Belgian international striker Luc Nilis has been forced to retire from soccer because of a knee injury received in only his fourth game for Aston Villa. "It is with regret that we have to announce today the retirement of Luc Nilis from professional football," Villa said today.

"We have monitored Luc's medical progress carefully since his unfortunate injury. However, the medical opinions now received state that Luc will not regain the level of fitness that would be required for him to play football at his previous level in the premier league."

Nilis, 33, suffered a double fracture of his knee after colliding with Ipswich Town goalkeeper Richard Wright after just four minutes of a premier league game on September 9. He played only one full game for Villa and was substituted in two others.

"This is a tragedy for Luc. Whilst being covered by insurance, that cannot compensate him for not being able to play for Aston Villa which he was obviously so looking forward to,” Villa chairman Doug Ellis said. "It is also hugely disappointing for Aston Villa who have lost the services of a world class striker."

Nilis, who played for Belgium in Euro 2000, said: "For the short period I was employed by Aston Villa I enjoyed every minute and am bitterly disappointed I could not continue to score goals. But having taken medical advice I will be unable to continue."

Nilis, who joined from PSV Eindhoven, on a free transfer in the close-season, scored only one goal for Villa but it was a memorable effort in a 1-1 draw against Chelsea.

He scored 10 goals in 56 games for Belgium, having taken four years to get off the mark.

Filed by Sinéad Kissane