Japanese star 'Manadona' Iwabuchi retires due to injury

Iwabuchi helped her side lift the World Cup in 2011 aged 18. Credit: Extratime Team (ETPhotos)

Japanese star Mana Iwabuchi has announced her retirement from professional football at the age of 30.

The World Cup winner revealed her surprise decision after spending the end of last season on loan with Tottenham Hotspur from parent club and North London rivals Arsenal.

Iwabuchi made 89 appearances for her country over 14 years, debuting as a 16-year-old in 2010 before helping Japan to the World Cup crown the following year.

The attacker - nicknamed Manadona for her deft skill and creative flair - was a substitute in the final against the United States as Japan ran out 4-3 winners in a penalty shoot-out following a 2-2 draw.

Iwabuchi had successful spells in her homeland with Nippon TV Beleza, twice winning the then top-tier Nadeshiko League, and in Germany.

She had spells with Hoffenheim, with whom she won the second-tier Bundesliga 2, and at Bayern Munchen, where she won back-to-back Bundesliga crowns in 2015 and 2016.

Iwabuchi had a four-year spell at home with Kobe Leonessa before joining Aston Villa and the the Gunners, but a persistent ankle injury halted her progress.

Announcing her decision, Iwabuchi said: “I feel this is the best timing. Of course, this is a sad day for me but I have no regrets. I was happy to play the game I love with so much support.

“I feel I can no longer be the player I want to be. While at Arsenal my ankle problem flared up again and I wasn’t at my best. 

“I moved to Tottenham with the World Cup in mind but still couldn’t perform as I hoped. 

“Rather than enjoying my football I had started to feel a lot of pressure and struggled across this past season, so I considered my options.”