Soccer provides a flood of memories reliving themselves every season. There are a lot of contests that do not follow a linear calendar like Major League Soccer seasons; instead, they span for two years.

There is little downtime for players between the 2022-23 season (which ended in the middle of 2023) and the start of the following season (which began in the summer). New talents emerge into the spotlight, yet many renowned ones retire or call it quits.

There will always be new waves of nostalgia when it comes to retired players, particularly those who have retired relatively lately. While performing at their best, these stars might stun the opposition and bring home hardware for their side.

As far back as the fans can remember, a few of these names have been among the world’s best players. As they realize these players will never play professional soccer again, a wave of nostalgia and melancholy might wash over them. Complementing their exceptional skill are the enormous personalities of these athletes, some of whom will live on in cherished memory for years to come.

Biggest players to retire in 2023

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The crop’s most illustrious veteran, surely. Following Cristiano Ronaldo and Leo Messi in contention for best player of the 21st century, Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes a compelling argument.

Ibra was a nomadic player who played in 827 games, tallying 496 goals and 205 assists over his lengthy career. As well as 62 goals in 122 appearances for Sweden. Although he was a contender for the Puskas Award each year, he won it in 2013 for best goal.

The Swede was named the league’s leading scorer five times—twice in France and twice in Italy—during his playing career. He won a total of ten league titles—five in Italy, four with Paris Saint-Germain, and one in Spain with Barcelona—among the top five divisions. The legendary striker failed to lift the Champions League trophy for whatever reason.

At long last, the world realized that the great Swede is human like the rest of us as he announced his retirement from soccer. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, at 41 years old, announced his retirement from AC Milan before the last game of the 2022–23 season against Hellas Verona.

Gareth Bale

When it comes to modern superstars, Gareth Bale is up there with the best of them. During his heyday, the Welshman was among the top players in the world. However, his poor last few years let fans down and dampened his otherwise exciting career.

Bale was the tournament’s outstanding performance in many finals, and winning five trophies is an extraordinary achievement by anybody’s standards. But, despite his stellar run in Madrid, he never quite felt loved by his Spanish coaches or the press.

The five Champions League titles he has won make it impossible to question his career decisions. Injuries cut short his career, but he still managed 553 games—not bad for a player of his skill level. Bale amassed 185 goals and 137 assists in those club games while playing for Real Madrid, Tottenham Hotspur, Southampton, and Los Angeles FC. It wasn’t until January of 2023 that word got out about his retirement.

Mesut Ozil

Once again, a very gifted athlete who seemed to have a lot more to offer but lacked heart. The main difference between Ozil and Bale is that the former seldom felt the intense need to compete.

Though widely acknowledged as one of the greatest of all time, Ozil leaves one with the impression that he may have been much more successful. However, his strength was unadulterated soccer ability.

His 97 goals and 222 assists in 604 games speak for himself. Ozil was a genius despite winning only one league trophy in his whole career, which is surprising. He brought several memorable moments to the Premier League and helped Germany win the World Cup.

Ozil announced his retirement on Twitter in March 2023, at the age of 34, after brief spells with Fenerbahce and Istanbul Basaksehir.

Eden Hazard

Even though he was still a young player in 2012, Hazard captivated French fans with his amazing dribbling skills and almost every club in Europe wanted to sign him. In the end, Chelsea came out on top, and the winger was well worth the transfer money.

During his seven years in England, he was a nightmare for Premier League defenses. He could beat men and carry the ball with ease. Hazard scored over a hundred goals and contributed to his team’s two league championships and two Europa League medals.

When this Belgium attacker was at the top of his game a few years ago, nobody could have said it better. Because of this, Real Madrid was able to lure the key player away from Chelsea.

His time in Spain, nevertheless, was ultimately fruitless. Unfortunately, the Belgian’s seven goals in 72 games for Los Blancos were far from enough to fulfill his expectations. Although he struggled with fitness issues and injuries throughout his four years in La Liga, his previous career demonstrates what a talented player he may have been.

Gianluigi Buffon

This day—the day that Gianluigi Buffon finally put down his gloves—still doesn’t seem real, but it occurred. Not only did Gigi Buffon retire in 2023. He joined an exclusive club of soccer greats who have called it quits in their fifth decade.

The legendary Italian goalkeeper spent 19 years (during two stints) with Juventus and is widely considered to be the greatest of all time. His first transfer from Parma to Turin was for a then-record sum for a goalie, which speaks something about his reputed talent.

His professional career attests to the veracity of such assumptions; he was an integral element of Juventus’s utter dominance during his time there. His ten Serie A championships and Italy’s 2006 World Cup victory are his proudest professional accomplishments.

In the same vein as Ibra, Buffon was never allowed to collect the big-eared prize, the UEFA Champions League trophy. Regardless, there’s no denying that he is among the all-time great goalkeepers.

Cesc Fabregas

Cesc Fabregas, widely regarded as one of the all-time best playmakers, had a phenomenal career during which he became a symbol for many teams. The fact that he came up via Arsenal’s youth programs is something that many supporters will remember.

After making a reputation for himself in the first squad, he was elected captain in 2008—at the tender age of 21—of the club. The Spanish midfielder made headlines during his time under Arsene Wenger. He was so impressive that he returned to his childhood club, Barcelona, in 2011 for a lucrative transfer.

As a player, Fabregas has won almost every trophy imaginable. In addition to helping Spain win the World Cup and European Championships, he also won league championships with Chelsea and Barcelona. In the summer of 2023, he announced his retirement from professional soccer and ended a two-year deal with Serie B club Como.

David Silva

Among the athletes who called it quits this year, he was one of the most underappreciated. Many in the physically demanding English Premier League had doubts about David Silva when he first arrived. His career with Manchester City finished with 436 games played, 77 goals scored, and 140 assists.

However, he turned out to be one of the all-time best strikers in the league’s history and was unrivaled while he was playing. He flourished and won a plethora of titles during his ten years with Manchester City.

Silva is one of the most accomplished players in the world, having won the European Championships, many Premier League crowns, an abundance of FA Cups, and a World Cup medal. A terrible ACL injury ultimately led to his retirement, even though he seemed to still have much to give this year.

Diego Godin

When Diego Godin was 37 years old, he decided to retire from professional soccer. When he last played, it was with Club Atlético Vélez Sarsfield of Argentina.

The Uruguayan spent nine years at Atletico Madrid, during which time he established himself as one of the club’s all-time greats with 389 appearances. His iconic status was solidified throughout his five-year tenure with the club, which began with his goal that clinched their 2014 La Liga championship.

Godin settled into his role as a sports hero, particularly for Atleti and Uruguay, after bouncing about for a few seasons after leaving Spain in 2019. He made 161 appearances for his national team before deciding to retire this year.

Emmanuel Adebayor

Emmanuel Adebayor settled back in Togo for good at the age of 39. His stellar career took him to France, England, Spain, Turkey and Paraguay. His most recent club was AC Semassi FC of Sokode, Togo.

The Togolese attacker was a divisive character during his lengthy tenure in the Premier League. Still, he scored 97 goals in 241 games. Among those teams were Tottenham and Arsenal, two of his fiercest rivals in North London; he scored a goal for each of them in a North London derby.

He left Arsenal for Manchester City. The memory of scoring a goal against Arsenal and celebrating in front of his old supporters lives on forever. Adebayor’s trophy cabinet was empty after his career. His loan to Real Madrid solidified his status as an underappreciated talent in fans’ eyes.