Southampton's Theo Walcott during the Premier League match at City Ground, Nottingham. Picture date: Monday May 8, 2023.

13 big-name players who’ve retired in 2023: Walcott, Fabregas, Buffon & more…

Former Barcelona, Real Madrid and Arsenal stars are among some of the high-profile footballers to have announced their retirement this year.

Some footballers such as Roque Santa Cruz are still going strong in their forties, but others have decided to call it quits in recent months.

We’ve taken a look at 13 notable names and familiar faces who have decided to hang up their boots in 2023.

Theo Walcott

“I’m officially going to be hanging up my boots. It’s very scary, I can’t lie,” said Walcott after announcing his retirement in August 2023 at the age of 34.

“It’s scary because football’s all I’ve known from the age of 16 or even younger. I want to try new things I never experienced as a kid – I missed out on a lot.

“I just feel like I want to experience life – things [usually] revolve around football for me.”

Nobody can argue with that.

READ: How the football Gods conspired to deny Walcott hero status at Arsenal

Gianluigi Buffon

Former Italy goalkeeper and World Cup winner Buffon retired from football aged 45.

He began his career at Parma’s academy and made his Serie A debut for the club in November 1995 before joining Juventus in 2001 in a £32.6million deal – a world record for a goalkeeper at the time.

Buffon spent most of his career in Turin, despite a stint at PSG in 2018-19. In total he made a record 657 appearances in the Italian top flight and is the most-capped goalkeeper of all time with 176 appearances for Italy.

Certainly one of the greatest goalkeepers of all-time.

Mesut Ozil

The German midfielder was one of the greatest playmakers of his generation and it’s a shame to see him hanging up his boots. Ozil is collectively considered an all-time great and yet it still feels as if he could have achieved more.

Surprisingly enough, Ozil only won one league title throughout his career, but that shouldn’t diminish the genius he was. He blessed the Premier League with some great moments and also got his hands on the World Cup with Germany.

After short stints at Fenerbahce and Istanbul Basaksehir, Ozil took to Twitter to announce his retirement in March 2023, aged 34. We already miss him.

Mesut Ozil celebrates scoring for Arsenal against Ludogorets in Sofia, Bulgaria, November 2016.

READ: The jaw-dropping Mesut Ozil solo goal that’s not talked about enough

Gareth Bale

The Welsh winger went out on the international stage and announced his retirement in January, soon after the World Cup. “It [football] has truly given me some of the best moments of my life,” explained Bale in his retirement post.

At his peak, there weren’t many other players better than Bale. His stardom peaked while at Real Madrid and he had a large helping hand in the countless trophies the club won.

He’ll no doubt be living life up right now on a golf course somewhere. Wrexham have tried to coax him out of retirement but we reckon he’s happier shooting birdies in the California sun. And you know what? Fair play.

Bojan Krkic

It’s crazy to think that Bojan, who was dubbed as ‘the new Messi’, has retired before Messi himself. The Spanish forward deserves to be celebrated though after a thoroughly enjoyable career.

Of course he didn’t quite live up to the hype, but who could have? He won 10 trophies with Barcelona and enjoyed stints with the likes of Roma, Milan and Ajax.

Best of all is that he became a cult hero at Stoke City in the Premier League. After leaving England he had spells in the MLS and J1 League, before announcing his retirement in March 2023.

Sime Vrsaljko

The Croatian full-back won La Liga and the Europa League with Atletico Madrid, but injuries held him back from reaching his full potential. He also started in the 2018 World Cup final and received 52 caps for his country.

Aged 31, Vrsaljko took the decision to retire this year after mutually terminating his contract with Olympiacos.

Fernando Llorente

The physical Spanish forward scored over 200 goals in his career and made 676 appearances at club level. He enjoyed spells with Athletic Bilbao, Juventus and Tottenham.

He also had a memorable season with Swansea as his 15 goals kept them out of the bottom three. Having been without a club since he left Eibar at the end of last season, he announced his retirement in February.

Lucas Leiva

Lucas will always have a place in Liverpool fans’ hearts. The Brazilian midfielder took the decision to retire this year aged 36 after a a heart issue was detected.

“I confess that it came from greater forces, but I look back and can only be thankful for the career I built,” Lucas wrote in his retirement post.

“In 2007 I transferred to the giant [that is] Liverpool, which was part of my life for 10 years. It is with great pride that I can say that today Liverpool is my home. I’m proud to be an English citizen and along with my family; I’m [a] Scouser!”

Emmanuel Adebayor

Aged 39, Adebayor announced his retirement from football in March. The former Arsenal and Real Madrid forward had spent his final years playing in his native country of Togo for Semassi.

We will sure miss him though as there was rarely a dull moment with Adebayor around.

Joao Miranda

The Brazilian defender spent his best days with Atletico Madrid and Inter Milan, but he decided to hang up the boots earlier this year. After a brief spell in China, he ended his career with Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Eljero Elia

The Dutch winger played in five different counties throughout his career and has notable spells with Werder Bremen, Feyenoord and Southampton.

Elia had been without a club since he left ADO Den Haag in January 2022 and he officially announced his retirement in February this year.

“This is the moment that the whole of the Netherlands will know that I have stopped playing football,” the winger told ESPN. “In my head I had already stopped. I didn’t like it anymore in recent years.”

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

All things must come to an end, but we kind of thought Ibrahimovic’s career might go on forever.

The legendary goalscorer finally hung up his boots after barely featuring for Milan in the 2022-23 campaign. His surprisingly emotional farewell speech had pretty much everyone at the San Siro blubbing away.

“The first time we arrived at Milan you gave me happiness, the second time you gave me love. From my heart I want to thank you fans,” he said. “You welcomed me with open arms, you made me feel at home.

“I will be a Milan fan for the whole It’s time to say goodbye to football, not you.”

Cesc Fabregas

The former Arsenal, Chelsea and Barcelona midfielder has called it quits at the age of 36 after one final season turning out in the scenic surroundings of Como in the Italian second tier.

Fabregas is always fascinating when he talks about the game tactically. We can’t wait to see what becomes of his budding coaching career.

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