11 high-profile players who have retired in 2021: Rooney, Robben, Khedira…

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Former Manchester United and Arsenal players are among the highest-profile stars to have announced their retirement in recent months. 

While some players are now able to play into their late 30s and early 40s, others decide to bow out when they feel that the time is right.

We’ve taken a look at 11 notable names and familiar faces who have decided to hang up their boots in 2021.

Wayne Rooney

Despite being eight months younger than Juventus star and former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo, Rooney decided to hang up his boots in January 2021.

“I’ve had a great career and enjoyed every minute,” Rooney said. “Of course, I will miss it but I’ve been very fortunate to play for some massive teams.

“Playing for Everton was a boyhood dream of mine and then to go and play for 13 years at Manchester United was the highlight. To stay at the biggest club in the world for so long and win so many trophies is something I’ll always appreciate.”

The 35-year-old was then appointed Derby County manager on a permanent basis and has endured a pretty turbulent first few months in the hot seat.

READ: Yearning for the Wayne Rooney that we all fell in love with at Euro 2004

Sami Khedira

While he may never have been the most fashionable of players, Khedira holds a CV that would make nearly every footballer drool with envy.

Not only did he help inspire Stuttgart to the Bundesliga title, but the 34-year-old will retire having also won five Serie A crowns, La Liga, the Champions League and the World Cup.

Having struggled with injury problems in recent years, the midfielder has decided to call it a day following a brief spell with Hertha Berlin.

“It’s a pretty tough step and it’s hard for me to talk about, but it’s the right decision,” Khedira said. “Fifteen years in professional football have left their mark and I have to honestly judge what I can and cannot do.

“First of all, I would like to gain some distance and relax. I will stay with football, in what form it remains to be seen.”

Arjen Robben

We’re currently struggling to come to terms with the fact that Robben won’t be cutting inside onto his wonderful left foot ever again.

Antonio Valencia

After joining Manchester United from Wigan for £16million in the summer of 2009, Valencia proved to be an immense servant to the Red Devils. 

He made 339 appearances during a 10-year spell at Old Trafford, winning two Premier League titles, two League Cups, the FA Cup and the Europa League.

The 34-year-old returned to his native Ecuador with LDU Quito in 2019 before seeing out his playing career at Mexican side Queretaro. 

READ: A tribute to Antonio Valencia, the winger turned world-class right-back

Yohan Cabaye

Alongside Demba Ba, Papiss Cisse and Hatem Ben Arfa, Cabaye was a key part of the entertaining Newcastle United side that narrowly missed out on the top four in 2012. 

He had a brief stint at PSG but returned to England with Crystal Palace in 2015, establishing himself as a cult hero at Selhurst Park.

After being released by St Etienne at the end of 2019-20, the midfielder took a few months to weigh up his options before announcing his retirement in February 2021. 

“It is with great emotion that after more than 17 years of passion, love for football, great emotion and memories that will always remain ingrained in my mind, I announce the end of my professional football career,” Cabaye said in a statement.

“Even if this decision may seem obvious and unavoidable having passed 35 [years] in the world of football, it is still difficult to take and to accept because my love for football is immense.”

Nicklas Bendtner

From netting a hat-trick in the Champions League to that Paddy Power celebration, Bendtner’s career was nothing if not entertaining.

The Arsenal academy graduate failed to live up to his own lofty expectations but does have a Serie A winners’ medal. Yes, really. 

He last played for Tarnby FF in the fourth tier of Danish football before retiring at the age of 33. The striker is now looking for a career in coaching. 

READ: A celebration of Nicklas Bendtner, his modest talent & not-so-modest belief

Lars and Sven Bender

German football’s most famous twins, Lars and Sven Bender began their career together at 1860 Munich before both leaving the club in 2009. 

The pair reunited at Bayer Leverkusen in 2017 but have now decided to hang up their boots at the same time following a series of injury problems. 

“Everyone who knows us knows that we give 100% every day,” they said in a joint statement. “That was always the basic requirement for us. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to continuously access this with all the pain and physical problems from which we are suffering more and more.”

During their final game against Borussia Dortmund in May 2021, Sven captained Leverkusen and Lars came off the bench to score a late penalty.

Vedran Corluka

During his time in the Premier League, Corluka was a reliable and possibly underrated presence for both Manchester City and Tottenham.

The former Croatia international spent the last eight years of his career at Lokomotiv Moscow, winning one Russian title and four Russian Cups along the way.

Not gonna lie, we’d kind of assumed that he had retired a few years ago.

Wes Morgan

After spending most of his career in the Championship, Morgan became an integral part of the team that shocked the football world.

The centre-back led Leicester City to the top flight in 2014 before hoisting the Premier League trophy aloft at the King Power Stadium two years later.

His fairytale story was rounded off in style at the end of 2020-21, coming off the bench towards the end of their FA Cup win final over Chelsea.

Stewart Downing

Having made 750 professional appearances during a 20-year career, Downing decided to retire after leaving Blackburn Rovers at the end of 2020-21.

“I’m not going to lie, it’ll be difficult,” the 37-year-old told The Times after announcing his retirement. “I’m going to have to go out and get a couple of beers!”

A man after our own hearts.

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