Football is a game which every fan has deeply connected to, There are always been moments to cherish, the players people admire like the best ever who ever stpped on the pitch. But there is no game in the world with happy endings and so there are players who had lot of potential to be the next big thing but shockingly retired at an early age due to one reason or the other.
Top-5 most shocking retirements in football
5. Hidetoshi Nakata (Japan)
Hidetoshi Nakata retired at the age of 29, even before turning 30, and is regarded as one of the greatest Asian footballers of all time in history. In the 1998 World Cup, Nakata’s performance stood out despite Japan not living up to its potential. Nakata went on to play two more FIFA World Cups and two Olympics for Japan.
Nakata’s club career was even more bright as he became only the 2nd Japanese footballer to ever play in the Serie A when he joined Perugia after the 1998 FIFA World Cup and went on to win the Scudetto with Roma and the Italian Cup with Parma but Nakata decided to quit the game after falling out of love with it and as per him it had become too much of a business and players were playing for money, not fun. Nakata was also declared the Man of the Match in the last game he played in the 2006 FIFA World Cup against Croatia.
4. Eric Cantona (France)
Eric Cantona is a must on this list. King Cantona retired after the most successful spell of his career with the English Club Manchester United where he won 4 Premier League titles.
The forward played an important role in bringing Manchester United to the summit of the game in England and made the famous No. 7 jersey his own. Fans used to love his personality.
King Eric, as he was called, remains one of the most loved footballers who played for Manchester United and went on to become an actor, and even dabbled in beach football after retirement. Like Nakata, Cantona confessed that he lost his passion and love for football and hung his boots at the age of 30.
3. Andre Schurrle(Germany)
In 2014, Andre Schurrle, just 23, had the world of football at his feet. Schurrle scored in the epic World Cup semi-final against Brazil and provided the assist to the winning goal in the final against Argentina in extra time as Germany won the 2014 FIFA World Cup. The belief that the life of a footballer can be cruel is depicted in Schurrle’s story.
The wide forward hung up his boots earlier this year, admitting that the loneliness and mental strength needed to play the game of football were too much for him to handle just at the age of 29 in 2020. Schurrle won a Premier League with Chelsea in 2014-15 and is a two-time German Cup winner.
2. Marco Van Basten (Netherlands)
One of the greatest footballers who ever played the game of football, Marco Van Basten played his last match at the age of 28 before finally hanging up his boots two years later.
Even after retiring early, van Basten won the Ballon d’Or 3 times and won the European Cup 2 as part of a great AC Milan team, with them he also won 3 Scudettos. Van Basten was a complete striker with an instinctive goal-scoring ability and had a number of skill sets, scoring 277 times in 227 games during his club career at Ajax and Milan. Van also won a European Championship with the Netherlands, for whom he turned out 58 times.
Unfortunately, Van Basten’s career was dented by several injuries, and couldn’t recover from a serious ankle injury. Van Basten moved from a footballer to a manager after his retirement.
1. Just Fontaine
Just Fontaine, the charismatic French striker only played in one World Cup which made him a legend. In the 1958 World Cup in Sweden, the prolific footballer scored 13 times in 6 matches – a record for a single edition that stands till today.
Fontaine was a prolific goal-scorer whenever and wherever he played, scoring a hat-trick for the Les Bleus on his debut and scoring 121 times in 6 seasons for French Club Reims in Ligue 1. He scored 30 times for France in 21 games. In 1962, Fontaine’s career as a footballer was over due to a recurring injury and the only reason why his career lacked longetivity.
He came like a blaze and left like one. His early retirement did not stop Pele from naming him in his list of greatest living footballers in 2004. Sadly, Fontaine passed away at the age of 89 on 1st March 2023.