Stars who hung up their boots in 2020

  • Two of Spain’s world champions from 2010 retired this year

  • German World Cup-winning duo from 2014 also hung up their boots

  • looks at the players who called time on their careers in 2020

Every year some of the stars of the beautiful game make the difficult decision to call time on their footballing careers. Among those to realise that this year was the right time to retire were two of Germany’s world champions from 2014, two Spanish FIFA World Cup™ winners from 2020, an Italian world champion from 2006 and a Swiss trio as well as the oldest player ever to compete at a World Cup.

As the year draws to a close, takes a look at some of the players who've bid a fond farewell to the beautiful game.

Having hoisted the World Cup Trophy into the Berlin night sky at the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™, legendary Italy midfielder Daniele De Rossi announced his decision to retire at the start of 2020. His career extended for 18 seasons – including 17 with Roma – during which time he played 621 games and won 117 international caps for Italy. De Rossi explained that his decision was motivated by the desire to spend more time with his family, saying: "I don’t have any health-related issues, I just need to be with my daughter. She misses me, and I miss her."

Four years after Italy’s triumph, Iker Casillas and David Villa helped Spain to clinch their first and so far only World Cup title in South Africa. After not only becoming a world champion but also a two-time European champion with Spain and winning every possible trophy at club level for Real Madrid and Porto, Casillas spoke of being "grateful for everything I have achieved, not just in terms of titles but as a person too".

Spain’s record goalscorer Villa won the adidas Silver Boot at the 2010 World Cup for his five goals, was named in the Team of the Tournament and was also presented with the adidas Bronze Ball award.

Benedikt Howedes also called time on his playing career this summer at the age of 32. He became a world champion for Germany in Brazil in 2014 together with Andre Schurrle, who provided the assist for Mario Gotze’s decisive goal against Argentina in the final at the Maracana and has also decided to hang up his boots aged 29.

Claudio Pizarro’s career was an impressive 12 years longer than Schurrle’s, with the Peruvian finally announcing his retirement this year at the age of 41. With 197 goals to his name, "Pizza" is the second highest-scoring foreign player in Bundesliga history after The Best FIFA Men’s Player 2020 Robert Lewandowski. Pizarro also broke the record for the oldest-ever goalscorer in the Bundesliga aged 40 years, seven months and 15 days.

Argentina's most-capped player in history also played his final match in 2020. Javier Mascherano brought the curtain down on a truly remarkable career that, besides those 147 Albiceleste appearances, yielded five La Liga titles, two UEFA Champions League crowns and two FIFA Club World Cups as part of arguably Barcelona's greatest-ever team.

Nineteen years after making his first Bundesliga appearance for Bayer Leverkusen, Lucio signalled the end of his footballing career at the age of 41. The goalscoring centre-half made 121 appearances and scored 21 goals for Die Werkself until 2004, before playing 212 matches and netting 12 goals for Bayern Munich by 2009, winning three Bundesliga titles and three DFB Cups along the way. He then won the treble with Inter Milan in 2010.

On the international stage, Lucio won 105 caps for A Seleção, lining up alongside Roque Junior in the centre of defence for Brazil’s 2-0 triumph over Germany in the 2002 World Cup Final and forming part of his country’s victorious Confederations Cup teams in 2005 and 2009.

Meanwhile in Egypt, goalkeeper Essam El Hadary brought the curtain down on his career at the remarkable age of 47. Capped 159 times for his country, El Hadary made history at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ by becoming the oldest-ever player at a World Cup aged 45.

Another record-breaker on our list is Gareth Barry, who retired from football this year at the age of 39. The former England international made a total of 653 Premier League appearances for Aston Villa, Manchester City, Everton and West Bromwich Albion, more than anyone else in the competition’s history. "Congratulations on a magnificent career and thank you for your time with the Toffees," tweeted Everton, while City wished Barry "all the best in his retirement". The midfielder also won 53 caps and scored three goals for his country.

Another of this year’s retirees who spent many years with the Sky Blues of Manchester is Belgian centre-half Vincent Kompany, who became Anderlecht’s head coach after an 18-year playing career. "I want to commit to my role as a coach and need 100 percent of my time and focus for it. That’s why I’m quitting as a football player," explained Kompany, who won four Premier League titles with Manchester City and earned 89 international caps for Belgium.

Three former Swiss internationals also announced their retirement from the beautiful game in 2020. Former La Nati goalkeeper Diego Benaglio brought his career to a close at the age of 36, having most recently played for Monaco after winning the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg in 2009. "I haven’t yet worked out the details of exactly what I’ll be doing in the future," he explained.

"If you’re able to play more than 100 international matches for your country, that makes you proud," explained Stephan Lichtsteiner in his retirement announcement. "Every single game was an honour. And each one felt like it was the first when it came to nerves!" The right-back won seven successive Serie A titles with Juventus and collected a total of 17 trophies during his career – 14 of them with the Old Lady of Turin. When it comes to Switzerland’s national team, only Heinz Hermann (118) and Alain Geiger (112) have bettered the 108 caps won by Lichtsteiner, who played at five World Cup finals and European Championships in all, wearing the armband for La Nati during their 2016 and 2018 campaigns.

Former Rennes and Eintracht Frankfurt defensive midfielder Gelson Fernandes also opted to retire from football in 2020. The Cape Verde-born former Swiss international was something of a journeyman during his career, playing for ten clubs in six different countries along the way.

Finally, things have been very quiet for former Australia international Mile Jedinak over the past year. Despite helping Aston Villa to secure promotion back to the Premier League in the summer of 2019, the midfielder was not offered a new contract and, after spending a year without a club, called time on his playing career at the age of 35. As well as winning 79 international caps, Jedinak made almost 250 appearances for Aston Villa and Crystal Palace in England’s top two divisions.