Jan 2, 2014, 10:33 PM EDT
I was in the French stadium in 1998 when Michael Owen electrified the world, holding off one Argentine defender with appreciable strength and then blowing past another one who was way too stationary. (Watch it here if you like.)
Owen (pictured) was just 18 years old, the flower of England football, and the world seemed to be there for the taking.
He certainly did go one to have a long career, but injuries stripped away so much of the potential along the way. So his retirement from the game falls with just a little more melancholy.
Owen was among the notable retirements of 2013. Obviously, David Beckham tops that list, but few people who follow the sport will forget that 2013 was the year that “Becks” tearfully walked away from it all. (Well, “it all” as a player, anyway.)
Same for Sir Alex Ferguson, who finally handed over the keys to his Old Trafford manager’s office. But there were plenty of other notable retirements, too.
It was quite a year all the way around for retirements of Old Trafford types: Owen, Ferguson, Paul Scholes and Phil Neville all made their bones in some part at Manchester United. Just down the road, Jamie Carragher was an institution at Liverpool, with 508 appearances for the storied club.
Alessandro Nesta, one of the true defensive greats in a land that knows how to appreciate them, walked away at age 37, his final two seasons having played out at Montreal.
Yet another Italian World Cup winner Gennaro Gattuso hung ‘em up … although he cannot seem to stay out of the news, which is not a good thing in this case.
A more complete list of notable, global retirements is here from FIFA.com.
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