From Ronaldo to Kroos: who will retire after UEFA Euro 2024 in Germany?

Euro 2024 is the last European Championship for several legendary players entering the twilight of their careers.

Footballer strikes ball.
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo will play in his sixth European Football Championships at Euro 2024 in Germany [Darko Bandic/AP]

High-profile players and breakout stars are expected to dominate the limelight at this year’s European Football Championship.

But the monthlong tournament in Germany is also the final Euros – and in some cases, the final international tournament – for some of the greatest footballers of the 21st century.

Here’s a list of the top five players who are making their final Euros appearance at the 2024 event:

1. Toni Kroos

Midfielder Toni Kroos will hang up his boots forever at the end of the Euros as he tries to lead a fading Germany outfit to a dream championship on home soil.

In what is being called the German’s “last dance” at Euro 2024, it’s also his last chance to win a final trophy as Kroos has also just announced his retirement from club football with Real Madrid as well.

The 34-year-old had already retired from international competition in 2021 but reversed his decision after talks with national coach Julian Nagelsmann.

Known for his sublime creativity, vision and set-piece ability, Kroos was part of Germany’s all-powerful World Cup-winning team in 2014 and the 2010 squad that came third.

The central midfielder will step away from the sport as one of the most decorated players in history, having helped Real Madrid win an astounding 23 trophies.

Few would begrudge – or underestimate – the likeable Kroos capping off a stellar career by winning a fairytale European Championship trophy for the host nation.

Football player protects ball against defender.
Toni Kroos brings a winning mentality and leadership to a German side that is, unusually, not one of the strong favourites at the Euros [Kai Pfaffenbach/Germany]
Football player claps for supporters after game.
If Kroos can guide Germany to a surprise Euro 2024 championship on home soil, he’ll be universally applauded as a sporting god in his country [Lisi Niesner/Reuters]

2. Olivier Giroud

One of the most underrated strikers ever, France’s Olivier Giroud will step down from international duty after this edition of the Euros, bringing an end to his 13-year journey with the national team.

Giroud, who is his country’s all-time top scorer with 57 goals in 131 appearances, said he decided to retire to “make way for the youngsters”.

The 37-year-old failed to find the net during France’s 2018 World Cup triumph at home – but scored an impressive four goals during their 2022 campaign in Qatar, where they lost the final to Argentina.

Giroud said he has no specific playing time expectations for the Euros but hopes to experience a deep run with France’s next generation of players in what is his final international tour of duty.

Once the Euros are over, Giroud, now very much in the twilight of his decorated career, will continue playing club football for at least two years, having recently signed with Major League Soccer (MLS) team Los Angeles FC on a free transfer from Italian side AC Milan.

Player kicks football.
France’s Olivier Giroud will cap off his incredible international career with a final go-around at Euro 2024 [Claudia Greco/Reuters]
Football player celebrates with crowd.
Always a French fan favourite, Giroud wants to celebrate a final international triumph with victory in Germany [Sarah Meyssonnier/Reuters]

3. Luka Modric

Croatia’s most capped player of all time, Luka Modric, will again lead the team at the Euros, which will likely be his last major tournament before retirement from international football.

Modric began his international journey with Croatia as an impactful reserve way back at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. The 38-year-old is now in the final stages of a superlative career, and his X factor to single-handedly change the outcome of big games is slowly diminishing.

The creative midfielder’s club football career has just been extended after Modric signed a new one-year Real Madrid contract to keep him at the club until 2025.

Despite his age, Modric will still be a key player for Croatia at the Euros, orchestrating the attack and directing his team from the midfield.

After leading Croatia to a historic second-place finish at the 2018 World Cup and a third spot at the 2022 World Cup, Modric would love nothing more than to upset the titans of the sport and steal the Euro 2024 silverware in his last international hurrah in Germany.

Football player strikes ball.
Croatia’s Luka Modric will need to be pinpoint perfect in the midfield for Croatia to challenge for the Euro 2024 title [Antonio Bronic/Reuters]
Football player gestures to crowd after goal score.
Modric has been the heart and soul of the Croatian national team since the 2006 FIFA World Cup [Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters]

4. Manuel Neuer

The 2024 Euro championship is expected to be the last for Germany’s decorated goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who turned 38 in March.

Neuer has not played for the national team since the 2022 World Cup, where they were knocked out in the group stage. Unluckily, the strong, 1.93-metre (6ft-4-inch) German fractured his leg on holiday after the tournament and was sidelined for almost a year.

The Bayern Munich shot-stopper was expected to make his comeback for Germany during the international friendlies in March but picked up another injury in training, and Marc-Andre ter Stegen donned the gloves in his absence.

Despite being Germany’s first-choice keeper, Neuer will likely not play every match at the Euros as Nagelsmann has selected four goalkeepers in his provisional squad to spread the workload for his injury-prone star keeper.

But if Neuer shakes off the injury shackles and gets his opportunity at Euro 2024, the hometown German fans will get one last chance to cheer on the unique exploits of the “sweeper keeper”, who earned that nickname for his bold habit of roaming deep into the outfield to challenge attackers.

Goal keeper rises above players to deflect ball away from goal.
Germany’s Manuel Neuer will need to rise up from recent injury concerns if the host nation is to have any chance of defending against the Euro 2024 super teams [Annegret Hilse/Reuters]
Player gestures to teammate.
Germany will rely on the veteran presence of Neuer and several other key players to navigate through the Euro 2024 group stage [Matthew Childs/Reuters]

5. Cristiano Ronaldo

After being called up by Portugal coach Roberto Martinez, Cristiano Ronaldo is set to play at the Euros for a record sixth time.

At 39 years old, it’s a remarkable achievement for the talismanic forward, whose athleticism and fitness levels have defied age – and he remains an important player for Portugal.

But the 2024 edition is almost certainly the last time fans will enjoy the “Ronaldo experience” at the Euros.

Ronaldo, the highest scorer in international football, will be 43 when the next Euros take place, making his participation highly unlikely. Hungary goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly holds the record for the oldest player at the European Championships at 40 years and 86 days.

Neither Ronaldo nor Portugal have addressed his international future, but given the demanding nature of a forward’s role, it would take nothing less than a miracle for a 40-something player to keep going for another four years until Euro 2028.

However, there is some potentially positive news for Portugal fans post-Euro 2024 – Ronaldo hasn’t ruled out competing in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Football play strikes ball.
Portugal fans will be hoping the 39-year-old Ronaldo still has the Midas touch for scoring goals at Euro 2024 [Pedro Nunes/Reuters]
Football players standing in a row before kickoff.
Ronaldo will try to win a second European Championship title for Portugal in Germany to add to his Euro 2016 trophy [Pedro Nunes/Reuters]

You can follow the action on Al Jazeera’s dedicated Euro 2024 tournament page with all the match build-up and live text commentary, and keep up to date with group standings and match results and schedules.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies