Thousands of football lovers were left shocked and spellbound last Sunday when the Argentinian skipper, Lionel Messi, 29 announced his retirement from international football following a defeat to Chile in the Copa America final. He missed a penalty shootout that led to Argentina’s fourth major defeat in finals in the last four years. With tears in his eyes, he said “For me, the national team is over. I’ve done all I can. It hurts not to be a champion”. This has taken social media by storm and there are many speculations about the soccer legend to reconsider his decision. Some are saying that Messi has said this at the heat of the moment wheels there are others considering this as his long-planned decision.
Well, time will finally answer whether Messi will give himself another chance or not. Let us see some other Footballers who have retired too early from their football careers.
JAY JAY OKOCHA
Jay Jay Okocha is a former Nigerian football player who is regarded as the best Nigerian player of his generation. Okocha failed to help Nigeria in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup and announced that he would retire from the international football after the Cup of Nations in Egypt after he failed to help Nigeria qualify for the 2006 World Cup. He retired in 2008 after a spell with Hull City where he suffered injuries leading him to play a very less number of matches.
Éric Daniel Pierre Cantona is a former French international football player who played for a number of teams before ending his career at Manchester United where he won four Premier League titles in five years. Along with his bright football career was his poor disciplinary record where he was once also suspended for assaulting a fan. Cantona gave up his promising football career in 1997, at the age of 31, to become a French actor.
Hitoshi Nakata is widely considered as one of the most famous Asian footballers of his generation and one of the greatest Japanese players of all time. He retired at the peak of his career when he was just 29. Nakata announced his retirement from professional football on his personal website “I decided half a year ago that I would retire from the world of professional football after the World Cup in Germany.” He is now a model. When questioned about his retirement by a magazine, Nakata said that he was no longer enjoying football and instead, he wanted to see what was going on in the world.
Carlos Roa became a hero at the 1998 World Cup as the goalkeeper of team Argentina. Roa made a decisive save in a penalty shoot-out to ensure that Argentina eliminated England. In 1999, it was rumored that English giants like Manchester United and Arsenal were weighing to bid up for him. But Roa had a feeling of apocalypse and believed that the world will come to an end. So, he retired from his career and went off to a religious retreat.
Curtis Woodhouse started his career as the Sheffield United midfielder. He won four caps for the England under-21 side. Then he was moved to Birmingham City for a price of £1m. Since then, his career started turning sour and Woodhouse began to drift through the lower leagues of English football. At the end of the 2005-06 season, Woodhouse retired from the game aged 26, stating that he’d fallen out of love with the game. Woodhouse then went ahead and made his career in professional boxing.
George Best was a professional football player who played as a winger for Manchester United and the Northern Ireland National team. In 1968 he won the European Cup with Manchester United and was named the European Footballer of the Year and FWA Footballer of the Year. His career was affected on and off-field due to his alcoholism which later cost him his life. Best initially announced his retirement at the age of 26 but continued playing before finally announcing his retirement once more at age 28 when he left Manchester United.
David Michael Bentley is an English former professional footballer. He played not only as a winger but also as a central midfielder or a second striker. He started his career with Arsenal in the Premier League. Despite being noted as one of the promising players for the future, his playing opportunities was limited by a strong senior squad. Bentley announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 29, having been without a club for over a year. He stated in an interview that he had fallen out of love with the game and hence retired from the same. He said he wanted to spend time with his three children. Bentley and his family moved to Marbella, Spain, where he is a co-owner of a restaurant.
Emmanuel Laurent Petit is a French retired footballer. He played football for various clubs like Monaco, Arsenal, Barcelona, and Chelsea. He scored the third goal in France’s 3–0 victory in the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final. After being released by Chelsea, Petit rejected the chance to sign for Bolton Wanderers. He announced his retirement at the age of 32 after failing to fully recover from knee surgery.
Espen Baardsen is a former footballer who played as a goalkeeper. He initially played for the USA under – 18 national team before switching to Norway. Usually, goalkeepers tend to play soccer for a longer period of time than players at the outfield because of their reduced physical requirements. But Baardsen retired at an early age of 25 citing that he had no love left for the game anymore. After retirement, Baardsen traveled around the world for a year. Currently, he is a partner and a fund manager for a London based asset management company.
Zbigniew “Zibì” Kazimierz Boniek is a former Polish footballer. He is considered one of the greatest Polish players of all time. In his international career, he scored 24 goals and played at three consecutive World Cups, helping Poland to reach third place making the Team of the Tournament. He finally ended his career aged 32 at the time he was playing for Roma in 1988.
And now, how many of you are thinking to give up your current professional careers and the go-ahead to become models, actors, priests or starting your own company eh? 😉😉