Every year, a number of celebrated footballers and coaches bid farewell to the beautiful game. In 2013, the list was especially distinguished, as age, new career paths and repetitive injuries led to many household names converting into retirees, the majority of whom will now watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ from the comfort of their own living rooms.
English football in particular saw several prominent figures bring the curtain down on their careers, including David Beckham, Michael Owen, Paul Scholes, Jamie Carragher, Phil Neville and Sir Alex Ferguson
FIFA.com takes a look back at the most high-profile retirements registered over the past 12 months.
Former Bordeaux goalkeeper Ulrich Rame, 41, opted to hang up his gloves after previously racking up 525 appearances for Les Girondins and 12 caps for France. Newly retired Osasuna custodian Ricardo Lopez enjoyed a similar level of durability, and on 1 June against Real Madrid he became La Liga’s oldest player.
Iran mainstay Mehdi Mahdavikia (111 caps, 13 goals), 36 years of age, took a step back from the game in June, following a career in which he fulfilled every possible right-sided role and played in 381 league encounters in Iran and Germany.
Another one-time international stalwart, 36-year-old Phil Neville, who represented England 59 times, has joined the backroom staff at Manchester United, two years after the retirement of his brother Gary.
Jamie Carragher, an equally faithful servant with 737 Liverpool matches and 38 England appearances under his belt, put a stop to his successful career on 19 May. Czech Republic right-back Tomas Ujfalusi (35), 78 caps, and Senegal’s 2002 World Cup quarter-finalist Omar Daf (36), 60 caps, also chose 2013 as the year to call a halt to their playing days.
Following a season-long swansong at Montreal Impact, stylish centre-back Alessandro Nesta, who starred for Lazio and AC Milan and lifted the 2006 World Cup with Italy, left the pitch for the last time in October at the age of 37.
Meanwhile, 32-year-old Germany defender Christoph Metzelder will no longer be able to add to his 47 caps for Die Nationalelf, after a series of injuries forced him into premature retirement.
Netherlands midfield general Mark van Bommel (36), 79 caps, former Spanish international David Albelda (36), 51 caps, English dynamo Kieron Dyer (34), 33 caps, and Australian grafter Jason Culina (33), 11 caps, all hung up their boots this year, as did Italian World Cup winner Gennaro Gattuso (35), who pulled on La Nazionale’s famous jersey on 73 occasions but was obliged to turn his hand to coaching due to an eye ailment.
Across the ocean, Argentinian ball-winner Sebastian Battaglia (33), ten caps, concluded a career spanning three different decades, during which he held aloft 17 trophies with Boca Juniors.
Central and attacking midfielders
In Brest on 18 May 2013, the tears of 38-year-old football icon David Beckham attracted media coverage from all over the world. Prior to capping off his brilliant career by inspiring Paris-Saint Germain to a Ligue 1 crown, the world-famous set-piece specialist had secured no fewer than nine additional league titles with Manchester United (six), Real Madrid (one) and Los Angeles Galaxy (two).
The Englishman can also look back with equal pride on his contribution at international level, his 115 appearances making him the Three Lions’ second most capped player in history, behind goalkeeper Peter Shilton (125 caps).
Another player who will no longer be seen lighting up the midfield is Brazil-born Deco, who defended the colours of Portugal 75 times and won the Campeonato Brasileiro twice with Fluminense in his final two seasons.
A recurring injury provoked the talented playmaker’s retirement at the age of 35, which was the principal factor in 31-year-old Thomas Hitzlsperger’s decision to walk away from a career in which he earned 52 caps for Germany.
Former Bulgaria captain Stilian Petrov (116 caps), was also constrained to follow suit at 34, in order to focus on his battle with leukaemia. Versatile Serbian Dejan Stankovic (35), who accumulated 103 international appearances between 1998 and 2013, was another player to close a significant chapter of his life, bringing a trophy-laden decade with Inter Milan to an end in July.
England fans had long hoped that Michael Owen would fulfil the incredible potential he initially displayed at Liverpool. But following an up-and-down spell at Real Madrid and a lengthy injury lay-off, Owen struggled to regain his earlier promise. On 19 March, the Stoke City striker announced his retirement, having previously amassed 40 international goals and 89 caps.
Similarly, France attacker Louis Saha (20 caps, 34 years of age) called time on a career disrupted by injury, as did compatriot Ludovic Giuly, 36, who starred for Les Bleus 17 times and performed for some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Lyon, Monaco, Barcelona, Roma and PSG.
Frederic Kanoute, whose footballing CV features 39 appearances for Mali, also called it a day at the age of 36. Last but not least, Sonia Bompastor (156 caps), one of the first names on the teamsheet of the French national women’s team for 13 years and a veritable ambassador for the female version of the game, retired from the sport in June.
Two of the year’s most notable football retirees were not actually players. Sir Alex Ferguson (71) and Jupp Heynckes (68), who will go down in history as two of the game’s greatest coaches, both left their posts on a high, having delivered yet more silverware to Manchester United and Bayern Munich respectively.