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Top 20 Soccer Players Who Retired Too Soon

There is, sadly, a cut off point for all professional footballers. It is often when they are mentally at their peak that their bodies give in. Many careers are ended by long-term injuries from which a player never recovers, whilst others just grow too slow to be able to compete at the highest level. This list though, is for those who were still good enough and fit enough but jacked it in anyway, although some did later return to the game, going back on their original decision.

As such, you will find no Marco van Basten, no Brian Laudrup and no Dean Ashton, all of whom were forced to retire young through nasty injuries. The list is also restricted only to those who were quality footballers, or at least good enough to play for a respectable team in a reputable division. Over 75% of professional footballers retire before the age of 25, but that is usually because they are not earning enough money and want to seek out a more long-term career from a young age.

Every player on this list was a fit and talented individual who could have made a very lucrative living through football when they retired but chose to move on to new pastures. There are a surprisingly high number of French players which is immediately noticeable, as well as three former Manchester United players. Here are the top 20 soccer players who retired too young.

20 David Bentley

via independent.co.uk

19 Shane Supple

via skysports.com

18 Emmanuel Petit

via ibtimes.co.uk

17 Darko Pancev

via calciobiodini.com

16 Hidetoshi Nakata

via theoldnow.com

15 Paul Scholes

via mirror.co.uk

14 Patrick Kluivert

via gazettelive.co.uk

13 Jurgen Klinsmann

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

12 Kevin Keegan

via goal.com

11 Pele

via efectofutbol.com

10 Frank Rijkaard

via mvasports.com

9 Didier Deschamps

via gentside.com

8 Espen Baardsen

Action Images / Richard Heathcote

7 Carlos Roa

via taringa.net

6 Zinedine Zidane

via sportskeeda.com

5 Zbigniew Boniek

via eurosport.com

4 Michel Platini

via themalaysianinsider.com

3 Eric Cantona

via eurosport.com

2 Mario de Castro

via hubspot.net

1 George Best

via youtube.com

George Best first announced his retirement at the end of the 1972 season, aged just 26 and having been Manchester United's top scorer for the third consecutive season. Best did continue to play before announcing his retirement once more and leaving Manchester United aged 28, in 1974. This was of course far too young for one of the game's greatest ever natural talents. He came back to soccer over a year later, at Stockport County but didn't really play regularly until moving to the U.S. in 1976. Best played for nine different teams after Manchester United, finally finishing his playing career aged 28, but the truth is that second retirement when he left the club in 1974 was the end for Best and the last time we saw his true ability. It is a travesty such a player's career effectively ended at 28.

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Top 20 Soccer Players Who Retired Too Soon