"After many years it was time to move to another stage in my life, I retire from professional tennis," a statement in Spanish on the 33-year-old's Twitter account said.
He quits the game having won six ATP Tour singles titles and three doubles' titles in a sometimes controversial career spanning 14 years. Unsurprisingly for an Argentine, all his successes came on clay.
Chela reached a career-high singles world ranking of 15 in August 2004, off the back of reaching the quarter-finals of the French Open in the same year.
He also made it to the last eight at Rolland Garros in 2011 and reached the same stage at the 2007 US Open. He quits the pro circuit ranked 176 in the world.
Compatriot and sometime doubles partner Gisela Dulko, who herself retired last month, led the tributes.
"Congratulations on your great career Juan! Welcome to the club!" said Dulko on her Twitter account.
Chela courted controversy in early 2005, when he was fined for spitting at Lleyton Hewitt during an ill-tempered third round match at the Australian Open.