Football Players Who Retired in 2023

Josip Brajkovic
Josip Brajkovic
Published: 5. listopada 2023.

While the playing age has expanded drastically for the players, with the improvements in medicine and rehabilitation, as well as increased professionalism, players still can't go on duelling forever. The year will be remembered by Leo Messi entering into it as a World Cup winner, finally. With Manchester City winning the Champions League, finally. And by these football players who retired in 2023, unfortunately.

Starting off with more of an honourable or at least an entertaining mention - Bojan Krkic. As the man who was touted as the next Lionel Messi got outlasted in his football career by... Lionel Messi.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic (41) - centre-forward

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The biggest legend of the crop, without a doubt. A strong case could be made for Zlatan Ibrahimovic as the greatest player of the 21st century after Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi. Over his long and nomadic career, Ibra played in 827 games, scoring 496 goals and making 205 assists. Alongside 62 goals in 122 matches for Sweden. Winning the Puskas Award for the best goal in 2013, although he had a candidate for every year.

Ibra also won the league top goal scorer in five of the seasons he played, three in France, two in Italy.He got 10 league titles in the top five leagues, five in Italy, four with PSG, and one in Spain with Barcelona. Somehow, the Champions League trophy eluded the unforgettable striker. However, Ibra would probably say that lions don't have regrets.

Gareth Bale (34) - right winger

Gareth Bale

One of the true superstars of the 21st century. Gareth Bale's legacy would've been even bigger had he played in a side where he was the first in the pecking order. Still, it's hard to argue with his career choices after five Champions League trophies won. His career diminished by injuries, so Bale ended up playing 553 games, which isn't a low number, but is for players of his ability. In those club games for Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, and Los Angeles FC, Bale scored 185 goals and made 137 assists.

For Wales, where he always had the most desire to play, in 111 games he scored 40 goals! Bale could've postponed his retirement surely, received massive contracts in Saudi Arabia or the MLS, yet the passion for the sport evaporated a long time ago.

Gianluigi Buffon (44) - goalkeeper

Gianluigi Buffon

Not just one of football players who retired in 2023, Gigi Buffon became one of the very select few legends that retired in their fifth decade! The Italian goalkeeper got to 176 caps for the national team, with a staggering number of career club games: 975! He was just 20 games short of becoming the Juventus player with most appearances ever, so had he not gone to PSG he would've had that record too.

But a World Cup, 10 Italian championships, hero status at Juve and Parma both are enough for a massive career. Similar to Ibra, Buffon also never got his safe hands on the big-eared trophy. Still, he goes down as one of the top five goalkeepers of all time, easily.

Cesc Fabregas (36) - centre midfielder

Cesc Fabregas

One of the greatest central midfielders of his generation, Cesc Fabregas started so young, at the age of 16, that he experienced a career quality dip around his 32nd birthday. But even then, he ended up playing for Monaco, which is a milestone for the majority of players. Yet considering he got 110 appearances for Spain in its hay days, scoring 15 goals too, it's easy to comprehend what kind of a special player Cesc was.

Many injuries, yet the love of the game brought him to 737 club games, scoring 125 goals and making 214 assists. One World Cup, two Euros, two Premier Leagues, one La Liga, countless other cups, and a sense for passes like no other - Cesc Fabregas.

Diego Godin (37) - centre-back

Diego Godin

Coming with the first of a two-for-one punch in the gut for Atletico Madrid fans, it's the former captain and the face of Diego Simeone's first memorable generation. Diego Godin played in 389 games for Atleti, scored 27 goals and made 14 assists due to his aerial ability mostly. Overall, playing for Villarreal, Cagliari, Inter Milan, Club Nacional, Velez Sarsfield, and Atletico Mineiro, he played in 628 games!

The epitome of a Uruguayan player, combative, committed, and courageous, Godin played n 161 games for his country, winning the Copa America. His career highlight is the 2014 championship with Atletico Madrid, alongside two Europa League triumphs.

Joao Miranda (39) - centre-back

20180610 FIFA Friendly Match Austria vs. Brazil Miranda 850 1585.jpg
By Granada; - Own work;, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

The pillar on which the 2013/2014 Atletico Madrid title was achieved was the Diego Godin-Joao Miranda partnership in the centre of the ever-so-important defence. To see them as the football players who retired in 2023 reminisces of the understanding the two had together, going out together. Being remembered as one of the most formidable CB partnerships ever.

Doing most of his playing in Brazil, for Sao Paulo, Miranda is firstly known as an Atleti and Inter player worldwide. Overall, the lanky CB did get to 599 total career games, scoring 25 and making 15 assists. He also held the difficult job of being Brazil's centre-back in 58 games, winning one Copa America to go with his La Liga club trophy.

Joaquin (42) - right winger

Joaquin 2022 (cropped).jpg;, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

A legend of Real Betis and a legend of Spanish football. Not only because Joaquin ends up hanging them up at the impressive age of 42, nor "just" because of the 848 club games played with 112 goals and 103 assists. No, Joaquin was one of the most memorable personalities in football, a jovial character that makes you regret not picking up on Spanish in school.

For the Spanish Red Fury, the winger played in 51 games, although missing out on the trophy hauls. The trickster - on and off the field - did end up winning three Copa del Rey trophies, two with Betis, one with Valencia. Representing Fiorentina and Malaga also in his career.

Theo Walcott (34) - right winger

Theo Walcott

Another name on this list of football players who retired in 2023 after struggling with injuries throughout his career. As overreliance on speed often does to a footballer. Theo Walcott was the next golden boy for Arsenal after Thierry Henry jumped ship, yet the constant fitness woes scrambled any momentum. His final Gunners numbers are 397 games, 108 goals and 80 assists. With three League Cups to show for it in silverware.

Overall, Wolcot ended up playin in 564 club games for AFC, Everton, and Southampton. As well as gathering 47 caps for England. Born in 1989, he is the youngest on this shortlist of football players who retired in 2023.

David Silva (36) - attacking midfielder

David Silva

One of the most underrated players amongst the ones who retired in 2023. But also in general. David Silva was questioned upon arriving to the physical English Premier League due to his frame. He ended up playing in 436 games for Manchester City, scoring 77 times and making 140 assists! The technician had a long and industrious career, playing 744 matches in total, scoring 121 times and making 194 assists. While the 35 goals in 125 international matches with Spain resulted in two Euros and one World Cup.

His trophy haul for clubs comes down to City the most, with four PL titles, five League Cup titles, two FA Cups, and three Community Shields. However, with Real Sociedad and Valencia, he won the Spanish Cup trophy.

Mesut Ozil (34) - attacking midfielder

Mesut Ozil

Another highly-talented player, that seemingly had a lot more to give, but the fire wasn't there. Only unlike Bale, Ozil almost never had the burning desire to compete. What he did have in abundance is pure footballing skill. As credited by the 222 assists made in 604 games and 97 goals scored. Playing for Arsenal, Real Madrid, Werder Bremen, Schalke, Fenerbahce, and Basaksehir.

Ozil played in 92 games for Germany, scoring 23 goals and winning the World Cup. The player of Turkish origin won the league with Real in 2012, cup the year prior, four FA Cups with Arsenal, and the German cup with Werder.

Sime Vrsaljko, Jonas Hector, Emmanuel Adebayor, Fernando Llorente, Lucas Leiva, and Willy Caballero are some of the other notable football players who retired in 2023.


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