the image accompanying Defoe’s retirement message.