Every athlete has their day. Powers can wane and talents can fade away over time, and it happens from year to year.
It’s a natural part of any sport star’s career that there will come a day when they fail to hit the highs they usually had at the peak of their powers. Understandably, it can be incredibly difficult to come to terms with when one’s body gives out, as injuries crop up more than they normally did or the knocks, tumbles and strains that form an everyday part of a career catch up with you to put paid to your goals and, ultimately, dreams of future glories.
It happens in soccer, too, of course. Sometimes, footballers’ careers are cut short sooner than anyone expected as talents slip away over a period of a few years or sometimes seemingly overnight.
Nowadays, where sports science plays a major role in prolonging careers, helping to heal injuries that would normally have been difficult to shake years ago, it’s clear that the highest levels of the game have seen its performers take advantage of technological advances, medical improvements and an increased awareness of how our bodies work.
However, that does not stop the inevitability of a decline. Not even the players with the most silky skills can evade the impending arrival of that niggling injury that keeps getting worse, the decline of the powers that once saw them scale to the top of the beautiful game or the halting power of the biggest obstacle of all time.
With another gruelling European season on the cards, as well as another few months left to run on the 2016 calendar across global football, it’s time to take a look at some stars who should probably consider retiring.
As ever, if you’re feeling strongly about any selection made below, make sure you type your opinions in the comments section.
15. Mikel Arteta
With confirmation of his retirement already announced, Mikel Arteta will leave the game much earlier than many would have anticipated a few years ago. However, it’s clear that due to accruing so many injuries, the ex-Arsenal man really needed to hang up those boots. A combative midfielder in his day, he also knew how to play some attractive football but those days are now at an end, unfortunately.
Coaching will provide Arteta’s next outlet in the sport and if he’s half as successful there as he was on the pitch, he should do pretty well wherever he goes. It’s not always so easy to transfer the mind of a good player to that of a coach without a few hiccoughs, but it will at least be much easier on his body which has clearly had enough of the rigours of modern football.
14. Vincent Kompany
There’s no denying that Vincent Kompany is a world-class defender on his day, but sadly his days are becoming less and less regular as time goes by. Some might think it a bit harsh to suggest he hang up his boots but Kompany has struggled with injury so often and he wouldn’t be the first to leave early. It’s difficult to fathom how he will continue to reach the levels Manchester City require of him before his next medical strain appears to scupper his momentum.
Right now, it’s a case of how long the Citizens continue to persist with him without getting frustrated. Presently, he is once more out of action and will miss the Euro 2016 Championship, something which speaks volumes about the story of Kompany’s career in recent seasons. There are surely only a limited number of fixtures he can continue to play through the pain barrier – might he be better suited to a coaching role for the sake of his body?
13. John Terry
Having secured a one-year contract to extend his stay with Chelsea, John Terry looks set to play a bit-part role at the club for the forthcoming season. In truth, Terry has been a great servant for the Blues throughout his career there and has helped them win a truckload of titles along the way, but the central defender has well and truly pushed past his best displays.
It’s probable that the central defender will spend the majority of the rest of his tenure on the bench and it’s hard to see how he will flourish there, in all reality. It’s understandable that he wouldn’t have wanted to bow out after the club’s abysmal 10th-place finish, but things are unlikely to improve much more for him sitting on the sidelines. He needs to hang up the boots at the end of the season and do his best to finish on a high – whatever that might turn out to be.
12. Mathieu Flamini
These days, footballers are held in as high regard as the superheros who grace our local multiplex cinemas, but Mathieu Flamini seems to be taking that notion to a whole new level with his scientific venture which could, well…save the world one day. Yep, really. If there’s even a remote possibility that his life outside the confines of the pitch could help heal the world, then the Arsenal midfielder really needs to swap the boots for the lab coat full time. Seriously, Mathieu.
At 32 years of age, he could probably devote a couple more years to the beautiful game but his biotech entrepreneurial venture, which he has been funding for a good few years, could potentially reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. What’s more, he could stand to earn £20 billion from it all. Who needs £60,000 per week wage packets, eh?
11. Paul Robinson
Since joining Burnley from their Lancashire rivals Blackburn Rovers, Paul Robinson has played precisely, eh…zero minutes for the club. Despite that, the Clarets have bizarrely offered him a new contract. Make no mistake, Robinson was a quality net-minder back in his day and has been one of the most consistent players for featuring at high levels of the sport, but he couldn’t force his way into manager Sean Dyche’s plans during a season in which they pushed for promotion.
That tells us that Robinson isn’t up to the levels the big guns expect and it would be a shame to see him live out the rest of his career as a substitute who can’t get on the pitch. His legacy is too good to fizzle out that way, so he’d be wise to quite now before he stagnates too much and announces his retirement amidst little to no interest.
10. Frank Lampard
It’s never easy watching a famous face retire from the global game, but Frank Lampard should seriously consider calling time on his own journey. Everyone who has ever seen “Super Frank” move about the pitch, either in the flesh or on a screen, will know just how mesmeric a midfielder he can be. With Chelsea, he became the best midfielder the club have seen in the last 20 years, helping them snap up silverware faster than he scored goals. However, these days paint a completely different picture of the box-to-box maestro so many idolised.
A player with New York City FC, Lampard has seen his powers drain away in MLS and his team recently suffered an embarrassing 7-0 defeat at the hands of New York Red Bulls all of which have reminded us just how far he has fallen from grace. No doubt, his overall career won’t be judged by this dip in form, but before he mars his reputation any more, he needs to give it up. Plus, he’s made more than enough money already.
9. Steven Gerrard
Any true fan who can rise above blind tribalism and silly loyalties to admire all of the really great players from history will know that Steven Gerrard deserves his place among the pantheon of football’s best. It’s not difficult to respect who the former Liverpool man is or what he means to so many Reds fans. For years, he was the team’s passion and skill incarnate, and he ran the show like no other player on the roster. These days, though, things are a little different.
His attempt to become a champion with LA Galaxy has not worked out and the club are a long way off where they want to be. What’s worse is that Gerrard is at the heart of it all and he looks as though he doesn’t belong on the pitch any more. The right move for him in the next few months would be to retire, return to Melwood and get back to the town and team he loves so much to help them improve in the role of a coach under Jurgen Klopp. Fingers crossed.
8. Luis Fabiano
There was a time when Luis Fabiano was one of the most sought-after players in world football, but now he’s 35 years of age and playing for a club in the Chinese second division. It’s a fine league and football is growing in popularity over there, but Fabiano simply hasn’t challenged himself enough ever since his European playing days came to an end. A player who always promised so much, the former Brazil international never hit the heights he was supposed to.
Much like many of the other big names on this list, Fabiano is simply picking up a pay check from week to week. If he was to try and push himself in a bigger league or even make a shock arrival in the Premier League, that would be a different story, but he seems to have given up on experiencing a late career surge. Pity, because he could probably still perform capably for a relegation-threatened team.
7. Radamel Falcao
Sadly, Radamel Falcao is no longer the player he once was. Where he used to terrorize defences with his lightning pace and flashy dribbling before hammering the ball against the back of the net, he is now in the proverbial no man’s land, out of favour with the big clubs due to a string of injuries which have robbed him of all his past superpowers. It has been heart-breaking to watch.
At the beginning of the year, there were supportive calls from so many to see the Colombian return to his form of old, but they all seemed more hopeful than realistic because he has clearly lost what once made him great. According to speculation, it is believed that due to all his earnings, he may call it a career sooner rather than later.
6. Emile Heskey
You might be surprised to know, but Emile Heskey is still on the go. Having recently been released from Bolton Wanderers, the ex-England international who has 62 caps to his name is currently on the lookout for a new club. While he did retire from international duty a number of years ago, Heskey remains keen to keep his club journey alive. What’s more remarkable is that he is admirably keeping fit by entering into legends tournaments like the Vodafone Peace Cup.
The former Leicester City striker has become a figure of derision since his England days but people tend to forget that he was once a physically-imposing, goal-scoring machine who was more than capable of getting the better of any defense he wanted. It has been quite some time since he lit up a pitch with genius touches and becoming a free agent at 38 tells us all we need to know.
5. Alex Manninger
Arsenal fans will fondly remember Alex Manninger as the goalkeeper who helped himself to six clean sheets in a row during the club’s 1997/98 Premier League campaign, despite only making seven appearances in that competition. His goalkeeping heroics played a huge role as the Gunners picked up the trophy and although he hadn’t built up the required 10 appearances at the time, he was deservedly awarded with a medal.
Nowadays, following stints at Fiorentina, Bologna, Torino and Juventus, the 38-year-old custodian finds himself on the books at Austrian side Augsburg. However, one quick look at the statistics tells us that it might just be time for the likable shot-stopper to put away the gloves he has put to such good use over the years because he only managed a total of 93 minutes throughout the 2015/16 season.
Once one of the best players on the European stage, Ronaldinho won pretty much everything there is to win, but these days the former Ballon d’Or winner is a shadow of his former self. Ever since he fled AC Milan to head back to his homeland in Brazil, the samba sensation who regularly captivated audiences with his child-like love for skills, flicks and tricks has failed to get anywhere near his talent of old. It has been disappointing to see him lurch from club to club in the last few years because he still has the talent to do well – he’s simply lost the appetite for the big leagues.
Leicester City apparently tried to sign him ahead of their title-winning season but he rejected the move and there were rumours linking him to a few Major League Soccer outfits a number of months back but “Dinho” looks as though his race is well and truly run. While his genius will last forever, it’s still not nice to see him wallow from minnow to being a free agent and while it will be sad to see, it’s probably time he hung up his boots.
3. Mark Schwarzer
Amazingly, Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer won the Premier League with both Chelsea and Leicester City from 2014 to 2016 without playing a single minute of either team’s campaign. Whether or not he savours those memories, we’re not so sure. However, he did feature in a decent amount of matches for the Foxes as they avoided relegation, sandwiched between those two periods of little action.
Considering how underused he was for such important silverware-laden seasons, Schwarzer has to be considering retirement. If he’s not relied on for the big moments, something goalkeepers live off at the best of times, one has to wonder why.
2. Ze Roberto
The famous Brazilian Ze Roberto is a testament to how long one’s career can be with hard work, dedication and conviction because he has managed to continue playing right up until the age of 41 – and with his 42nd birthday in July, he might just make it to then as well. At the beginning of 2016, the veteran winger declared that he would retire at the end of the league season, but he hasn’t simply been warming the bench for his club Palmeiras.
He remains a key player for his team, but it’s clear that he feels he needs to stop, otherwise he would keep on going for another season or two. Clearly, his body is telling him to call it quits and no-one can blame him for that after an amazing career which saw him win (amongst many other titles) a La Liga with Real Madrid, become a four-time winner of the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich as well as winning the Copa America with Brazil – twice.
1. Roberto Acuna
As impressive as Ze Roberto’s longevity is, Roberto Acuna has gone one better than him. The Paraguayan midfielder is still kicking ball at 44 years of age, but it might just be time to call it quits at such an age, especially when a glance at the statistics reveals that the amount of minutes he has been getting has been reduced up for four times in just two seasons.
Playing his trade with Rubio Nu in his native country, Acuna’s achievements are impressive, however the difference in level between the league he’s currently in and La Liga, where he once earned his crust, is astonishingly marked. So, to see his minutes slashed so dramatically tells us that he’s probably very much off the pace and could do with a well-earned retirement.
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