FORMER Wanswell youth footballer Christian Ribeiro has been forced into retirement aged just 27 after taking medical advice over a knee injury.

The Oxford United full-back was substituted with the issue earlier this month in the Checkatrade Trophy defeat to Milton Keynes Dons.

But he had been struggling with a problem in his left knee for several weeks and a scan showed up a problem which prompted a recommendation to hang up his boots.

Ribeiro, a former Marling student, said: “It has been really tough, the hardest decision I have ever had to make.

“But I have to do what is right in the long-term and therefore, sadly, I am going to have to hang up my boots.

“I have always given my all for the team throughout my career but unfortunately over the past couple of months since incurring an issue, I knew that something wasn’t right.

“I was playing in severe pain and really struggling to recover.

“The medical team here have been brilliant but eventually it got to the stage where I had to see a specialist and unfortunately the damage was worse than we had hoped.”

It is particularly tough for a player who endured a long rehabilitation from a separate issue which saw him spend almost the whole of last season in the treatment room.

Having joined from Exeter City in May 2016, Ribeiro broke an ankle in the final training session of pre-season.

Complications following the surgery delayed his debut until April and the Dons game was only his 17th appearance for the U’s.

United manager Pep Clotet said: “Slowly it has deteriorated and it has come to a moment where they made a new scan last week and the doctor was of the opinion he should not be playing football.

“This has never happened to me before and normally it doesn’t happen, especially at that age.

“Christian Ribeiro earned his right to be a footballer.

“He worked very hard for it and overcame really tough injuries.

“The fact he now has to put an end to his career because of a problem in his knee and a medical recommendation makes it really sad.

“It just shows how sometimes life is ruthless.”

The defender’s value to the squad extended well beyond his on-pitch role, with the former Wales international an intelligent, calming influence in the dressing room.

Clotet has never had a player retire early before in his coaching career and plans to offer as much support as possible.

He said: “We understand it’s hard news.

“I think the big shock is in the next few weeks.

“From my point of view I want him to feel he can stay with us for this season.

“He obviously has to work on his knee and he can do it with us here.

“I would like him to stay here close to us because he has a positive influence.

“Everyone loves him and I think we can help him by paying back some of the effort he put in to help him get through this.

“I understand he might have a lot of projects, but as a club we offer that and if he feels up to it he can join the staff as well for this year and combine these things.”

In total he made 188 club appearances during a career which also saw him two senior caps for Wales.