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Looking at 5 legends from Zidane to Figo who retired early as Cristiano Ronaldo continues at 39

Cristiano Ronaldo is the epitome of longevity.

The Al-Nassr captain celebrates his birthday today (February 5) and is still at the top of his game.


The Portuguese superstar is currently injured, but he is not down and out. CR7 has no plans on retiring anytime soon, and scored 54 goals in 2023, more than any other player in world football.

With CR7 proving that age is but a number, Sports Brief looks at five great players of the game who retired at a young age.

Footballing greats who retired too early

Pele – 36

One of the greatest to ever play the game, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, retired from professional football at the age of 36.

Pele first grabbed the attention of world football when he was just 17, as he helped guide Brazil to their first World Cup title in 1958.

Pele played his last game for the Brazilian side in 1971, but made his last official appearance at club level in 1977, BBC reported.

Diego Maradona – 37

Another player considered to be one of the greats, Maradona’s career was defined by brilliance on the field and crazy stories off it.

Maradona scored 344 goals for club and country during his career but also had his fair share of legal troubles.

As noted by Sportskeeda, he retired in 1997 after he claimed that powerful people were trying to frame him to force him to quit the game.

Ronaldo Nazario – 34

Known as O Fenômeno, Ronaldo Nazario was considered the future of Brazilian football.

Ronaldo, a three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, hung up his boots in 2011.

As noted by Bleacher Report, he made the decision to retire, citing a lack of fitness and injuries for the decision.

The Brazilian superstar struggled with his weight towards the latter part of his career and admitted that he was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, an illness which affects the body’s metabolism. His career came to an end after 18 years.

Luis Figo – 36

A Portuguese great, much like Ronaldo, Luis Figo retired from international football at the age of 33.

Having played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain, Figo brought an end to his playing career at Inter Milan in 2009.

A former Ballon d’Or winner, Figo ended his career on a high note as he won his fourth consecutive Serie A title with the side before hanging up his boots, France 24 reported.

Zinedine Zidane – 33

Another Real Madrid legend like Ronaldo, Zidane, made the decision to retire from football after the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

The French superstar announced his decision before the tournament started, saying that he wasn’t on top form anymore, Sky Sports reported.

“I didn’t want to go on for another year. The past two years, I haven’t been on top form, and that’s no good when you play at a club like Real,” he said.

A three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Zidane didn’t end his legendary on the high he hoped. He was sent off during a game against Italy for a headbutt, a moment that football fans have never forgotten.

He did go on to have a great managerial career after stepping away from the field of play and is currently linked with vacant jobs.

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