Former Hearts striker Mauricio Pinilla retires from playing to become ESPN pundit

Former Hearts striker Mauricio Pinilla has retired from playing.

Mauricio Pinilla has retired from playing football. Picture: SNS
Mauricio Pinilla has retired from playing football. Picture: SNS

According to reports in Chile, the 37-year-old came to an agreement with Coquimbo Unido to terminate his deal and will now go into punditry with ESPN.

Pinilla, who played eight games for Hearts between 2006 and 2008, has struggled to overcome a knee injury which has brought about his retirement sooner than expected.

A source told an outlet in Chile: “In the last weeks of the tournament he had a lot of problems with his right knee. Since the operation, he could not play normally again. That was one of the reasons he signed his settlement. Retirement is a decision made, he tried to recover, but it has been impossible for him to do so. The injury prevents him from playing professionally and that is how he understood it.”

Pinilla retweeted a video which celebrated his career which took in 15 clubs across 20 years.

The striker exploded on to the scene at Universidad de Chile, one of the biggest clubs in his homeland, as a teenager before being snapped up by Italian giants Inter Milan on a five-year deal.

Viewed as the future striker of the national team, Pinilla embarked on a somewhat nomadic career which took in clubs in Italy, Sporting Club of Portugal, Racing Santander in Spain and Hearts.

Rocking up at Tynecastle

Mauricio Pinilla in discussion with Dani Alves at the 2014 World Cup. Picture: Getty

At Tynecastle he became both a cult figure and a symbol of the ‘what could have been’ thinking regarding the Vladimir Romanov era. Arriving originally on loan in 2006, the club would purchase the Chilean in a complex deal.

A hugely talented player, it just didn’t work out for him in Edinburgh, despite scoring one of the all-time great team goals at Aberdeen, with off-field issues playing a prominent part, including becoming embroiled in a scandal involving the Chilean captain at he time Luis Jimenez.

His first appearance for the club would be off the bench in a Champions League qualifier against AEK Athens in August 2006 before netting in his first start a few days later in a 4-1 win over Inverness CT, partnering Jamie Mole in attack.

For some fans he is remembered fondly.

Breaking records in Italy

He re-emerged in Italy, following spells in Brazil and Cyprus, with an excellent season at Grosseto where he set a Serie B record for scoring in 12 consecutive games.

It earned him a move to Palmero and he would go on to star at Cagliari, Genoa and Atalanta. At the latter side he displayed his fantastic ability at scoring overhead kicks.

His form in Serie A, where he would play more than 160 times in total, earned a recall to the Chile national team and he would go on to play in the 2014 World Cup, famously hitting the bar against Brazil in the round of 16 before missing a penalty in the shootout after a 1-1 draw.

Pinilla returned to Chile in 2017, re-joining his boyhood club Universidad de Chile before moving on to Coquimbo Unido.

He ends his career with 123 club goals in fewer than 350 games and 45 international caps and eight goals.

His move into punditry is unsurprising after a stint during the 2018 World Cup.