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Football’s Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon

In the wake of Eden Hazard’s retirement at the age of 32, fans are left pondering what might have been. While Hazard’s departure is a significant loss, he is far from the only footballing legend to have bid the sport farewell too early. This article delves into the careers of several football greats who, for a variety of reasons, hung up their boots much sooner than expected. From heart conditions to career-ending injuries, their stories are both inspiring and heart-wrenching.

Eden Hazard Image via Reuters 1 Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
Eden Hazard, Image via Reuters

Read More: 2023 Golden Boy Award: The Nominees as Rising Stars Shine – Who will ultimately be crowned as the Golden Boy?

Eden Hazard: A Career Cut Short

Eden Hazard’s illustrious journey, from his beginnings at Lille to his standout years at Chelsea, where he secured two Premier League titles, an FA Cup, the League Cup, and the Europa League. Hazard’s retirement followed the termination of his contract with Real Madrid, leaving fans wondering about the unfulfilled potential of his twilight years.

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Fabrice Muamba: A Miracle and Retirement

One of the most poignant early retirements in football was Fabrice Muamba’s announcement in August 2012. His career was curtailed after he suffered a cardiac arrest during a televised FA Cup match. Despite an astounding recovery from an ordeal that saw his heart stop beating for 78 minutes, medical advice led him to retire at the tender age of 24. Muamba, now 35, has since found a new role in football, working with the academy team at his former club, Bolton.

Screenshot 2023 10 13 235756 Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
Fabrice Muamba, Image via Instagram

Dean Ashton: The Unfulfilled Promise

Dean Ashton, a former West Ham striker, was once touted as the nation’s next great hope before a devastating ankle injury during England training derailed his career. His dreams of playing were shattered, forcing his retirement at 26. Ashton, now 39, still carries the deep desire to return to the pitch that once defined him.

Dean Ashton Image via Wikipedia Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
Dean Ashton, Image via Wikipedia

Ryan Mason: From Player to Coach

Ryan Mason’s journey from the youth ranks at Tottenham to becoming Hull City’s record signing and winning an England cap was promising. However, his career took a tragic turn when he suffered a fractured skull during a match against Chelsea. Following extensive medical advice, Mason made the painful decision to retire from professional football at the tender age of 26. Today, at 32, he is part of Ange Postecoglou’s coaching staff at his boyhood club, with a brief stint as Tottenham’s interim head coach, becoming the Premier League’s youngest-ever manager in 2021.

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Ryan Mason Image via Getty Images Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
Ryan Mason, Image via Getty Images

Marco Van Basten: The Dutch Maestro’s Early Exit

Marco Van Basten, widely regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time, ended his career at just 28 due to an ankle injury. Despite his brilliance, he could no longer play the sport he loved. Following his retirement, Van Basten transitioned into coaching, managing Ajax and the Netherlands national team, adding a new chapter to his football legacy.

Marco van Basten Image via IMDb Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
Marco van Basten, Image via IMDb

George Best: Battling Demons Beyond Football

Northern Irish legend George Best technically retired at 37 in 1983. However, the truth is that his playing days ended much earlier when he first gave up football in 1974, just before his 28th birthday. Best’s football career, marked by 470 appearances for Manchester United, two league titles, the European Cup, and a Ballon d’Or, was overshadowed by his struggle with alcoholism. After retiring from football, he turned to sports analysis before his untimely death in November 2005 at the age of 59.

George Best Image via Wikipedia Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
George Best, Image via Wikipedia

Eric Cantona: The Artistic French Farewell

Eric Cantona, at the peak of his powers, chose to retire at the age of 30 in 1997. The French genius had scored 64 goals in 143 appearances for Manchester United from 1992 until 1997 before he decided to call it a day. Explaining his decision, he cited the loss of passion and the fear of emptiness. In 2004, he received further recognition by being named alongside Pele in the FIFA 100 list of the world’s greatest living players.

Eric Cantona Image via Transfermarkt Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
Eric Cantona, Image via Transfermarkt

Jack Wilshere: A Career Marred by Injuries

Jack Wilshere, once hailed as one of the world’s best young footballers after his breakthrough at Arsenal, saw his promising career derailed by a series of injuries. After stints at Bournemouth, West Ham, and Danish club AGF, the former England international announced his retirement at the age of 30 in the past year. Coming up through the Gunners’ youth academy, he has since transitioned into a new role, becoming the head coach of Arsenal’s under-18 team.

Jack Wilshere Image via Getty Images Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
Jack Wilshere, Image via Getty Images

Patrick Kluivert: A Striking Career Cut Short

Patrick Kluivert burst onto the scene as a teenager, scoring the winner in the Champions League final as an 18-year-old with Ajax in 1995. He went on to play for AC Milan, Barcelona, and Newcastle United. However, his career began to stall, leading to his retirement in 2008 at the age of 32 after spells with Valencia, PSV Eindhoven, and Lille.

Patrick Kluivert Image via Transfermarkt Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
Patrick Kluivert, Image via Transfermarkt

Jamie Redknap: Injuries Leading to having Retired too Soon

Jamie Redknapp, despite nearly 12 years at Liverpool and 18 appearances for England, was forced to retire at the age of 31 in 2005. Coincidentally, it was the same day Liverpool won the Champions League final in Istanbul. Redknapp’s career was plagued by injuries, leading to more than a dozen surgery procedures. Today, at 50, he serves as a Sky Sports pundit and columnist.

Jamie Redknapp Image via Wikipedia Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
Jamie Redknapp, Image via Wikipedia

Sergio Aguero: A Heartfelt Goodbye

Another poignant retirement came when Manchester City legend Sergio Aguero was forced to hang up his boots in 2021 at the age of 33 due to a heart condition diagnosis. The Argentinian striker had just made a move to Barcelona when he experienced chest pains and dizziness during a La Liga match. Medical staff advised that he cease playing to ensure his health and safety. During the COVID-19 lockdowns, he became involved in online streaming and garnered a substantial following.

Sergio Aguero Image via Transfermarkt Football's Premature Farewells: List of Footballers Who Retired Too Soon
Sergio Aguero, Image via Transfermarkt

The world of football has witnessed the premature retirement of many great talents due to various circumstances. Eden Hazard’s recent decision adds his name to a list that includes players like Fabrice Muamba, Dean Ashton, and Ryan Mason, who faced adversity with courage. Marco Van Basten, George Best, and others left indelible marks on the sport, even if their careers were shorter than expected. The footballing world will forever remember these players and their untold stories of triumph and heartache.

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