River Plate's Marcelo Gallardo dedicated his Rey de America prize as the best manager of 2018 to Uruguayan forward Rodrigo Mora, who announced his retirement over the weekend after being cut from the preseason roster by the Argentine club.
"For me, Mora has not just been valuable as a professional, but also as a person, and he leaves soccer today with an injury that soccer gave him. I want to mention this to him because he is someone I love very much," Gallardo said in his acceptance speech at the awards ceremony Tuesday in the Uruguayan resort city of Punta del Este.
The Rey de America prize is handed out annually by the Uruguayan newspaper El Pais.
The 31-year-old Mora suffered many injuries in recent years, including a severe hip injury in 2017 that required a long recovery.
"This was one of the saddest days of my life. The pain is constant and I can't keep going. I gave it my all and today I have to face reality, I can't play soccer anymore," the 31-year-old player said in a WhatsApp post on Sunday.
On Tuesday, legendary Argentine soccer player Diego Armando Maradona expressed his support for Mora.
"I hope you remain in soccer, do not let yourself down. Fight for it as I did. I had a very (difficult) one, but I fought and I beat it. You have all the strength in the world. For that reason, I hope that this year will give you the opposite of what is happening to you right now. I send you a big hug, Uruguayan," Maradona said in an Instagram post accompanied by a photo of Mora.
Maradona, a one-time star with Boca Juniors, said in his message of support to Mora, who played for arch-rival River Plate, that "in these (situations), there are no jersey colors and there is no passion."
Gallardo said he felt at home in Uruguay because he ended his playing career and debuted as a manager with Nacional.
He also thanked River Plate's coaching staff, players and management.
River Plate beat Boca Juniors in the Copa Libertadores final in Madrid last month, winning South America's premier club soccer tournament.
"I want to thank the people who gave me a chance to grow ... I'm very excited," the 42-year-old Gallardo said.
In the Rey de America voting, Gallardo had a high number of ballots cast in his favor and won with 87 percent of the vote.