JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Benni McCarthy, South Africa's record scorer and a Champions League winner under Jose Mourinho, retired from football Thursday.

South Africa's Premier Soccer League said McCarthy announced his retirement through his management agency, ending a 17-year career in which he won league titles in three countries, lifted club football's top prize, played in two World Cups and became his country's most successful striker.

"Football has been good to me — it has provided special moments and in the process has enabled me to have been in a position to have improved the lives of my family members. For that, I am most grateful," McCarthy said in a statement on the PSL website.

Rising from a humble background, the Cape Town-born McCarthy played in the top leagues in Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and England, winning the Eredivisie with Ajax and the Portuguese title and 2004 Champions League with FC Porto under Mourinho.

He also provided inspiration for millions at home as South African football's first post-apartheid international star, achieving success in Europe after being spotted in the poor townships on the outskirts of Cape Town and even appearing on the cover of a version of Time Magazine in 2002.

"I have been so blessed to have enjoyed a remarkable career that took me from the township fields of Nyanga Stadium, to winner's medals in the UEFA Champions League and World Club Cup — the highest levels that a player can achieve in club football," said McCarthy, who called Mourinho "the very best" coach.

Accepted as South Africa's most successful striker, he is the country's only Champions League winner. The 35-year-old McCarthy also retires as South Africa's leading scorer with 31 goals in 80 games. Although he was dropped from the final squad when the country hosted the 2010 World Cup — perhaps his biggest disappointment — he scored goals for Bafana Bafana at the 1998 and 2002 tournaments.

He returned to South Africa after spells with Blackburn and West Ham in England's Premier League, joining Soweto giant Orlando Pirates in 2011. He went on to win four trophies with Pirates in 2012, including the league title after scoring on debut and then twice in the title-clinching game.

"It has been a 17-year professional career that surpassed even my own expectations," McCarthy said.

Morgan Gould, a South Africa national team defender who played with and against McCarthy, wrote on Twitter: "Today all the PSL defenders will be smiling."