Average retirement age for football players: When do footballers retire?

Average retirement age for football players: When do footballers retire?

Kevin Omuya
April 4, 2024 at 6:17 PM
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Z. Ibrahimović
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Every soccer player, sooner or later, will have to call it quits. After years of intense training, rigorous fitness programs, and professional play, some players may be ready to retire from the beautiful game. In contrast, others may reach this point in their careers feeling regretful and sad about what they will do with their lives without it. Let us find out the average retirement age for football players.

Former Manchester United player, Owen Hagreaves
Former Bayern Munich and Man United player Owen Hargreaves working as a football pundit in 2023 (R) and when playing for England (L). Photo: Richard Sellers, Paul Mcfegan (modified by author)
Source: UGC

Table of Сontents:

Although professional football players have no universally agreed-upon retirement age, most typically hang up their boots anywhere between 33 and 37. Some athletes may retire earlier than expected due to severe injuries and fitness issues.

At what age do most football players retire?

According to Soccer Novo, no entity regulates or sets the retirement age in football or any other sport. Football accommodates players of all ages as long as they are physically and mentally capable of meeting the demands on the field. Some players prolong their careers to continue performing for their teams.

What is the average retirement age for football?

The player's position is a significant consideration. Goalkeepers can spend more years playing because their job requires less physical exertion than other positions. Injuries also impact a player's retirement age. According to Vanguard, many top soccer stars have hung up their boots because of injuries.

Gennaro Gattuso during a press conference in France
Coach of Olympique de Marseille Gennaro Gattuso speaks to the media at Stade Bollaert-Delelis on November 12, 2023, in Lens, France. Photo: Jean Catuffe
Source: Getty Images

A player's level of competition could also impact when they retire. The best leagues and competitions provide players with more resources and top-notch medical and psychological assistance. Euro News revealed footballers who get enough playing time feel motivated to play longer. Those who see less action are likely to hang up their boots.

Health is another crucial factor that determines how long a footballer plays. Most elite athletes spend a lot of money maintaining their physical and mental health to ensure they are fit and focused on their careers.

The average retirement age of football players

Van Dar Sar
Edwin van der Sar of Manchester United Legends during the Manchester United Foundation charity match against Bayern Munich All-Stars on June 14, 2015. Photo: Dave Thompson
Source: Getty Images

Soccer players retire at different ages depending on several factors, including their positions. International Federation of Professional Footballers research estimates the average retirement age in every football position as follows:


The average age of retirement (yrs)










Goalkeepers often age better than outfielders because their position is the least physically demanding on the football field. Although they should be in good physical condition and quick on their feet, they are not required to run laps around the field.

Legendary Italian and Juventus goalie Gianluigi Buffon is still strong in his mid-forties. Most of the world's oldest soccer players are goalkeepers.


Paolo Maldini during FIFA World Cup 2002
Italy's captain Paolo Maldini during the FIFA World Cup 2002 Italy v Croatia. Photo: Neal Simpson
Source: Getty Images

Most defenders call it quits in their mid to late thirties. Center-backs often retire between 30 and 38, while fullbacks typically retire between 30 and 36. Legendary AC Milan left-back/centre-back retired in 2009, a few months before turning 41. Fullbacks like Philipp Lahm and Dani Alves opted to play more centrally as they aged.


Midfield playmakers have a better track record of ageing well than destroyers. Legendary midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso were teammates for AC Milan and the Italian national team for nearly a decade. Pirlo was a creative player, while Gattuso excelled in tackling and destroying opponents.

Pirlo played longer than Gattuso despite starting their careers around the same time. As a creative midfielder, Pirlo used more of his techniques than physique.


Zlatan Ibrahimovic during Serie A match
Zlatan Ibrahimović of AC Milan looks on during the Serie A match between SS Lazio and AC Milan at Stadio Olimpico on April 24, 2022, in Rome, Italy. Photo: Danilo Di Giovanni
Source: Getty Images

Football attackers have one of the highest retirement age, ranging between 32 to 39 years old. Even though wingers are always on the move, they typically switch positions as they age. Center forwards like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Karim Benzema, and Robert Lewandowski improved their performance as they aged.

Frequently asked questions

While there is no hard and fast rule regarding when a football player must retire, several typical causes exist. Here is more information about the average retirement age for a footballer.

What do soccer players do after retirement?

Most soccer players follow their dreams and hobbies when they retire. Being a coach, commentator, agent, or entrepreneur could be a career path for some. It is not uncommon for former footballers to make a comeback.

What is the age limit in football?

FIFA regulations do not specify the average football retirement age. No matter how old they are, calling up young folks is never a problem. No one can sign a professional contract with a club until 18, but anyone can play for their country at any age on the international stage.

Who is the oldest active footballer?

The Olympics website revealed Japan's Miura Kazuyoshi is the oldest active player. He was born on February 26, 1967, in Shizuoka, Shizuoka, Japan (57 years old as of March 2024). Kazuyoshi is a forward for Oliveirense (Liga Portugal 2), on loan from Yokohama FC (Japanese J1 League).

The Japanese legend has played in Brazil, Japan, Italy, Croatia, and Australia for over 38 seasons. Other old active footballers are Gianluigi Buffon (45), Endō Yasuhito (43), Roque Santa Cruz (41), and Joaquín Sánchez (41).

Final word

The average retirement age for football players depends on various factors like injuries, pensions, and health prioritisation. Most retired footballers continue to get involved with the sport in some capacity. Some became coaches, while others turned to punditry, scouts, or football directors.

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Kevin Omuya
Kevin Omuya is a Content Writer with 4 years of experience who joined Sports Brief in 2022. In 2019 he held a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism & Digital Media from KCA University.