13 players who were forced to retire early: Wilshere, Aguero, Petit…

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Arsenal's Jack Wilshere in action against Sheffield United at the Emirates Satdium, London, September 2008.

Former Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham players have all been forced into early retirement due to unfortunate injury problems – and Jack Wilshere has now added his name to that list.

It is always sad to look back on what could have been, especially with some of the outstanding talent that often gets ruined by injuries curtailing careers before they have even begun.

We’ve taken a look back at some of the most high-profile examples of the players who have unfortunately retired against their own will.

Jack Wilshere

Injuries plagued the latter part of Wilshere’s career and he announced his retirement in July 2022 after a short spell at Aarhus in the middle of our street Demark.

He said: “In truth it has been difficult to accept that my career has been slipping away in recent times due to reasons outside of my control whilst feeling that I have still had so much to give.

“Having played at the very highest level I have always held such ambitions within the game and if I am truthful I did not envisage being in this position at times.

“However, having had time to reflect and talk with those closest with me I know that now is the right time and despite the difficult moments I look back on my career with great pride at what I have achieved.”

He’s right to be proud. Just think back to how good he was in his pomp.

Jack Wilshere is marked by Xavi and Lionel Messi as Arsenal play Barcelona at the Emirates Stadium. February 2011.

READ: A forensic analysis of Jack Wilshere’s stunning 2011 CL display v Barcelona

Sergio Aguero

At 33, Sergio Aguero had already seen out most of his career, winning multiple trophies and becoming one of the greatest Premier League goalscorers while playing for Manchester City.

But he still had ambitions to fulfil at Barcelona when forced into retirement in December 2021, following the diagnosis of a heart condition.

Announcing the decision to retire, Aguero said: “I’m proud of the career I’ve had and am fortunate it is happening to me now rather than before.

“I don’t know what awaits me in the next life but I know there are a lot of people who love me and want the best for me.”

Dean Ashton

A tackle from Shaun Wright-Phillips in England training was what ultimately ended the career of a really promising and exciting goalscorer.

Seven years after scoring *that* overhead kick at Old Trafford, and six years after retiring, Ashton went and did this in Mark Noble’s testimonial.

Stuart Holden

A sad tale of events which began with a tackle from Jonny Evans at Old Trafford which left Holden with a fractured femur, cartilage damage and a gash which required 26 stitches.

Just Fontaine

French striker Fontaine earned the golden boot at the 1958 World Cup and came third in the Ballon D’Or in the same year.

In 283 club career appearances, Fontaine rattled in an incredible 259 goals, but it is he is remembered most fondly for his performances for France, scoring 13 at the aforementioned World Cup, and retiring with a record of 30 goals in 21 appearances for Les Bleus.

The French Football Federation named him as their best player of the last 50 years in 2003, while Pele named him as one of the 125 greatest living footballers. If only injuries didn’t force his retirement at the age of 28.

Michael Johnson

While former managers were left frustrated with Johnson’s poor mindset, it was revealed following his release by Manchester City that he had in fact been undergoing treatment for mental health problems for several years – during the time that injuries were keeping him off the field.

While all cases of players getting injuries are sad, this seems like a particular waste of talent seeing as Johnson made 36 Premier League appearances in his teens before injuries took hold.

The midfielder officially retired aged 24 in 2012 but he made only 11 appearances after his 20th birthday. Johnson now owns an estate agency in Trafford.

Emmanuel Petit

After nine years at Monaco, Petit moved to the Premier League with former boss Arsene Wenger in 1997. He went on to play for Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea before turning down offers elsewhere and retiring in 2004 due to persistent knee injuries.

We’re still big fans of him winning €17,000 on a slot machine in Monte Carlo and giving it all to charity in 1998. What a man.

Jamie Redknapp

It is a shame that Redknapp will always be remembered for his injuries rather than almost 10 years playing in central midfield for Liverpool. His injury problems began in 2000 and he eventually retired in 2005 after a handful of games under dad Harry at Southampton.

But maybe his retirement was a good thing, because it means we get ridiculous moments like this.

Seth Johnson

After his solitary England cap in 2000, Leeds paid £7million for Johnson the following year, but injury problems meant he made just 54 league appearances at Elland Road before being released.

He returned to Derby thereafter and managed to get back out on the field before eventually retiring aged 28.

READ: Seth Johnson: I wasn’t even there for Leeds contract negotiations

Pierluigi Casiraghi

Time at Monza, Juventus and Lazio preceeded Casiraghi’s eventual career-ending move to Chelsea, where he made just 10 appearances before colliding with West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop.

Four years and 10 operations later, the Italian eventually retired in 2002, meaning he played his last game aged just 28.

READ: Pierluigi Casiraghi on what went wrong at Birmingham & Chelsea

Jack Collison

Collison’s character could never be doubted, playing in a cup match against Millwall just two days after his father died in a motorcycle crash while travelling to a match against Tottenham.

Injuries plagued his promising career, however, and he retired in 2016 aged just 28 after 12 appearances for Peterborough.

Ryan Mason

After attempting to regain fitness following a fractured skull in 2017, Mason announced his decision to retire on medical advice aged 26 in February 2018.

The former Tottenham man, who is Hull’s record signing, clashed heads with Gary Cahill in a match at Stamford Bridge and needed eight minutes of treatment on the pitch before being stretchered off.

He’s done very well for himself since hanging up his boots, though, becoming Spurs’ academy director and then the interim first-team boss when Jose Mourinho was fired in 2021.

Sam Hutchinson

Let’s end on a good story. Hutchinson retired while at Chelsea aged just 21 due to a recurring knee injury, but after making significant progress the club allowed him to return a year and a half later.

He spent the 2021-22 campaign at Sheffield Wednesday, and he says his injury has given him extra drive. He has even moved from being a defender to become one of the most reliable central midfielders in the Championship.


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