A fond farewell to football
Thank you, Gracias, Danke, Merci, Graças, شكرا لك !
To all the footballers who announced their retirement from football in 2010, FIFA.com salutes you on behalf of fans around the world for all the wonderful memories over the years.
We begin our roundup in the Netherlands with Giovanni van Bronckhorst (35), who brought a fitting end to his illustrious 17-year professional career at the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ Final in South Africa. Though he ultimately missed out on the coveted trophy, Van Bronckhorst's sporting achievements makes for impressive reading. "It's the right time to stop. I'm going to concentrate on other things from now on," said the Dutchman, who won his 106th cap against Spain in the Final, the third highest total in the history of the Oranje. "I'm very proud to have played over 100 matches in 14 years." Van Bronckhorst appeared for the likes of Arsenal, Barcelona and Feyenoord, where his team-mate Roy Makaay (35) also waved goodbye to the beautiful game this year.
Roberto ‘Pato’ Abbondanzieri (38) took the final bow of his 20-year career at the FIFA Club World Cup 2010, making his final appearance for Internacional in the match for third place. "It was very kind of Inter to give me the opportunity to play on for another season. Now I can say I ended my career on a high because we won my final match." The Argentinian goalkeeper represented his country at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany, where La Albiceleste were knocked out in the quarter-finals on penalties by the hosts.
Abbondanzieri's opposite number that day, Jens Lehmann, also hung up his gloves this year. The 41-year-old was part of the Germany squad which finished third in 2006 before going one better and reaching the final of UEFA EURO 2008 two years later. The former Borussia Dortmund, AC Milan, Arsenal and Stuttgart custodian is now looking forward to spending more time with his family. Lehmann's squad-mate in 2006, Oliver Neuville (37), also bade farewell to football following a short stint with Arminia Bielefeld.
French striker Mickael Pagis (37) never appeared for Les Bleus but nonetheless deserves a mention after making the switch to beach soccer over the summer. Could it be the start of a new career for the former Marseille goal-getter?
Nigeria's Wilson Oruma (33) enjoyed a prolific start to his career, not only helping the Golden Eaglets to victory at the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 1993, but also helping the U-23s to gold at the Olympic Football Tournament three years later. The right-sided midfielder, who had spells in France, Turkey, Switzerland and Greece, also appeared in the Super Eagles' 1998 FIFA World Cup group match against Paraguay, netting the equaliser in a match Nigeria would eventually lose 3-1.
Argentinian left-back Rodolfo ‘El Vasco’ Arruabarrena (35) made his name with Boca Juniors and subsequently Villarreal, who he helped to the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League in 2006. Following a short spell with Greek side AEK Athens, Arruabarrena brought his career to a close with Chilean side Universidad Catolica.
Italy's Christian Panucci (37) might well look back on his 20-year career with a tinge of regret. Despite becoming his country's oldest ever player to score an international goal, netting at UEFA EURO 2008 aged 35, the former defender missed out completely two years earlier as the Azzurri lifted the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
From one record-breaker to another, Mohamed Al Deayea holds the world record for international caps having appeared in goal no less than 181 times for Saudi Arabia during a career spanning 16 years. The 38-year-old took part in four FIFA World Cups and won the AFC Asian Cup in 1996.
The most-capped outfield player in history is Claudio Suarez, who made 177 appearances for Mexico. The 41-year-old announced his retirement in 2010 having taken part in three FIFA World Cups (1994, 1998, 2006). Another El Tri legend, Sergio Bernal (40), won four national titles and made over 400 league appearances with UNAM Pumas, where he remains an icon among the fans.
The likes of Eric Carriere (37, France), Matt Murray (29, England) and many, many more could all be added to the list, but unfortunately space limitations prevents this. Still, all our footballing retirees can enjoy the next phase of their lives knowing that they have left us with plenty of unforgettable moments. No doubt we will see some of them again in their new roles as coaches, TV analysts or even something completely different. As the old saying goes: As one door closes, another opens.
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