There are few things as bittersweet as an international football tournament. The bi-annual arrival of the Euro’s and World Cup may ensure weeks of top-tier play, but they also deal out their fair share of disappointment, rage and outright despair.
It’s far from unusual for a player to unexpectedly bill an international campaign as their last. There comes a time in every career – no matter how decorative – that this difficult decision must be made. Each year that passes sees loads of ageing players - who may still possess the minerals required to make an impact at league level - bow out of the international game. This year has been no different; in 2016 we've said goodbye to the following legends:
With a recently closed international career spanning 15 years and a professional club career currently in its 17th season, surely there’s no question that Zlatan is at least part alien/android/superhuman? This fact aside, despite becoming Sweden’s top goal scorer of all time during the qualification stage, the 35-year-old bowed out of national service following his sides non-starter of a campaign at the 2016 Euro finals.
About as wildly celebrated as any left-back can be, French international Patrice Evra didn’t make his first appearance as part of the national team until 2007 – replacing Mikael Silvestre and Eric Abidal as then manager Raymond Domenech’s first choice defender. Despite coming close on several occasions (and enjoying a decorated club career), Patrice never quite managed to get his hands on an international trophy – calling it a day after Euro 2016.
Very few players can boast 18+ years of national team service, though Irishman Robbie Keane is among them. The agile and lightning fast forward clocked a staggering 68 goals during his tenure with the Republic - and will no doubt continue to stun audiences with his innate ability to create something from nothing as his contract with MLS side LA Galaxy continues.
Let's be honest, it’s probably a lot easier to stand down from international football when you have in your possession a world cup winner’s trophy. Many would argue that Bastion Schweinsteiger - as one of the modern games most highly rated midfielders with a total of 120 caps for the German national team - has a tournament or two left in him, but he’s not hanging around to find out.
As the most capped player in the Czech national sides history, Petr Cech has quite rightly become nothing short of a national hero. As famed at club level as he is internationally, the keeper has enjoyed a decorated career playing at the likes of Rennes, Sparta Prague, Arsenal and of course Chelsea. During this time he has broken several goalkeeping records, including the most clean sheets (178 as of the end of the 2015-16 season!). In July 2016, he announced his retirement from the international game.