15 big-name players who’ve retired in 2022: Mikel, Tevez, Wilshere…

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Stoke City's John Obi Mikel during the Emirates FA Cup third round match at the bet365 Stadium, Stoke. 9 January 2021.

Former Arsenal, Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City players are among some of the high-profile footballers to have announced their retirement in recent months.

The passage of time stops for no mortal being and every footballer – even Zlatan Ibrahimovic or Cristiano Ronaldo – knows they cannot continue playing forever.

We’ve taken a look at 15 notable names and familiar faces who have decided to hang up their boots in 2022.

Fabian Delph

This one took us by surprise.

Double Premier League champion and 20-cap England international Delph is only 32 and looked like he could still do it when he came into Frank Lampard’s Everton team towards the back end of last season.

But having played just 35 league games over the past three seasons owing to a series of injuries, perhaps the decision is understandable.

He wrote on Instagram: “So today I announce my retirement with nothing but happiness and gratitude for what this beautiful game has given me.

“Massive shout out to my family, friends, players and staff from the amazing clubs I have been fortunate enough to represent as well as the support I have had from the fans.”

John Obi Mikel

Most closely associated with Chelsea, Mikel has decided to call it a day after spells in China and Turkey as well as with Stoke and Middlesbrough in the Championship.

He ended up becoming more of a destroyer at Chelsea, but things could have been oh-so-different for the big Nigerian midfielder.

John Obi Mikel celebrates scoring for Chelsea against Derby County. Stamford Bridge, London, January 2014.

READ: A tribute to John Obi Mikel, Nigeria creator turned Chelsea water carrier

Jack Wilshere

Wilshere’s decision to call it quits will be a bit of a gut punch for those that can recall him running rings around Xavi and Iniesta when he was a teenager. For a certain younger generation, he’ll be the first retired footballer they remember breaking through as a rising star.

The lengthy statement he published on Twitter is quite stirring. Bit dusty in here, isn’t it?

Jermain Defoe

Defoe is absolutely loved up in Sunderland, as much for the goals he scored as the bond he forged with the community.

Unfortunately, his fairytale return to the Stadium of Light back in January didn’t quite turn out as planned. The 39-year-old only made seven appearances (two starts) and failed to score a goal, eventually calling it quits on his career a few weeks early as it became evident this was one job too far.

Still, Sunderland went up through the playoffs in the end, so all’s well that end’s well.

Mousa Dembele

One of the most aesthetically pleasing midfielders in Premier League history, unfortunately injuries denied Dembele the chance to keep marauding around the pitch into his thirties.

He was only 31 when he left Tottenham for Chinese Super League club Guangzhou Evergrande in January 2019. Three years later he announced he was done, seeing out his contract and rejecting a renewal offer in order to spend more time with his family.

Mark Noble

Get a few pints in any West Ham fan and get them onto the subject of Mark Noble and you’re certain to get an impassioned rant about what a disgrace it was that he never got an England cap.

One-club legends like this are a dying breed.

READ: A love letter to Mark Noble and the 5 moments that defined Mr West Ham

Martin Skrtel

The Slovakian surprisingly only won one League Cup across his eight years of service to Liverpool, but he enjoyed something of a late-career swansong after departing Anfield for Besiktas back in 2016.

He went on to win the Turkish Super Lig title in the 2019-20 season – not with Besiktas, but with upstarts Istanbul Basaksehir – and bowed out earlier this year after captaining Spartak Trnava to the Slovak Cup.

Adebayo Akinfenwa

The biggest – literally and figuratively – cult hero in Football League history, the one and only Adebayo Akinfenwa finally called it a day just days after his 40th birthday.

The Beast represented 14 different clubs and scored 233 goals in 794 appearances in a career that saw him start out back in 2001 at Lithuanian outfit FK Atlantas, before playing in the Welsh Premier League with Barry Town and years of grafting away in the second, third and fourth tiers of the English league pyramid.

Fittingly enough, Wembley Stadium was the stage for his goodbye, albeit not quite as planned, a late substitute in the League One Play-Off final defeat to Sunderland.

Scott Brown

One of the defining figures of Scottish football over the past couple of decades, Brown went on to make over 500 appearances in the Scottish Premiership, lifting 10 league titles and no fewer than a further 12 cups across 14 unforgettable seasons with Celtic.

“It’s a sad day to see him retire but he retires with a huge legacy behind him – as a football player, as a Celtic player, as a Celtic captain and a Celtic legend,” the club’s current captain Callum McGregor in a tribute video from the club.

“I wish him all the best in his next chapter but what a legacy he leaves behind.”

Having seen out the final year of his career as a player-coach at Aberdeen, Broony was announced as the manager of Fleetwood Town after announcing his retirement.

Carlos Tevez

El Apache‘s rollercoaster career continues as he was appointed manager of Argentinian club Rosario Central only a matter of weeks after announcing his retirement.

Bizarrely, he’s already threatened to quit amid tense presidential elections at the Argentinian top-tier club.

READ: The 8 stages of Carlos Tevez’s career after signing for Manchester United

Aleksandar Kolarov

Imagine the sheer fear of standing in a wall and seeing Kolarov standing over the ball, ready to take a free-kick.

Dozens of Serie A defenders have been spared that nightmare next season and beyond. The Serbian called it a day at the age of 36 after making just three substitute appearances last season.

We wonder what he has planned for Christmas this year…

Bruno Alves

One of those names you kind of assumed would just keep on playing forever, the eternal Bruno Alves finally called it quits after a short stint in Greece with Apollon Smyrnis.

The centre-back was capped 96 times by Portugal and won league titles in Portugal, Russia and Fenerbahce. Football’s evidently in his blood, as days after announcing his playing career was over he was appointed as the new sporting director at AEK Athens.

Davide Santon

The former Newcastle and Inter full-back has hung up his boots at the age of 31. He’s only made a total of 42 Serie A appearances for Roma since 2018 and suffered through years of injury hell.

“The left knee is just gone, my right knee had 3 surgeries and cartilage removed,” he said.

“I didn’t turn anyone down, I was never going to pass a medical,” he responded to accusations that he rejected moves away from Roma.

Lucas Barrios

The Paraguayan journeyman made over 100 appearances for Borussia Dortmund back when they were at their title-winning pomp under Jurgen Klopp.

He left the Bundesliga club over a decade ago but has kept plugging away, having turned out for Guangzhou Evergrande, Spartak Moscow and Montpellier since, eventually returning to South America, moving around frequently to take his total tally of clubs represented on his native continent to 16.

Barrios has announced his retirement at the age of 37. You’ll imagine he’ll have a few frequent flyer points to use up now.

Martin Hinteregger

A strange and unexpected one, this.

Hinteregger is only 30 and had a year remaining on his contract Eintracht Frankfurt contract, while he played a key role as they won the Europa League last term.

“Last autumn I’d already started to think about retiring at the end of the season. I was in a difficult period on the pitch: my performances were shaky. The wins didn’t feel as good anymore, and every defeat hurt twice as much,” he explained in a statement on Frankfurt’s official website.

The decision comes shrouded in controversy following the discovery of his personal links to an alleged neo-Nazi figure in Germany.

“Some emotional and perhaps ill-advised words from me have caused irritation and I would like to apologise for that. I regret that very much,” he added in the statement.

“To make it clear once again: I condemn right-wing, intolerant and inhuman ideas in the strongest possible terms. Those who know me know that.”


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