The dawn of a new decade comes with the realisation that while a series of young players are beginning to carve out a name for themselves in world football, the legends who influenced them are nearing the end of their playing careers.
The previous year had witnessed the likes of Petr Cech, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Samuel Eto’o, Robin van Persie, and Fernando Torres hang up their boots and they have since moved into different roles within football and beyond.
2020 is likely to bring its own set of career ends with a host of influential names expected to bid farewell to the beautiful game. In this article, we take a look at five players who may be contemplating retirement in the new year:
#1 Andres Iniesta
Age: 35 years
Clubs: Barcelona, Vissel Kobe
Andres Iniesta forms the vanguard of an exceptional generation of La Masia graduates who commanded a creative revolution in modern football. Often considered the most complete midfielder in the game, the 35-year-old is a master at manoeuvring space - an ability that becomes more lethal when coupled with his quick-thinking and his astute cognisance on the pitch.
'Don Andres', as he came to be known, spent 22 years at Barcelona and was a vital cog of the Cruyff-esque set-up that won two historic trebles in 2009 and 2015. With 35 trophies to his name, including nine La Ligas and four UEFA Champions League titles, the diminutive midfielder is also the most decorated Spanish football player of all time.
The Fuentealbilla native is also part of a rare standard of players who are as influential for their countries as they are for their clubs. Making his international debut in 2006, the playmaker replicated his brilliance for his country and helped the national team to the 2008 and 2012 editions of the UEFA Euros. He also famously scored in the 2010 FIFA World Cup final that gave Espana their first-ever win in the competition and the goal is now immortalised with a statue in his home town.
He announced his retirement from international football shortly after Spain's horrendous Round of 16 penalty defeat to Russia at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Iniesta currently plies his trade for Tokyo-based outfit Vissel Kobe and won his first major trophy in Japan with a 2–0 victory over Kashima Antlers in the 2019 Emperor's Cup final on New Years' Day. Many believe the Barcelona legend was building the road to retirement when he moved to the J-League club and the man himself has admitted that he hopes to retire at the club.
"Will I retire here? I hope so. I’ve got two years left on my contract and I don’t know if I will have the strength to continue (beyond that). We’ll see. I like the league that I’m in, I still feel like a footballer and I want to improve. Let’s hope (I’m in Japan) for many years, but there will be a day that it will have to come to an end."