As a general rule, footballers don't have a very long career lifespan. 

Though certain individuals can defy the odds and go on performing at the highest level well into their 40s, for the most part they are forced to retire for one reason or another well before those in other occupations.

This year in particular sees a number of high-profile names reaching the back end of their careers, so is it finally the end for the legends who defined football during the noughties?

GMS contributor Vishal Singh runs over the top five footballers who could retire this season.

1. Ryan Giggs- One simply cannot say enough to describe this legend. The one and only Welsh Wizard has achieved the unthinkable with Manchester United and it can be safely said that no other player will achieve what Giggs has – ever.

The 40-year-old genius has won some unthinkable professional achievements with the Red Devils, including 13 Premier League, four FA Cups, two Champions Leagues and a FIFA Club World Cup.

Giggs has made well over 900 appearances for his club and will be fondly remembered by Manchester United faithful for scoring some spectacular goals.

The former Wales international is already a part of Manchester United’s coaching set up and will be a part of it for years to come. It will be a fitting tribute if Manchester United retire Giggs’s number 11 jersey in honour of legend.

2. Rio Ferdinand- Former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson paid £30million for the services of Ferdinand in 2002, making him the most expensive defender ever. It's safe to say that Ferdinand more than justified his investment.

The 35-year-old has been an integral part of the United set up for over a decade and has helped the team win six Premier Leagues, two League Cups, five Community Shields, one FIFA Club World Cup and one Champions League.

The centre back has been included in the PFA Team of the Year on six occasions and was a part of the FIFA XI for the year 2007-2008

The veteran’s form and pace has dipped considerably since last year and he has only played 12 games for the Red Devils this season. Ferdinand will most likely hang up his boots at the end of the season but will do so having permanently carved a niche for himself at the Theatre Of Dreams.

3. Carles Puyol- The shaggy haired defender has been Barcelona’s rock for many years making 558 appearances for his boyhood club.

The 35-year-old has won six La Liga’s, two Copa Del Ray’s, two Club World Cups, six Spanish Super Cups and 3three Champions Leagues with the Camp Nou outfit. On a personal note Puyol has been included in the UEFA Team of the Year six times along being included in the FIFA XI on 3 occasions.

Xavi once remarked: ”Puyol is the key, not just because he is one of the best defenders in the world but because of his character. He never lets up.”

The centre back has made just seven appearances this season for Barcelona and may call time on his footballing career after the World Cup. There are many talented defenders on Barcelona’s books but the Catalan club will have a hard time replacing their heart.

4. Raul- The prolific Spaniard will go down in history as one of the greatest strikers to ever grace the game of football when he finally decides to hang up his boots.

The legendary Spaniard has won a room full of awards with his club and country and will be fondly remembered by Real Madrid faithful for years to come.

The 36-year-old had won six La Liga‘s, four UEFA Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and three Champions Leagues(becoming the competitions all time top scorer along the way) with Los Blancos. The legendary number 7 scored a breathtaking 323 goals for Real Madrid becoming their top scorer ahead of Alferdo di Stefano, who himself managed 307 goals.

The incredible forward also scored 44 goals for the Spanish national team and held the record for being La Rojas top scorer for many years before his tally was surpassed by David Villa in 2011.

The striker still has a few good performances left in him but should he decide to quit the game he can always find a place back at his beloved Real Madrid as a coach. After all who wouldn’t want to develop their skills under one of Spain’s greatest ever players?

5. Javier Zanetti- Few players in world football are as loyal as Javier Zanetti. The Argentine defender has been with Inter since 1995, making over 600 appearances for the Nerazzurri in the process.

Zanetti’s most successful position was as Inter’s right back where he won praise for his strength and speed along with his ability to support the teams attack when needed. Il Capitano, as he is fondly called by Inter fans, was immortalised in 2004 by Brazilian legend Pele when he included Zanetti in his list of 125 Greatest Living Footballers list as a part of FIFA’s hundredth anniversary.

This year Zanetti may finally call time on his illustrious career in favour of other talents. Inter will lose a gem if he decides to step down.

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