Eden Hazard & 10 Other Top Soccer Players Who Retired Way Too Early

Eden Hazard Has Retired From Soccer
Eden Hazard Has Retired From Soccer

On Tuesday (October 10), one of the best players in Chelsea and Belgium history, Eden Hazard, announced his retirement from soccer. Hazard had been without a club since his Real Madrid contract was terminated by mutual consent in July.

A lack of suitors, however, was not the reason behind his retirement at the age of 32, as he reportedly had offers from Major League Soccer and Saudi Arabia. The two-time Premier League winner simply did not have it in him to start all over again.

Mercilessly tackled throughout his career, Hazard’s body stopped listening to his mind during his injury-stricken spell at the Santiago Bernabeu. Additionally, his lack of commitment in training sessions kept him from winning the trust of his managers, Zinedine Zidane and Carlo Ancelotti. The 32-year-old left Madrid after scoring just seven times in 76 appearances over four seasons.

Hazard is not the only top player who bid the game adieu in the 20s or early 30s. Here are 10 other top players who left soccer way too early:

#10 Ruben De La Red

Ruben De La Red Retired Way Too Early
Ruben De La Red Had To Retire Due To A Heart Problem At The Age Of 25

Rising through Real Madrid Cantera, Ruben de la Red was officially promoted to Los Blancos’ senior team in July 2005. Thanks to competition for places the gifted midfielder did not get a chance to make his mark at the Santiago Bernabeu and left for Getafe in July 2007.

At Getafe, De la Red proved his mettle, scoring nine times and providing four assists in 49 appearances across the 2007-08 season. His impressive displays at Getafe earned him a ticket back to the Spanish capital, but he did not get to live his Bernabeu dream.

On October 30, 2008, the Spaniard fainted on the pitch during Real Madrid’s Copa del Rey clash against Real Union. Through thorough examinations over the next two years, a career-ending heart issue was identified, forcing De la Red to retire at the age of 25.

#9 Didier Deschamps

Didier Deschamps Retired At The Age Of 32
Didier Deschamps Won UCL With Juventus & Marseille

One of the most skilled defensive midfielders of his time, France legend Didier Deschamps announced his retirement before the start of the 2001-02 season, when he was just 32 years old. His announcement came after a lone season at Valencia, during which he helped the Spanish outfit reach the UEFA Champions League final. Deschamps’ retirement came as a shock to many, as he still had plenty left to give.

The former midfielder, who is currently serving as France’s manager, enjoyed a decorated career, winning two Champions League trophies, six league titles, and, of course, the 2000 European Championship and the 1998 World Cup with Les Bleus.

#8 Jack Wilshere

Jack Wilshere Retired At The Age Of 30
Jack Wilshere Won 2 FA Cups With Arsenal

Once hailed as one of the most talented midfielders in the world, Jack Wilshere’s career tragically ended in July 2022. Aged only 30 at the time, Wilshere made the call after Danish Superliga club AGF refused to renew his contract at the end of the 2021-22 season.

Wilshere played his best football for his boyhood club Arsenal. Unfortunately, his brilliant spells were often followed by heartbreaking stretches on the sidelines. The former midfielder played just 197 games over nine seasons at the Emirates Stadium, scoring 14 times and providing 30 assists. He also played for Bournemouth and West Ham United, featuring in 63 matches between them, scoring thrice and claiming four assists.

#7 Sergio Aguero

Sergio Aguero Retired At The Age Of 33
Sergio Aguero Won 5 Premier League Titles With Manchester City

Manchester City and Argentina legend Sergio Aguero signed for Barcelona as a free agent ahead of the 2021-22 season. The Argentine made an almost immediate impact, scoring in his first-ever El Clasico. Unfortunately, Aguero never got a chance to reach the top of the scoring charts. He had to be rushed to the hospital just a week after his Clasico goal, with the striker suffering heart discomfort during a 1-1 draw with Alaves. In December 2021, then-33-year-old Aguero announced his retirement from soccer on the advice of his doctors.

Aguero was a force to be reckoned with at his peak in England. The scorer of the most famous goal in Premier League history (a 3-2 win over QPR in May 2012), Aguero played a total of 390 games for City, scoring 260 times and claiming 73 assists. His goals helped the Cityzens to five Premier League titles between 2011 and 2021.

Manchester City’s record scorer also played 101 games for Argentina, netting 41 times and winning the 2021 Copa America.

#6 Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale Retired At The Age Of 33
Gareth Bale Won 5 Champions Leagues With Real Madrid

Gareth Bale, who recently won the Ryder Cup All-Star Match alongside Colin Montgomerie and Novak Djokovic, announced his retirement from soccer in January 2023, at the age of 33. The Welsh Dragon’s statement arrived shortly after he helped Los Angeles FC (LAFC) to the MLS Cup 2022.

Bale enjoyed an outstanding career with Tottenham Hotspur and Real Madrid. After making a name for himself at Spurs, Bale joined Los Blancos in the summer of 2013, sealing a $107.37 million move. He helped the Whites to the UEFA Champions League and the Copa del Rey in his debut season, scoring the winning goal in both finals. The latter years of Bale’s Madrid career were injury-stricken, but his Bernabeu legacy is bound to remain pristine for the foreseeable future.

Before leaving for free in July 2022, Bale played 258 games for Los Merengues, scoring 106 times and providing 67 assists. He won five Champions League trophies and three La Liga titles with the club, amongst other honors.

Bale proved to be even more effective for Wales, recording 40 goals and 22 assists in 111 appearances. The country’s all-time record scorer led from the front as his country qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, marking their first appearance at the tournament since 1958.

#5 Zinedine Zidane

Real Madrid Legend Zinedine Zidane Retired At The Age Of 34
Zinedine Zidane Scored One Of The Best Goals Ever In Champions League History (2002 Final Against Leverkusen)

Arguably the greatest-ever midfielder to play the game, France icon Zinedine Zidane retired at 34, just after his infamous headbutt on Marco Materazzi in the 2006 FIFA World Cup final against Italy. Judging by his performances at the tournament, it is safe to say that the Real Madrid legend still had plenty more left to offer.

Zidane, France’s best player when they won the 1998 FIFA World Cup, also bagged every trophy throughout his club career. Between Juventus and Real Madrid, Zidane won three league titles and a Champions League trophy, amongst others. Coming to individual honors, he won the Ballon d’Or in 1998 and the FIFA World Player of the Year on three occasions (1998, 2000, 2003).

#4 Michel Platini

Michel Platini Retired At The Age Of 32
Michel Platini Won 3 Consecutive Ballon d’Or Awards

Another French icon who retired Early, Michel Platini called time on his soccer career in June 1987, at the age of 32. Platini played for three clubs throughout his career: AS Nancy, St. Etienne, and Juventus, reserving his best for the Italian side. The attacking midfielder played 223 matches for the Bianconeri between 1982 and 1987, scoring 104 times and providing 49 assists. He won seven trophies in Turin, including one Champions League and two Serie A titles.

Platini also proved to be prolific for France, scoring 41 times in 72 games and helping them to the 1984 European championship. Courtesy of his stellar displays for club and country, Platini won the Ballon d’Or award three consecutive times between 1983 and 1985.

#3 Eric Cantona

Eric Cantona Retired At The Age Of 30
Cantona Won 4 Premier League Titles In 5 Years At United

Unlike many on this list, Eric Cantona was not forced to retire; he was very much at the peak of his powers when he hung up his boots in May 1997, at the age of 30. The Manchester United retired simply because he felt like he had achieved enough in soccer.

Cantona played for many top European clubs, such as Marseille, Bordeaux, and Leeds United, but he found his true self at Manchester United. Regularly brilliant and occasionally reckless, the Frenchman was at Old Trafford between November 1992 and May 1997. The forward scored 82 times and provided 62 assists in 185 games for United, winning four Premier League titles and two FA Cups, amongst others.

#2 Just Fontaine

Just Fontaine Retired At The Age Of 28
Just Fontaine Scored A Record 13 Goals In A Single World Cup Campaign

Just Fontaine hung up his legendary boots in July 1962, a month before he turned 29. A series of recurring injuries kept the 1958 FIFA World Cup hero from extending his legacy.

Fontaine won four Ligue 1 titles (3 with Stade Reims and 1 with OGC Nice) but he is best known for his ruthless scoring record for France. Fontaine played just 21 times for Les Bleues, scoring a staggering 30 times. More impressively, 13 of those goals came in six matches at the 1958 World Cup. No player has come close to matching Fontaine’s record over the last 64 years.

#1 Marco Van Basten

Marco Van Basten Retired At The Age Of 31
Marco Van Basten Won 3 Ballon d’Or Awards

One of the best center-forwards the game has ever seen, Marco van Basten retired in August 1995, at the age of 31. Van Basten took the difficult decision after failing to brush off his ankle problems.

Van Basten, a three-time Ballon d’Or winner, won it all in his club career. The Dutch icon spent five years at Ajax, scoring a whopping 152 times and providing 33 assists in 172 games. Ajax won three Eredivisie titles during Van Basten’s remarkable spell. At AC Milan, Van Basten bagged 125 goals and 49 assists in 201 games, winning three Serie A titles and two UEFA Champions League trophies amongst other honors.

Van Basten was remarkable for the Netherlands as well, scoring 24 times in 58 games. He was one of their best players as they won the European Championship in 1988.

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