IN PICS: 10 stars who retired at the top

Sport360 staff 22:51 02/12/2016

Newly crowned Formula One champion Nico Rosberg shocked the sporting world on Friday when he announced his retirement.

The 31-year-old clinched his first F1 title in Abu Dhabi last month and has swiftly followed the achievement by walking away from the racecourse.

The German however, is far from the only athlete to quit when on top of his game.

Here, we take a look at 10 sports stars who decide to finish on a high.

BJORN BORG

Borg boasted 11 grand slam wins and the most consecutive wins in tennis history, 43, when he quit the sport in 1981 – aged just 26. After losing to great rival John McEnroe in the 1981 US Open, Borg insisted the spark had left his game and he later quit.

McEnroe even pleaded with Borg to change his mind, so encapsulated was the American by the rivalry with the Swede.

JOHAN CRUYFF

Just three years after inventing the Cruyff turn and guiding Holland to the 1974 World Cup final, the then-Barcelona star retired from international football, aged 30.

After helping Holland qualify for the 1978 tournament, he called it quits – initially claiming a boycott of hosts Argentina, owing to the country’s military dictatorship of the time. Later he revealed his family had been caught up in a kidnap attempt in Barcelona and he did not want to spend so much time away from them.

Cruyff won 48 caps and scored 33 goals for Holland, and continued a club career spanning more than 500 matches until 1984.

ROCKY MARCIANO

Still the only heavyweight champion to retire undefeated, Marciano hung up his gloves in 1956 aged just 32.

The American somehow resisted the temptation to return to the ring, with a record standing at 49 wins and no losses, with 43 knockouts. Marciano died in a plane crash in 1969, the day before his 46th birthday.

ERIC CANTONA

Ever the enigma, Cantona quit the game decidedly on his own terms – with a year left to run on his Manchester United contract and aged just 30. United won four league titles in his Old Trafford pomp, and had just pulled off back-to-back Premier League triumphs when he called it a day.

With 64 goals in 143 games for the Reds, Cantona was a pivotal part of Sir Alex Ferguson’s side when he bowed out of the sport. Ferguson and United had even stuck by Cantona when he produced the shocking kung-fu kick on a supporter at Crystal Palace in 1995, that later yielded 120 hours of community service.

BARRY JOHN

Barry “King” John quit rugby entirely in 1972 aged just 27 and with the world at his feet. John spearheaded the British and Irish Lions’ maiden Test series victory in New Zealand in 1971, but just a year later left the game behind.

John called it a day having won just 25 caps, though did so having already made his mark as one of Wales’ all-time greats. The pressure of fame and expectation underscored his decision to walk away from a sport for which he boasted matchless game breaking and controlling talents.

The Lions’ 1971 tour remains the one and only time the British Isles’ best have triumphed in a Test series in New Zealand.

SIR ALEX FERGUSON

After the news began to trickle through to the media already, Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement on May 8, 2013. His decision was greeted with general disbelief as he had just secured a 13th Premier League title as Manchester United manager.

In an Old Trafford career that last an incredible 27 years, Ferguson won two Champions League titles, five FA Cups and four League Cups, as well as the Cup Winners’ Cup, Super Cup, Intercontinental Cup and Club World Cup.

BOBBY JONES

After becoming the only golfer to win the Grand Slam in the pre-Masters era in 1930, Bobby Jones quit.

Having secured the U.S. Open, Open Championship, U.S. Amateur and Amateur Championship in the same season, he immediately walked away, deciding to compete only at The Masters which he co-founded but never won.

MICHAEL JORDAN

Michael Jordan announced his initial retirement in October, 1993. He walked away from the Chicago Bulls and the NBA at the age of 30.

Apart from his age, the fact that the decision came just four months after winning a third successive NBA title made it all the more surprising. Jordan did return to the game and win another three-peat of championships.

MICHAEL PHELPS

The most decorated Olympian of all-time retired after the 2016 Rio Games with a total of 23 gold medals.

The United States legend announced his retirement after a historic week in Brazil. The 31-year-old was well ahead of the curve and Ryan Lochte believed that he would return for the Olympics again in 2020 but Phelps insisted that he was calling it quits for good.

MARION BARTOLI

Having shocked the Tennis world by winning the Wimbledon Singles title in 2013, the Frenchwoman surprised again by announcing her retirement less than six weeks later.

She briefly flirted with the idea of a comeback in 2015 but did not follow through.

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