Five players who retired as 'Golden Oldies'

Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired from football at the age of 41 on Sunday. Picture: AFP

Zlatan Ibrahimovic retired from football at the age of 41 on Sunday. Picture: AFP

Published Jun 5, 2023


Cape Town - Footballers retiring beyond the age of 40 is now not a rare occurrence as it was 10-20 years ago. There are a number of reasons for this, though it can be attributed to two main factors.

Modern-day nutrition and fitness advice means that players are able to better manage themselves and remain fit than was ever the case before.

Also, the rise of well-funded leagues outside of the five main European leagues (Spain, Italy, England, France and Germany) means that quality players today can afford to still earn high wages while continuing to play beyond their prime years in less demanding environments.

A number of big names are calling it a day now. We look at five stalwarts who have opted to end their careers.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has ended his career at the age of 41-years-old. The 1.95m tall striker is a legend and will go down as arguably the greatest modern-day footballer that Sweden has produced.

Even up until his late 30s and early 40s, Ibrahimovic was still able to play at a high level and score goals. He played a role in helping AC Milan to win the 2021-22 Serie A title. Due to injury issues, he was restricted to just four appearances in all competitions for Milan this season and scored one goal.


The last active player from Spain’s 2002 World Cup squad, Joaquin called it a day at the end of the this season following an eight-year stint with Real Betis, aged 41. He remained a first-team regular up until his retirement and made 30 appearances in all competitions for Betis this season, scoring one goal.

A somewhat controversial figure, the Spanish winger’s international career ended in 2007 when he was just 26-years-old. He probably would have been part of the Spanish team that dominated world football between 2008-2012 had he not been as outspoken as he was.

Emmanuel Adebayor

The former Arsenal and Manchester City striker retired quietly in March, aged 39 after last being on the books of Semassi in his native Togo. The 2008 African Footballer of the Year was known for his strong link-up play and strength.

He is best known for his time with Manchester City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, but also turned out for the likes of Real Madrid and Crystal Palace.

Dani Alves

Alves may have not officially retired, but the 40-year-old’s career is all but over after being arrested on charges of alleged sexual assault earlier this year.

He was last on the books of Mexican club UNAM who terminated his contract in January as a result of the charges.

Alves last played for his native Brazil as recently as the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. He started Brazil’s group stage defeat against Cameroon and in doing so, became the oldest player to represent his country in a World Cup game, aged 39 years and 210 days.

Fernando Llorente

The once feared Spanish striker ended his career earlier this year aged 38. He was last on the books of Eibar in Spain, but had been unable to find a new club ahead of this season.

The former Tottenham Hotspur and Swansea City goal-poacher was part of the Spanish golden generation, which dominated football from 2008-2013. However, during that time, he mainly acted as cover for the likes of David Villa and Fernando Torres.