Some football legends play until they reach the ripe age of 40 years, exhausting all the possible plays they can until retirement. However, there are also football players who chose to retire earlier than expected.
‘What could have been’ are such lonely words for these players, and perhaps will never be answered.
Below are the names of players who left their fans shocked and wondering at the same time.
Announcing his retirement after the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Zidane retired at 34 when he still could play several more seasons. That’s despite what happened during his last-ever match, headbutting Marco Materazzi’s chest as a resort against his provocation. Zidane was sent off the game.
He moved on by becoming a manager to Real Madrid. A lot of football fans were sceptic at first before he proved them wrong. He went on to win three Championship League titles—justifying his credibility and silencing his critiques.
Cantona’s career is not one with a steady moral compass – with bans and suspensions here and there. Retiring at 30, however, he could have shown more of his style of play. Other football players look up to him because of this.
His passion for the game also stood out, highlighting the ballooning desire to play football throughout Europe and the rest of the world. Instead, he chose to retire early, putting a halt on his four Premier League titles and two FA Cups. The FWA Player of the Year awardee cited his growing lack of interest as his reason.
Brown, who retired when he was only 29, played in the NFL for nine seasons, from 1957 to 1965. Throughout this relatively short, by today’s NFL standards, professional career, he amassed awards and recognitions. This made every fan muse about the sudden change of heart.
When he retired, he held the majority of the individual records. Brown was a three-time MVP and an eight-time First-Team All-Pro. He was also included in the Pro Bowl for all his playing careers. Finally, Brown was part of the All-Decade Team of the 1960s and All-Time Team for the NFL’s 75th Anniversary.
Another NFL pro who retired too soon was Sanders; he retired at only 30. Sanders was considered one of the best running backs in NFL history. To date, he still ranked the 3rd all-time best player.
Unfortunately for him, Sanders was an elite player and perhaps the only one on his team. He did not receive the support that he was supposed to be getting on the field. Despite that, he was the 1997 MVP. Then, he chose to retire to focus on other important things.
Hamm retired when she was only 32, and no one was happy seeing her leave football. She scored 158 goals in her 275 games, which only proved that she could have done more should she stayed playing football.
Hamm has two World Cup titles and four NCAA Championship titles. She was also a two-time Olympic gold medalist.