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For a particular generation of football fans, 2023 will mark the end of an era when many of the finest players of the last 20 years put up their boots for good. Among the gifted players who have retired this year are those who have won Champions Leagues, World Cups, and domestic trophies.
Fans who remember these players as some of the greatest in the world when they were growing up will be overcome with nostalgia and sadness knowing they will never again play on a professional football pitch. The tremendous personalities of these sportsmen equal their skill; some will undoubtedly be remembered with fondness for many years to come.
List of Football Players who Retired in 2023
|List of Football Players Who Retired in 2023
David Silva, who was referred to by his former teammates as “El Mago” or “Merlin,” declared his retirement in July. After an amazing career, most of which he spent with Manchester City and the Spanish national team, Silva announced his retirement. The 37-year-old Real Sociedad player declared his retirement in 2023–2024 following an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury sustained during preseason training. During his ten years with Manchester United, the 2010 FIFA World Cup champion earned four Premier League championships.
Many Arsenal supporters will recall Fabregas bursting through the youth levels to establish himself as a first-team regular, eventually becoming the club’s captain at the age of 21 in 2008. Under Arsene Wenger, the Spaniard was a surprise, and his brilliant midfield skills won him a hefty move back to his boyhood club, Barcelona, in 2011. Fabregas has almost won every trophy imaginable throughout his career, including league titles with Chelsea and Barcelona, the World Cup, and the European Championship with Spain. He forged a strong friendship with Diego Costa during his first season back in England, which helped Chelsea win the Premier League. He announced his retirement in the summer of 2023, after a two-year deal with Como in Serie B.
Gianluigi Buffon, an Italian goalkeeper who played for Juventus for 19 years in two different stints, is arguably the most famous goalkeeper of all time. His first transfer from Parma to Turin, at a world record cost for a goalkeeper at the time, demonstrates the caliber he was thought to possess. His playing career proved such assumptions correct, as he was part of a highly dominant Juventus team for the majority of his time with the Old Lady. The most noteworthy accomplishment of Buffon includes winning 10 Serie A titles and leading Italy to triumph against France in the World Cup penalty shootout.
After spending time in France, England, Spain, Turkey, and even Paraguay, 39-year-old Emmanuel Adebayor chose to retire from football and return to his native Togo (a country in West Africa). Adebayor most recently played for AC Semassi FC, a team based in Sokode, Togo. His career highlights include appearances for Premier League rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal. Supporters of Arsenal, however, will never forget Adebayor’s infamous kneel slide celebration following a goal while wearing Manchester City colors.
The Brazilian midfielder Lucas Leiva, who is most known for his time spent at Liverpool, was forced to retire earlier this year when it was determined that he had a heart arrhythmia sometime in 2022. It was in his best advantage to retire from the sport he had played at the senior level for eighteen years. After joining Anfield for ten years from Gremio, Lucas Leiva overcame a difficult start in England to mature into a capable defensive midfielder. Towards the end of his time under Jurgen Klopp, he even made an impression as a center-back. Lucas chose to go on after falling down the pecking order under the German, and he played five years in Serie A with Lazio before retiring at his hometown club Gremio.
Similarly, like Joaquin, the former England international completed his career with the same squad he started with. Following the heartbreak of being relegated to Southampton, he has now moved into the realm of punditry, securing a deal with Sky Sports for the 2023–24 season. Walcott joined Arsenal as a 17-year-old in 2006 and went on to play more than 300 games for the Gunners, winning three FA Cups during that time. “I’m officially going to be hanging up my boots,” said the now 34-year-old during an appearance on Gary Neville’s “The Overlap” show. It’s terrible, I can’t lie.”
The Belgian only managed seven goals in 76 games for Los Blancos, so sadly, things did not go as planned for Eden Hazard when he joined Real Madrid. His four years in Spain were marred by injuries and fitness problems, but his record prior to that speaks volumes about the player at his peak. When Hazard was a young player in France, he amazed supporters with his incredible dribbling skills, and in 2012, almost the whole continent wanted to sign him. The winger proved to be worth every penny of the transfer fee paid as Chelsea prevailed in the contest. Premier League defenders were unable to handle his ability to carry the ball and outmuscle a man throughout his seven years in England. Hazard improved his final product, scoring over 100 goals and assisting his club in winning two league titles and two Europa League trophies.
The Spanish winger mostly played for several clubs in his own country. His sole experience playing football overseas was from 2013 to 2015, while he played with Fiorentina in Italy. Joaquin Sanchez played nearly 600 matches in La Liga for Real Betis, Valencia, and Malaga CF. The player has been a fixture in Spain’s topflight since 2000 and has opted to put up his boots after the 2022–23 season with Real Betis.
Diego Godin opted to retire from professional football at the age of 37. His most recent outing was for Argentine club, Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield. Diego Godin became a rock at the back for the Los Colchoneros after transferring from Villarreal to Atletico Madrid in 2010. Godin won three UEFA Super Cups and two UEFA Europa Leagues during his nine-year stint in Madrid.
The German midfielder Mesut Ozil was a superb playmaker in his day, and his retirement is regrettable. Ozil is widely regarded as an all-time great, yet it still feels as if he might have accomplished more. Surprisingly, Ozil only won one league title during his career, but that should not minimize his talent. He gave the Premier League some memorable moments and also helped Germany win the World Cup. After brief appearances at Fenerbahce and Istanbul Basaksehir, Ozil announced his retirement on Twitter in March 2023, at the age of 34. We’re already missing him.
One of the most decorated trophy cabinets in recent memory belongs to Gareth Bale, an exceptional player who doesn’t seem to be acknowledged by the team he has had so much success with. By any measure, winning five Champions League championships is an incredible accomplishment, and Bale was the star player in several tournament finals. Despite his extraordinary achievement throughout his time in Madrid, he never seemed to feel the love from his supervisors or the Spanish press. As he assisted Wales in making it to the 2016 Euro tournament semifinals, Bale appeared to be enjoying his time with his country more. Even at Tottenham, the winger’s conversion from a left-back who failed to establish himself into a devastating attacking force was idolized by the supporters. Since Bale’s passion for the game seemed to be waning, many predicted that he would retire at the age of 34.
Being only the third player on the list to play into his 40s, many expected the Swedish attacker would play forever. The incredible adventure Ibrahimovic has had with AC Milan has come to an end due to several injuries in recent years. Playing for some of the biggest teams in the world, like Manchester United, Barcelona, Ajax, and Juventus, the 42-year-old showed off his exceptional resilience. In his career, he scored 496 goals from 827 games, which is a goal average of more than one per two games. Maintaining such a figure throughout a 24-year career is outstanding by any metric. Given all of the league titles he has won, it is hard to argue with him being at the top of this list. The only possible mark against him is that he hasn’t won a Champions League trophy.