Zinedine Zidane said on Tuesday he would retire after the World Cup finals in Germany.
"It's my decision and it's final," the France and Real Madrid playmaker told French television channel Canal+.
The 33-year-old, who led France to victory in the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000, had hinted recently he was ready to quit.
Zidane became the world's most expensive footballer when Real signed him from Juventus for $66 million in 2001 and he scored a superb winner to earn Real their ninth European Cup in the 2002 final against Bayer Leverkusen.
But injuries and inconsistency have dogged him over the last two seasons and, although he still has another year left on his contract with Real, he decided to call it a day.
"I have to listen to my body and I cannot carry on for another year," said Zidane, who cited Real's poor results as one of the reasons for his decision.
"It might seem a bit strange to announce it now, two weeks before the end of the championship but it's a decision I've been thinking about carefully and I had to take it before the World Cup," he said.
"In the last two years the results have eluded us. When you don't reach your goals you ask yourself questions. I know I can't do better than what I have already done and at my age, it's getting more and more difficult. I didn't want to experience another year like the ones I've been through."
Zidane had been expected to announce his decision at a news conference called for Wednesday in Madrid.
The gifted son of Algerian immigrants said after France's early exit from Euro 2004 that he was retiring from international football.
In August last year, with France struggling to qualify for the World Cup finals in Germany, he decided after all that he could not let down the side he inspired for a decade.
Voted European player of the year in 1998 and world player of the year in 1999, 2000 and 2003, he came second only to Michel Platini as France's most respected footballer.
Zidane, who made thousands weep for joy after the 1998 World Cup final, is a man of few words who is happy to let his football do the talking. He is also respected for the money and time he discreetly spends for charity, especially in helping handicapped children.
Zidane, who has never forgotten his humble roots, will not mind being out of the limelight once his playing days are over.
For the moment, though, he wants to savour the last stretch of his glittering career.
"I wanted everybody to know before the World Cup, to dedicate myself fully to it," he said on Tuesday.
Zinedine Zidane factbox
1972 - Born June 23, Marseille, France.
1988 - Joins Cannes. Scores six goals in 61 league appearances.
1992 - Joins Girondins Bordeaux. Scores 28 goals in 139 league appearances during four seasons.
1994 - August 17, makes France debut in 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic. Scores two goals in 17 minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute.
1995-96 - UEFA Cup runner-up with Bordeaux.
1996 - Moves to Juventus. Helps the club win two Series A titles in his first two seasons.
Wins the European Super Cup and the World Club Cup with Juventus.
1997 - May 28, plays for Juventus in 3-1 defeat by Borussia Dortmund in final of Champions League.
1998 - May 20, plays for Juventus in 1-0 defeat by Real Madrid in final of Champions League.
June 1, sent off after 70 minutes of France's 4-0 first-round victory over Saudi Arabia in World Cup. Misses next two matches.
July 12, heads two first-half goals to help France win their first World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Brazil.
December 21, wins the 1998 European Player of the Year award.
1999 - February 1, wins 1998 World Player of the Year award.
2000 - June, named player of the tournament as he helps France to victory in Euro 2000.
September, extends his contract with Juventus to 2005.
October, receives five-match ban from UEFA after being sent off for headbutting Hamburg's Jochen Kientz, his second successive sending off in Champions League matches.
December, wins World Player award for the second time.
2001 - Juventus finish second in Serie A, two points behind champions Roma. Scored 28 goals in a total of 191 matches in five seasons at Juventus.
July 9, becomes the world's most expensive player as he moves from Juventus to Real Madrid for up to $66 million.
2002 - May 15, helps Real Madrid win the Champions League with a majestic winner in the 2-1 final victory over Bayer Leverkusen.
May 27, a thigh injury picked up in a warm-up match against South Korea forces Zidane out of the first two matches of the World Cup finals.
He returns for the final group match against Denmark but has no impact as France lose 2-0 and head out of the tournament.
December 3, wins second World Club Cup as Real beat South American champions Olimpia 2-0.
2003 - Wins Spanish title with Real Madrid, leads France into Euro 2004 finals with perfect record of eight wins from eight matches.
December 15 - wins World Player of the Year award for the third time.
2004 - Feb - Extends his Real Madrid contract until June 30 2007.
April 22, named top European Player of the last 50 years in a public poll to mark UEFA's Golden Jubilee.
May - admits he is in the worst form in five years.
June 13, scores an injury-time free kick and penalty as France stage an astonishing comeback to beat England 2-1 at Euro 2004.
August 12, announces retirement from international football almost 10 years since making his debut.
2005 - August 3, announces that he will resume playing for France to help them qualify for the World Cup.
August 17, scores a goal in comeback appearance, a 3-0 victory over Ivory Coast.
October 12, France qualify for the World Cup with 4-0 win over Cyprus, Zidane opens the scoring.
Suffers a series of injury niggles that limit his appearances for Real Madrid and he fails to shine when playing for the Primera Liga side.
2006 - Jan 15 - one bright spot in an otherwise poor season when he scores his first hat-trick in 4-2 win over Sevilla. Real are knocked out of the King's Cup by Real Zaragoza in February and put out of the Champions League by Arsenal the following month.