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    End of an era: Football’s biggest names bow out in 2023

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    In the world of football, the year 2023 will be recognised as the end of an era.

    Players with large names – and even bigger personalities in some cases – have said goodbye to a game they controlled for years, as well as millions of fans across the world who adored them for their accomplishments on the pitch.

    A renowned goalie who was the torment of forwards everywhere, a striker with a tendency of performing the unthinkable, midfield maestros who weaved their magic all over the pitch and a winger who soared more than he ran – here is a list of the giants that retired this year:

    Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)

    Gianluigi Buffon, the Italian icon, declared the end of his dazzling career last week, having won nearly everything there is to win in football.

    “That’s all for now, folks!” You gave everything to me. I gave you all I had. Buffon, 45, remarked on X, previously Twitter, “We did it together.”

    He retired from goalkeeping after 975 club appearances for Juventus, Parma, and Paris Saint-Germain (PSG).

    Buffon appeared in 176 games for Italy, winning the World Cup in 2006. He also played in the World Cups in 2002, 2010, and 2014.

    He began his club career with Parma in 1995, when he won the Italian Cup, the Italian Super Cup, and the UEFA Cup.

    He joined Juventus in 2001 and remained there for the rest of his career, earning 10 Serie A titles and almost a dozen cup triumphs.

    Buffon spent a season at PSG before returning to Juventus after winning the French Ligue 1 title.

    Buffon departed Juventus in 2021 to join Parma, marking his childhood club the last team he represented before retiring.

    Gareth Bale,

    Gareth Bale was a dribbler par excellence, endowed with explosive pace and a devastating left foot, and he was one of the most sought-after players of his generation.

    After a spectacular and trophy-laden career, the Welsh winger resigned in January this year at the age of 33, which is reasonably young for a player.

    He began his career as a left-back for English club Southampton, but turned to an attacker after joining Tottenham Hotspur in 2007, becoming one of the club’s primary attacking threats.

    During his first tenure with Spurs, he scored 56 goals in 203 appearances, prompting interest from some of the world’s greatest teams.

    Real Madrid paid €101 million ($133 million at the time) for him in 2013, setting a world record transfer cost.

    With the Spanish giants, he won five UEFA Champions League championships in 2014, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2022, as well as three Spanish La Liga titles in 2017, 2020, and 2022.

    He scored 16 goals in 34 games during his second stint with Spurs for the 2020-21 season. Bale announced his retirement six months after signing with Major League Soccer team Los Angeles FC.

    He is Wales’ all-time leading scorer, with 41 goals in 111 matches. He was key in the Dragons reaching the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958 in 2022.

    Mesut Ozil 

    Mesut Ozil, Germany’s World Cup champion in 2014, was a playmaker with a fantastic left foot.

    After a stellar club and international career, the midfielder of Turkish heritage announced his retirement in March at the age of 34.

    Ozil began his career with German teams Schalke and Werder Bremen before joining Real Madrid in 2010, where he developed into a really world-class player.

    He was a key member of Real Madrid’s 2011 Spanish Cup and 2012 La Liga titles, scoring 27 goals and providing 81 assists in 159 matches.

    Arsenal paid a club record fee of £42.4 million ($51.7 million at the time) to sign him in 2013.

    Ozil scored 44 goals and assisted 79 times in 254 games for Arsenal, helping the club win four English FA Cups.

    In 2021, he departed London for Turkey, where he played for Istanbul teams Fenerbahce and Basaksehir. However, he was unable to duplicate the form that propelled him to the top of the game and retired this spring.

    Ozil was a major member of Germany’s World Cup-winning team in Brazil in 2014.

    However, Germany’s dramatic group-stage loss from the 2018 World Cup in Russia provoked intense criticism of the squad and, in particular, Ozil, prompting him to retire from international football.

    In 92 games for Germany, the midfielder scored 23 goals.

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic

    Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be remembered as one of football’s most prolific and technically skilled attackers.

    He retired in June at the age of 41, having played for nine teams in his career, including PSG, Juventus, AC Milan, Inter Milan, Manchester United, and Barcelona, and had a persona as wide as his array of skills.

    He scored 496 goals in 827 club matches, with his greatest prolific period coming from 2012 to 2016, when he struck 156 times for PSG.

    He is also Sweden’s all-time best scorer, having scored 62 goals in 122 appearances.

    He won the Italian league five times, three times with Inter and two times with AC Milan, as well as domestic trophies in Spain, France, and the Netherlands.

    Ibrahimovic won the UEFA Europa League with Manchester United in 2017.

    David Silva and Cesc Fabregas

    Midfielders Cesc Fabregas and David Silva, both members of Spain’s golden generation, retired in July.

    Spain won the World Cup in 2010 and back-to-back European Championships in 2008 and 2012.

    Fabregas, a Barcelona product, played for prominent teams such as Arsenal and Chelsea in England, as well as Barca’s senior team, over his 20-year career.

    Fabregas won the English Premier League twice, in 2015 and 2017, as well as the UEFA Europa League.

    He helped Barcelona win the Spanish La Liga title in 2013 and won the English FA Cup while at Arsenal from 2003 to 2011.

    Fabregas, known for his midfield control and passing, with 125 goals and 217 assists in 739 club appearances, as well as 15 goals in 110 games for Spain.

    His countryman Silva, who came to prominence with English team Manchester City, resigned at the age of 37 due to a catastrophic knee injury.

    Silva played for City from 2010 until 2020 before joining Real Sociedad.

    In Manchester, he won four Premier League championships, two English FA Cups, and five English League Cups, as well as two Spanish Cups with Valencia and Real Sociedad.

    He recorded 121 goals and 194 assists in 744 club appearances, as well as 35 goals in 125 national team games.

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