Former Arsenal and England midfielder Jack Wilshere has announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 30.
The news comes just over 24 hours after the news he had left Danish club AGF after less than five months and was now “considering his next step” in his career.
Wilshere became the Gunners’ youngest league debutant when aged 16 and 256 days during 2008 after coming through the club’s Academy.
The midfielder, who was hampered by a series of injuries, won the FA Cup twice in successive seasons with Arsenal in 2014 and 2015, before joining Bournemouth and then West Ham.
Wilshere returned to the Cherries on a short-term deal in January 2021 and also had a spell at Danish Superliga club AGF.
After making his first senior England appearance in 2010, Wilshere won 34 caps and was part of the 2014 World Cup squad.
“It has been an unbelievable journey filled with so many incredible moments and I feel privileged to have experienced all that I did during my career,” Wilshere said in his retirement announcement on Twitter.
“From being the little boy kicking a ball around in the garden to captaining my beloved Arsenal and playing for my country at a World Cup. I have lived my dream.
“In truth it has been difficult to accept that my career has been slipping away in recent times due to reasons outside of my control whilst feeling that I have still had so much to give.
“Having played at the very highest level I have always held such huge ambitions within the game and if I am truthful, I did not envisage being in this position at times.
Wilshere’s five best career moments
- That night against Barcelona – Arsenal were pitted against one of the best Barcelona sides of all-time, with a 19-year-old Wilshere tasked with coming up against Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Xavi. Against the nippy tiki taka football, Wilshere showed grit, trickery and an equal level of technical guile as Arsene Wenger’s side won 2-1 in one of the best nights in their recent history.
- Goal of the season against Norwich – Wilshere didn’t score many across his career, but when he did it was special. His best in the Premier League was a beautiful one-touch team goal against Norwich in 2013, which saw him combine beautifully with Santi Cazorla and Olivier Giroud, which won goal of the season – an award he won a year later for a crashing effort against West Bromwich Albion.
- Dominating Brazil – Wilshere made his England debut in 2010 but had to wait three years to become a Three Lions regular. He was awarded man of the match against Brazil in 2013 to announce himself on the international stage, playing a major role in England’s opener in a 2-1 victory – the Three Lions’ first win over the Selecao in nearly a quarter of a century. The biggest indication he would be England’s future.
- Helping Arsenal win the FA Cup – it’s the second half of extra-time in the 2014 FA Cup final and Arsenal are locked in a 2-2 draw against Hull. Wilshere has been brought on in the brief Wembley interval and within four minutes, he plays a role in the winning goal. Wilshere’s incisive pass fell into the path of Yaya Sanogo, who played the ball into Olivier Giroud. The French forward’s flick found Aaron Ramsey in the box, who prodded home the winner. Wilshere’s intervention helped Arsenal end a run of nine years without a trophy, with the midfielder helping the Gunners to the same trophy a year later, also off the bench.
- Saving England vs Slovenia – The Three Lions were 1-0 down away to Slovenia in a Euro 2016 qualifier in June 2015, when Wilshere took the game by the scruff of the neck. The midfielder scored two epic long-range efforts to put England back in front, with Roy Hodgson’s side winning the vital contest 3-2.
“However, having had time to reflect and talk with those closest with me I know that now is the right time and despite the difficult moments, I look back on my career with great pride at what I have achieved.
“Playing at the very highest level with some of the best players in the world, winning FA Cups, captaining my club and representing my country were beyond my wildest dreams when I was a small boy growing up in Hitchin.
“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had, but none of it would have been possible if it wasn’t for the love and support of so many people.”
Wilshere paid tribute to former Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger and his staff for giving him a chance.
“Words will never do justice to the love and thanks I have for the Boss, Arsene, Pat Rice and Boro Primorac,” Wilshere said.
“Without your belief, support and guidance from the very first day we met I wouldn’t have been able to become part of the Arsenal family. I’m forever grateful to you all.
“To the best supporters on the planet, all of you Arsenal fans, thank you all from the bottom of my heart. To play for you all has been a privilege.
Jack Wilshere’s injury nightmare
- Ankle injury: November 2009 – 12 days – 4 games missed
- Sprained ankle: July 2011 – 56 days – 10 games missed
- Ankle surgery: September 2011 – 127 days – 25 games missed
- Fatigue fracture: February 2012 – 104 days – 19 games missed
- Knee surgery: May 2012 – 125 days – 6 games missed
- Hairline crack in foot: March 2014 – 57 days – 11 games missed
- Ankle injury: November 2014 – 90 days – 19 games missed
- Hairline crack in fibula: August 2015 – 247 days – 47 games missed
- Hairline crack in fibula: April 2017 – 112 days – 1 game missed
- Ankle injury: September 2018 – 82 days – 11 games missed
- Ankle surgery: December 2018 – 138 days – 22 games missed
- Groin injury: October 2019 – 221 days – 22 games missed
- Calf injury: September 2020 – 11 days – 4 games missed
“You’ve always made me feel supported and I hope I did you proudly representing your club. I’ll never forget how you always backed me and I’ll forever be a Gooner.”
Wilshere indicated he could look to remain involved in the game going forwards.
“I have enjoyed every moment of my career and it has been the journey of a lifetime,” he said.
“Now is the right time to close this chapter, but I still have so much to give to the game and I am excited about what the future holds.”
Former England goalkeeper Joe Hart replied to the same post on Instagram, writing: “Top player mate. Lots of love and luck for the future.”
Robbie Keane responded: “Good luck mate for the future”, while Declan Rice added: “Wilsh, love you brother. Honor to know you and get to play with you!”
Analysis: Why Wilshere’s thrilling talent will endure
Sky Sports’ Nick Wright:
It is a sad end to a career that promised so much but memories of Jack Wilshere’s thrilling talent will endure – especially to those who witnessed his mesmerising performance in Arsenal’s 2-1 win over Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona in February of 2011.
Wilshere had only turned 19 a month earlier. He stepped out at the Emirates Stadium that night as the youngest player on the pitch. But what followed, against perhaps the greatest club side in history, was an exhibition in fearlessness and technical brilliance.
There he was, on his own at the base of midfield, spinning past Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. There he was, haring after Xavi Hernandez and Sergio Busquets, then motoring away from them, ball, crowd and opponent all under his spell.
By the end, he had completed 43 out of 46 passes – including the one to release Cesc Fabregas in the build-up to Andrey Arshavin’s memorable winner – while only Messi had made more dribbles …
Read Nick Wright’s feature on Jack Wilshere in full here
‘Exceptional talent, but didn’t play enough games’
Former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger on Sky Sports News:
“Well for me it is a sad moment, Jack is an exceptional football player, he has first not to thank us but himself as he was brave, talented, not scared of anybody and that is why we thought he could start from such a young age.
“He started in 2008 when he must have been 16 years old and that is, of course, exceptional at that level and straight away he has shown the quality to be a main player. And he stops at 2022 when he is 30 years of age and for a midfielder and a technical player, that is a fantastic age.
“And that sums up a little bit what Jack’s career was – exceptional talent, but did not play enough games because of injuries and that is why in the end he stopped as it is very difficult when you are a star like he was and you cannot play at your best anymore and that is very difficult to swallow.
“You lose confidence and that is why he took the right decision, I believe as well that he has a coaching career in front of him, the fact that he could not go to the end of his potential might help him to be motivated to make a great coaching career. That is what I wish.
“Jack could unlock the game with his short passing, but also to unlock the game with his capacity to pass people one versus one and turn the game forward when you have no solutions.
“Jack started as a winger at a young age and he brought that into his midfield and could pass people and unlock the game. He was also not inhibited and not impressed or scared by anybody and not afraid of the big stage, he almost thought it was natural for him to be there.
“The Barcelona games for me were very special as Barcelona were, of course, a reference for us at the time and to see how we passed through players and how well he performed at that level – for me at that time the Barcelona team was the best in the world – then to see him perform at that level with such a quality convinced you that he is part of the best in the world.
“And with England as well he very quickly became an obvious choice and candidate.
“First of all, he has a great understanding of the game, I feel a midfield position suits well the development of a coach. After that, he is brave, he has good communication skills, he is honest and is intelligent. And overall on top of that, he certainly finishes his career frustrated and if he manages to transform that frustration into motivation to show how good he is at football, then I think he can have a promising career as a coach. “