At the other end of the spectrum, we have footballers like Hidetoshi Nakata and Brian Laudrup who hang up their boots much before one expect them to, be it for personal reasons or injuries.
Sometimes, despite having a few years left to give to the game, a footballer feels he is done with the game as a player, with Zinedine Zindane being one of the most notable examples.
Zidane won the Golden Ball in the 2006 World Cup but immediately called time on his career, perhaps partially due to the infamous headbutt incident.
Zidane might have been 34, but his retirement still elicited howls of shock from around the world, mainly because he was still at the top of his game.
Whatever may be the reason, these five footballers left the game behind after engendering surprise among fans and a lingering regret about what could have been, had they gone on to play for some more time.
5 talented footballers who retired too early
#5 Hidetoshi Nakata - 29
Hidetoshi Nakata retired before turning 30 but will go down in history as one of the greatest Asian footballers of all time. At the 1998 World Cup, Nakata stood out despite Japan not living up to potential and he went on to play two more World Cups and two Olympics for the Asian giants.
His club career was even more illustrious as he became only the second Japanese to play in the Serie A when he joined Perugia after the 98 WC. He won the Scudetto with Roma and the Italian Cup with Parma. He decided to quit the game after falling out of love for it and was quoted as saying it had become too much of a business and players were playing for money, not fun.
Nakata was declared the Man of the Match in the last game he played, the 2006 World Cup encounter against Croatia. The stylish footballer would go on to have a career as a model and businessman.
#4 Eric Cantona - 30
It is no surprise that Eric Cantona finds himself on this list. Football's very own mad genius, King Cantona retired after the most successful spell of his career with Manchester United where he won four Premier League titles.
The forward played a crucial role in bringing United to the summit of the game in England and made the famous No. 7 jersey his own. Fans loved his personality which was passionate and quirky, even though he often fell foul of the officials.
King Eric, as he was called, remains one of the most loved footballers who have played for the storied club and went on to become an actor, and even dabbled in beach football after retirement. Like Nakata, Cantona confessed that he lost his passion for the sport and called time on his career.
Not for life though, as his recent speeches suggest. While receiving the UEFA President's Award in 2019, he quoted King Lear and provided a rambling exposition about life and society as the crowd listened in, stunned.