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The conclusion of a World Cup – the most coveted trophy in soccer – is a natural ending point for many a player’s international career. While much of the retirement speculation before and during the Qatar World Cup has centered on Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, neither have pulled the trigger, expressing their desire to continue representing Argentina and Portugal respectively.

Gareth Bale, Sergio Busquets, and Eden Hazard, all of whom have retired from their respective international teams since the World Cup in Qatar. 
(Lan Hongguang/Xinhua via Getty Images | Catherine Ivill/Getty Images | Tnani Badreddine/DeFodi Images via Getty Images )

However, since December, some of the sport’s best known players have decided to retire. Fox News takes you through some of them here:

Gareth Bale 

Through 111 appearances and 41 goals, Gareth Bale, 33, became a talisman for the small nation of Wales and led them on the international stage further than many thought they would ever go.

In 2006, when he was 16, Bale became the youngest player at that point to represent Wales. An explosive winger and master technician, Bale led his countrymen by example. During the 2016 Euros, he scored a free kick in the 2-1 group stage win against Slovakia, powering Wales to their first victory at a major tournament in 58 years. Bale would score twice more as Wales reached the semifinals of the competition, eliminating Belgium’s golden generation in the process. The national team also reached the knockout stages of the 2020 Euros with Bale as captain. 

Reaching the World Cup remained Bale’s greatest aspiration, and he was uniquely responsible for leading the team through the final two stages of World Cup qualifiers, scoring three times in matches against Austria and Ukraine. 

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“How do I describe what being a part of this country and team means to me? How do I articulate the impact it has had on my life? How do I put into words the way I felt, every single time I put on that Welsh shirt? My answer is that I couldn’t possibly do any of those things justice, simply with words,” explained Bale in a statement to his “Welsh Family.”

Eden Hazard 

Whereas some small nations rely on a talisman, others have entire generations that fill them hope. Alongside Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, 32, was one of the major reasons that Belgium was regarded as having a golden generation for the past decade. 

Hazard played for Belgium 126 times and scored 33 goals. He was also captain of the team for the period between 2018 and 2022 when Belgium topped the FIFA rankings

Belgium’s best chance at honors came at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Though seen as the frontrunner in that tournament, the team was eliminated by eventual champions France in the semifinals. 

Hazard will be remembered for his pace and solo efforts at goal.

“A page turns today…Thank you for all this happiness shared since 2008. I have decided to put an end to my international career. The succession is ready. I will miss you,” wrote Hazard on his Instagram page. 

Hugo Lloris

World Cup winner Hugo Lloris, 36, suffered an agonizing result against Argentina in the final in Qatar, unable to save enough of their penalties in the shootout to prevent them from becoming champions. However, Lloris leaves the national team with his head held high, having lifted the trophy in Russia in 2018 and coming close to captaining France to victory a second time.

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Lloris also started the Euro 2016 final against Portugal, which France lost by one goal in added extra time. 

Hugo Lloris surrounded by his France teammates and holding the World Cup trophy after besting Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. 

Hugo Lloris surrounded by his France teammates and holding the World Cup trophy after besting Croatia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on July 15, 2018. 
(Photo by Mehdi Taamallah/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The goalkeeper made his debut for Les Bleus in 2008 and has made a record 145 appearances. 121 of those appearances have been as France’s captain, another record. 

“I have really been thinking about [retirement] since the end of the World Cup, but there has been something deep inside of me for maybe six months now and which grew during the competition, leading me to make this decision,” explained Lloris. 

“There comes a time when you need to step aside. I have always said the French national team does not belong to any one person,” he added.

Sergio Busquets

In a statement on his Instagram, Sergio Busquets, 34, explained: “It has been an honor to represent my country and take it to the top, to be a World and European champion, to be captain and to play so many games, with greater or lesser success but always giving everything and contributing my grain of sand so that everything went as well as possible.”

Spanish goalkeeper Victor Valdes, Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas, Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta and Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets pose with the trophy after winning the Euro 2012 football championships final match Spain vs Italy on July 1, 2012, at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.

Spanish goalkeeper Victor Valdes, Spanish midfielder Cesc Fabregas, Spanish midfielder Andres Iniesta and Spanish midfielder Sergio Busquets pose with the trophy after winning the Euro 2012 football championships final match Spain vs Italy on July 1, 2012, at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev.
(RANCK FIFE/AFP via Getty Images)

The midfielder, who excelled at stealing the ball from the opposition, represented Spain 143 times. Only Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos surpassed Busquets’ caps.

His retirement marks the end of an era for Spain: Busquets was the last member of the team that lifted the World Cup trophy in South Africa in 2010. He was also part of the team that won the 2012 Euros – a team which included other players storied for their technical abilities like Andrés Iniesta and Xavi Hernández. 

Asked to react to the news of Busquets’ retirement, Xavi, now manager of Barcelona, explained that “he is a player who has made history, a legend. One of the best midfielders in world soccer and the best defensive midfielder in the history of Spain. I congratulate him.”

Karim Benzema

The current holder of the UEFA Player of the Year and Ballon d’Or awards has had a complex and unlucky relationship with the French national team. 

Since 2007, Karim Benzema, 35, has made 97 appearances for France, and he has scored 37 times. However, Benzema has missed each of the last three tournaments in which France has reached the final.

After being France’s top scorer at the 2014 World Cup, he was excluded from the national team from October 2015 until his recall by France manager Didier Deschamps in May 2021. At the time in 2015, Benzema was experiencing legal issues due to his involvement in a plot to blackmail fellow France international player Mathieu Valbuena.

Though he repaired his relationship with Deschamps, his dream of winning the World Cup ended before the tournament in Qatar even started as he tore a muscle in his left thigh during training.

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“I made the effort and the mistakes it took to be where I am today and I’m proud of it! I have written my story and ours is ending,” Benzema wrote on his 35th birthday.


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