While the past year will go down for some tremendous sporting feats, it will also be remembered as the year in which some of the biggest names in football finally bade farewell to the sport.
As if seduced by an irresistible force, some of the leading lights in the round leather game for the better part of two decades decided, within months of each other, to call time on their illustrious careers.
There was an outpouring of emotions for these superstars who lit up the beautiful game with their talents and professionalism.
As another football year rolls by, we take a look back at some of the biggest names to hang their boots in 2017.
One of the last of a dying breed of one-club men, Roma legend Francesco Totti announced his retirement from the beautiful game at the end of last season. There were emotional scenes at the Stadio Olympico as Totti made his final appearance for the Giallorossi in a 3-2 win over Genoa, bringing the curtain down on a distinguished 24-year career. Short of playing time and reeling from the ravages of time, the former Italy Bandiera said it was time to ‘move on’. His vision, flair and attitude made an indelible mark on the game.
The greatest goalscoring midfielder of his generation, former England star Frank Lampard called time on his playing career early last year. Lampard made the decision after a stint with New York City in the Major League Soccer in the US, saying it was time for the “next chapter of his life”. The former West Ham academy graduate won 11 major trophies, including the Champions League and Europa League, and remains Chelsea’s all-time leading goalscorer with 211 goals from 649 appearances.
His retirement didn’t really come as a shock, but it left fans with a bitter pill all the same. A true regista, Pirlo left a gaping hole in the game when he announced his retirement at the age of 38 after a stint with New York City FC in the MLS. Hailed for being an artist in an era of athletes, Pirlo mesmerised with his ability to dictate play and keep his side moving by doing the simple things. He strutted like a peacock, but with the vision of an eagle, and stuck to the ball like glue. Pirlo was integral to Italy’s World Cup success in 2006, as well as dominant spells in AC Milan and Juventus.
Chelsea legend Didier Drogba announced his retirement from the sport after a spell with Phoenix Rising in the US. The Ivory Coast centre-forward said he was moving onto to “other projects” after his second year in the MLS. Big, strong and devastating in the air, Drogba was the definitive power-playing centre-forward in his heyday, wrecking defences in the Premier League and beyond. Voted Chelsea’s greatest player, his time at the club coincided with the greatest spell in the club’s history, culminating in the Champions League success in 2012 where he netted winning penalty. The two-time Africa Player of the Year retires as Ivory Coast’s highest ever scorer, leading them to two Africa Cup of Nations finals in a 12-year international career.
Before Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo dominated the football awards, Kaka stood out as the top footballer on the planet. Winner of the ballon d’Or in 2007, Kaka dazzled with his near effortless style, drawing comparisons with the great Zinedine Zidane. Blessed with tricky feet and explosive strike, Kaka was the talisman in the Milan side that dominated Europe in the mid-2000s. His world record transfer to Real Madrid was blighted by injuries, prompting a return to Milan and en eventual switch to the MLS where he captained Orlando City FC with trademark distinction. A clean footballer – whose favourite book and drink were the Bible and water respectively – Kaka was the new superstar, earning global adulation not just for his ability, but his humility. He was a part of Brazil’s victorious World Cup side in 2002, and bows out with his name in gold.