Rome, September 11 :

The Italian press was full of glowing tributes to Michael Schumacher on Monday after Formula One’s most successful driver announced his retirement.

The Ferrari star confirmed what everyone had expected just moments after winning Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix at Monza, a victory which keeps him firmly in contention for an eighth world drivers’ title.

He will finally hang up his helmet and overalls at the end of the season but according to press reports he could remain with Ferrari as an assistant to team chief Jean Todt.

Schumacher has not always been a favourite of the Italian media because of his apparent icy exterior, his poor command of the language, and for a series of unsporting gestures on the track.

But they could not escape the fact that he has turned Ferrari from a once average team into world-beaters.

“Danke Schumi”, headlined La Gazzetta dello Sport above a picture of the 37-year-old German punching the air in delight after claiming his 90th Grand Prix victory which reduced Fernando Alonso’s lead to just two points with three races left.

“The exit of a phenomenon. Schumacher is a controversial legend and will be discussed for many years. His career is sprinkled with trips and falls, but there isn’t a champion as complete as him. How important is it that he doesn’t speak Italian? All he was obliged to do was win, and he did that. He took Ferrari by the hand and gifted them with years of success.”

“The best of them all,” wrote the Corriere dello Sport. “We will miss you, Michael. We miss you already, even if there are three races left, three races that will decide the world championship. There’s nobody like him. He restored the Ferrari myth that had been lost.”

“King Michael’s farewell,” wrote La Repubblica after Schumacher’s fifth career win at Monza. “Ten years at Ferrari with loads of victories and records. Ten years that certainly changed the life of Michael Schumacher, but 10 years that also changed our lives.”

“There’s nobody like him,” wrote Il Messagero. “15 years of Formula One and always at the top. 90 victories, seven world titles and it’s not over yet.”

La Gazzetta delighted in seeing Schumacher show some emotion, having often been described as robotic by the Italian press. “He didn’t cry, but he wasn’t far from tears,” it said.

“Every athlete has to think about that inevitable moment when it’s time to retire, and he announced it to the world on a microphone. It was in that moment, in which a man comes to terms with his inner self, that Michael Schumacher was almost lost for words.”