The average age for retirement of a professional soccer player is around 35, and because of how well most players take care of themselves, many soccer stars have managed to play beyond that age as well. While the goalkeepers tend to play till their 40s, the other players normally decide to retire in their mid-30s because of the pressure of the sport taking its toll after a point in time. It's because soccer is such a competitive sport that the players have to keep themselves in peak shape in order to maintain longevity in their careers, but for certain players, lady luck has been extremely cruel in the past years.
There are some soccer players who haven't had the fortune of playing for many years and have been forced to retire well before when they should've normally done so. The bad luck of these individuals resulted in their short-lived careers and forced them to call an early retirement. Mostly, the reason for the early retirement of these soccer stars is a horrible career-ending injury, or a flurry of bad injuries not enabling them to get back into the shape needed to survive as a professional soccer player. Similarly, some others have also suffered from health conditions which forced them to give up their loved profession early on.
Some promising soccer stars -who had just started gaining popularity among the fans- were forced to retire way earlier than they should've, and we take a look at 20 such players.
20 Michael Johnson
Michael Johnson was once held in high regard at Manchester City and played for the club well before they became one of England's top sides. Johnson was one of the young stars at City in the mid-2000s and was given his debut at a relatively young age because of just how good he was. Johnson was a really creative midfielder who seemingly had it all in him to succeed in his career, with his skillful style impressing many. Despite spending almost six years with City, Johnson's career abruptly ended in 2012 after he seemingly lost interest in the game. It was later discovered that Johnson was suffering from mental health problems, which ended what could've been a bright career ahead for him.
19 Sebastian Deisler
Sebastian Deisler once looked like one of German soccer's brightest attacking stars when his impressive performances convinced Bayern Munich to sign him up in 2002. Deisler was a really terrorizing winger, who had the pace and skill to create a lot for his side and also had a decent eye for goal. But after moving to Bayern, Deisler's career started getting riddled with problems as he suffered a terrible knee injury which would get aggravated as the years passed. Despite making more than 50 appearances for Bayern, Deisler's knee just gave out in the end and forced him to retire in 2007. Deisler's untimely retirement shocked many and due to his injuries, he could never properly fulfill his dreams.
18 Adrian Doherty
He might not be a name recognized by many, but Adrian Doherty is considered by some as Manchester United's "lost star", with his career being a real tragedy. Doherty was part of United's infamous "Class of 92" youth academy which produced fantastic players such as Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes, with those who watched him considering him to be as good as them. Doherty was known for his extreme pace and stunning ability in the wing, but fate was cruel to him as he suffered a horrible knee injury days before making his debut. Doherty badly injured his crucial ligaments and could never recover, resulting in the premature end of what could've been a legendary career at United.
17 Ruben De La Red
Ruben de La Red was quite the majestic midfielder in the 2000s and his dazzling performances for Getafe after graduating from the Real Madrid academy caught the attention of many fans and critics alike. de la Red was absolutely stunning in midfield, with his ability to control a game and stunning skill in passing and creating chances was lauded by many. But after returning to Real Madrid in 2008, a serious heart condition turned his career upside down. De la Red even fainted during a match for Madrid and his weak heart couldn't handle the pressure of the games. That condition resulted in him having to voluntarily retire at the age of 25, with a really promising career coming to a bitter end.
16 Rory Allen
Rory Allen was one of England's rising strikers in the late 90s' and after scoring some stunning goals at a young age, Portsmouth paid a club record to sign him up. Allen looked decent for Pompey at first, scoring a few goals for them, but then the injuries started to pile on him. Allen suffered some nasty knee injuries which made him miss two whole seasons for Portsmouth. He struggled to attain match fitness because of the injuries and after playing a handful of matches for Portsmouth, he himself left the club in 2002. Allen later announced retirement from soccer after undergoing eight operations on his knees and ankles, as injuries stopped this dangerous striker from having a glooming career.
15 Andreas Laudrup
The son of famous soccer star Michael Laudrup, Andreas Laudrup looked to have inherited his father's skill and looked set for big things in his career. Not only did Laudrup graduate from Real Madrid's academy, but he was a star wherever he went and he opted to play for relatively small teams. His impeccable work in midfield and majestic skill with the ball made him an asset for many teams, but Laudrup's career started declining at the wrong time. He started suffering from chronic rheumatoid arthritis, which basically left him in constant pain all the time. This awful condition forced Andreas to take early retirement and sadly resulting him in not being able to follow in his father's footsteps to success.
14 Chris Naumoff
Chris Naumoff was a prominent rising star in the Australian "A-League" and at a young age, he managed to become a regular starter for Sydney FC. He was one of the clubs' standout performers and was a really dangerous threat to the oppositions with his wing-play. He made more than 40 appearances for Sydney FC at a very young age and Naumoff also earned a move to Spain because of his terrific performances. But it was during the medical testing before his move that he was hit with a bombshell. Naumoff turned out to be suffering from hypertrophic cardiomyopathy(HCM), which causes a portion of the heart to thicken, with this horrible disease ending his promising career at the tender age of 21.
13 Gueida Fofana
Gueida Fofana was a rock-solid midfielder in the French League for many years and was a vital clog in Olympique Lyonnais' midfield ever since getting signed by them in 2011. The defensive midfielder was known to add steel to Lyon's midfield, with his defensive abilities mixed with his fantastic passing ability making him an asset for the side. Fofana proved to be a really bright midfielder at a relatively young age, but after six years with Lyon, he shockingly announced his retirement last year. Fofana stated that persistent injury problems with his ankle resulted in him having to retire and the poor midfielder had to bow out of the game just when he was starting to reach his peak.
12 Jimmy Jambo
Jimmy Jambo was an important figure for South African side Kaizer Chiefs and spent many years with them because of how much of a solid figure he was in defense. Jambo was known to be a sturdy left-back, who was not only defensively good but was also pretty decent going forward which made him a commendable player for the Chiefs. But tragedy struck the promising defender in the 2012/13 season when he suffered a terrible knee injury during a match. That injury made for the end of his professional career, as Jambo announced his retirement very soon and saw his dreams of possibly playing for a big European club in the future wither away with his untimely retirement.
11 Norman Whiteside
Norman Whiteside was known to be quite the talented individual for Manchester United in the 80s and in the Pre-Sir Alex Ferguson era, he was a mainstay in their team for many years. Whiteside had the versatility of playing in midfield as well as attack, with his energetic nature helping him play more than 200 games for the Red Devils. He scored over 40 goals in his stint with United but was later sold off to Everton by Ferguson. Whiteside seemed to be a great signing for Everton at first, but then injuries plagued his career at the club. In the end, Whiteside succumbed to his persisting injuries and was forced to retire at a shockingly early age of 26.
10 Julian Nagelsmann
Julian Nagelsmann surprised many when his fantastic Hoffenheim team managed to dazzle everyone with their beautiful soccer in the German Bundesliga last season and this young manager proved himself to be among the brightest ones in Europe. But the reason for Nagelsmann being a prominent coach at the age of 31 is because his own playing career ended too early due to persistent injuries. Nagelsmann was a promising player who played well in his youth level but was plagued with injuries after turning 18. He was forced to retire in his early 20s when players normally reach their full potential, but Nagelsmann's untimely retirement proved to be a boon when he started managing sides and is now one of Germany's best coaches.
9 Alvaro Dominguez
Alvaro Dominguez had all the skills in him to be a top defender in European soccer, as he had learned from the best having played for both Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid in youth level. Dominguez had a long career at Atletico and proved himself to be a sturdy defender during his years in Spain. He later moved to German side Borussia Monchengladbach and spent many prolific years with them, where he further proved his might as a defender. But just when he was starting to reach his full potential, Dominguez shocked everyone by announcing his retirement. Dominguez revealed that after suffering years of chronic back problems, he had to step back from soccer which lost a truly promising player in the process.
8 David Busst
David Busst was coming up as a promising defender in the Premier League during the 90s and after being a consistently prominent performer for Coventry City, it seemed to be in line for big things. But during his 50th appearance for the club, Busst suffered what is known to be the most infamous injury by a Premier League player. During a match against Manchester United, Busst ventured forward in a corner, and after colliding with two players, his right leg broke and his awful injury resulted in a bad scene which shocked many. After 26 operations to save his leg, Busst announced his retirement but was lucky to even walk properly again.
7 Owen Hargreaves
Owen Hargreaves had quite the celebrated career in soccer, but one could determine that it was still unfulfilled due to his injuries giving him a bad reputation. Hargreaves played for European giants Bayern Munich for many years, before having a scintillating season with Manchester United in his debut year for the club. But after that, everything started to go wrong for him as he continuously started suffering one injury or the other. It was mainly his knee which was giving him problems and despite going through many surgeries and physiotherapy, he couldn't survive on the pitch. Hargreaves' reputation was plagued with his injuries and after years of torture, he was forced to sadly announce retirement in 2012 after no club required his services.
6 Ryan Mason
Ryan Mason looked like quite the bright prospect right from his days at Tottenham Hotspur and was quite the dazzling player in his years with them. He later moved to Hull City for a club record fee and was one of the more consistent performers for them in his debut season. Mason was an important cog in Hull's midfield but suffered a horrible tragedy in an EFL Cup match against Chelsea and after a clash of heads with Gary Cahill, Mason suffered a fractured skull. While he underwent a successful operation and made a full recovery from that scary injury, it effectively ended his soccer career, forcing him to announce retirement and put an end to a truly promising career.
5 Stiliyan Petrov
Stiliyan Petrov was considered as an Aston Villa legend by many because of his unbridled devotion towards the club, but he suffered cruel reality when diagnosed with leukemia in 2013. While Petrov might've been 34 at the time, his level of fitness and passion for the game meant he could've played many more years at the top had he not suffered the horrible disease. Petrov made close to 200 appearances for Villa, who supported him through and through during his difficult phase and also made him their youth coach after he recovered. Petrov's playing career might've come to a bitter end, but the amazing support he got from fans and fellow soccer players showed the beauty of the game.
4 Alf-Inge Haaland
Alf-Inge Haaland had quite the reputation of being a feisty, strong individual who could play equally well in defense and midfield because of how tough he was. But in the end, Haaland's toughness cost him as he suffered a bad injury to end his career. Haaland was on the receiving end of a tackle from Manchester United player Roy Keane, which literally bent his knee and broke it. This terrible injury made for the end of his career and just when he was starting to gain recognition at Manchester City, Haaland had to walk away. While Haaland was a really strong midfielder, the injury broke his spirit and made for a disheartening end to a promising career.
3 Dean Ashton
Dean Ashton was once considered as one of England's brightest strikers because of how prolific he was in front of goal and because of his amazing goal-scoring record, he was given a chance to play for the England national team. Ashton did more than decently for West Ham United have scored 15 goals in 46 appearances for them and after getting a dream call-up from the national team, everything started to fall apart from him. Ashton suffered a horrible ankle injury from which he couldn't recover from despite many attempts. He had to announce retirement at the tender age of 26 and just when Ashton was started to look like a world-beater, his career came to a cruel end.
2 Marco Van Basten
Marco van Basten is widely considered as one of the best Dutch players of all time, but he also had his career sadly cut short because of some harrowing injury problems. Van Basten achieved many big things in his career and was known for his lethal goal-scoring ability, which helped him score more than 200 goals for club and country. His incredible eye for goal, movement, and overall play made him a terrorizing player, but he couldn't play as long as he wanted to and some awful ankle injuries forced him to retire at the age of 28. van Basten continued to look extremely promising at that age and if injuries hadn't restricted his career, he could've played at the top for years to come.
1 Fabrice Muamba
Fabrice Muamba was a really energetic presence in the midfield for Bolton Wanderers and he was part of their team for almost five years of his career. Muamba made more than a 100 appearances for Bolton and looked extremely promising for them before he shockingly collapsed during an FA Cup match between Bolton and Tottenham Hotspur. It was discovered that he had suffered a cardiac arrest and that his heart was not healthy enough for him to continue playing. Muamba thankfully made a full recovery but had to announce retirement from soccer because of his fragile condition. Muamba seemed a really passionate player for Bolton and could've gone onto become a much bigger star if he wasn't forced into such a premature retirement.