12 Star Names Who Could Retire from International Football in 2016

Mark Jones@@Mark_Jones86Featured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2016

12 Star Names Who Could Retire from International Football in 2016

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    Ultimately, the end comes around for all of us.

    The fact that it is 2016 and time machines have yet to be invented is a source of dismay for many, and it means that our favourite international footballers have to get old and eventually stop playing.

    With the UEFA European Championships and the Copa America on the horizon, 2016 looks to be a year in which we'll see plenty of international players retire, but who will they be?

    Here are 12 likely names.

Patrice Evra, France

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    A mainstay on the left of French defence for much of the last decade, Patrice Evra's international career didn't feature some of the successes of the France players before him, and it was often a fairly turbulent existence.

    Despite making his French debut in 2004, he was overlooked for the Euro 2004 and 2006 World Cup squads, before playing in a stormy and brief Euro 2008 campaign and then captaining the squad at the 2010 World Cup, where a huge disagreement with coach Raymond Domenech resulted in him leading a players' revolt and refusing to train.

    He was subsequently stripped of the captaincy and banned from the team, but after almost a year away the 34-year-old has returned to be the first-choice left-back, with Euro 2016 in his home country now looking like his international swansong.

Tomas Rosicky, Czech Republic

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    Absent from the Arsenal side for the whole of this season, Tomas Rosicky nonetheless helped the Czech Republic to the Euro 2016 finals and earned his 100th cap in the process.

    Getting fit and staying fit will be the biggest problem for a gifted player who has been dogged by injuries for his whole career.

    However, an appearance at Euro 2016 would see him play in his fourth European Championships, where he'd look to emulate his best moment in a Czech international shirt—the two goals in the 2006 World Cup victory over the United States in Gelsenkirchen.

    Now aged 35, such moments look like they now belong in the past.

Iker Casillas, Spain

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    A European Championship in 2008, a World Cup in 2010 and then another European Championship in 2012. International football has been very good to Iker Casillas, one of the few men in world football to have lifted the FIFA World Cup trophy as captain.

    With David de Gea fast emerging as one of the world's great goalkeepers, though, the time is surely right for Casillas to bow out of playing for his beloved Spain and allow the Manchester United stopper to inherit a No. 1 shirt which is surely his destiny.

    Now at Porto, the 34-year-old is believed to have moved to the Portuguese club in order to stay in Vicente Del Bosque's plans for Euro 2016, although it is difficult to imagine him playing for Spain beyond the summer.

Gianluigi Buffon, Italy

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    Staying with great goalkeepers, Gianluigi Buffon might often give the impression that he can go on forever, but there will be a day when he has to call time on his international career—and that could come in the summer.

    The Juventus legend has won 154 Italy caps to mark him out as comfortably his nation's most-capped player, with the 2006 World Cup victory obviously standing out as the high point of that period.

    Buffon was also part of the side which reached the final of Euro 2012 and, given that he turns 38 later this month, he might call time on his 19 years of national service in France in the summer.

Andrea Pirlo, Italy

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    Having previously announced that he would retire from international football after the last World Cup, Italian icon Andrea Pirlo went back on his word and stayed on to help his nation reach the Euro 2016 finals.

    All of us neutral football fans are grateful, of course, but there looks to be no change of heart forthcoming when it comes to the end of Euro 2016.

    The 36-year-old, who is now playing his football in North America, will be a tough act to follow.

Michael Carrick, England

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    Michael Carrick's international career has been something of a stop-start one, and the Manchester United midfielder should probably have earned more than the 34 England caps he currently has to his name.

    The 34-year-old was, according to an Independent report, not considered for England's Euro 2012 squad because Three Lions boss Roy Hodgson thought that he had already retired from international football. But after making himself available for his country, he has been a regular presence in the former Liverpool manager's squads.

    In what is now a largely youthful England setup, Carrick could be seen as the elder statesman in his country's squad for Euro 2016, after which he will probably call it a day with England for real.

Robbie Keane, Republic of Ireland

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    He hinted at it last year, as reported by the Irish Mirror, and Euro 2016 could bring an end to one of the most remarkable international careers of all time.

    No currently active player has scored more international goals than the Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane, who could very easily break into the top 10 in football history by the time he decides to call it quits.

    The Los Angeles Galaxy forward has been a huge hit in California ever since his move to Major League Soccer, and he'll remain an Irish icon long after he's pulled on the green jersey for the final time.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden

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    Surprisingly given his sky-high confidence levels, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is aware that he can't go on forever.

    Per Sky Sports before Sweden's Euro 2016 playoff clash with Denmark, the Paris Saint-Germain forward and his country's all-time top scorer dropped a hint that he could retire from international football if his nation didn't make it through to France. Typically, he promptly scored three goals over the two legs as they qualified.

    Now 34, though, and with his PSG contract running down, it would be a surprise to see him play for his country beyond the summer, even if it's difficult to imagine life without him.

Kaka, Brazil

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    Back in the Brazil squad under Dunga and set for a role in the squad at the Copa America, Kaka is still clinging onto his international career after turning his back on European football for a stint in North America.

    Kaka will be 34 at the time of the Copa America in the U.S. in the summer, but as he closes in on a century of international caps, he might begin to realise that the World Cup in Russia is a long way away.

    And with Brazil never short of exciting youngsters, the former AC Milan and Real Madrid man could decide that this would be the right time to bow out.

Yaya Toure, Ivory Coast

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    An ESPN FC article from last August claimed that Yaya Toure was weighing up international retirement as he considered whether or not the decision would help prolong his club career, and a few months on, that is bound to still be in the Manchester City powerhouse's mind.

    Having seen his older brother Kolo already retire from playing for the Elephants, Toure could decide to follow suit after winning his 100th cap for the Africa Cup of Nations holders earlier this year.

Clint Dempsey, United States

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    A U.S. Soccer hero thanks to his goalscoring feats at three different World Cups, it is almost sacrilege to think of the United States Men's National Team without Clint Dempsey. However, the former Fulham and Tottenham man might be facing the end of a stellar international career.

    Indeed, Steve Davis wrote an article for World Soccer Talk in November which addressed this subject, and with the Seattle Sounders star turning 33 this year, he might view the USMNT's involvement against South America's best sides in the Copa America as the perfect time to bow out.

Tim Cahill, Australia

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    While the U.S. have Dempsey, Australia have Tim Cahill.

    With a remarkable record of better than a goal every other game for the Socceroos (45 in 88), Cahill has become synonymous with the sport in a country which is usually obsessed with cricket and rugby.

    However, at 36 and playing his football in China, the former Everton midfielder could be coming to the end of his international career.

    Indeed, Australia coach Ange Postecoglou recently had to deny claims that he was forcing Cahill into retirement, according to ESPN FC, but that decision could be taken by the man himself this year.