In 2022, we lost several major former football stars. Some featured at the very top of their sport and earned major acclaim. Here are the football stars we lost in 2022:
Pele (Edson Arantes do Nascimento)
One of the greatest players to ever grace a football pitch, Pele, passed away at the age of 82 on 29th December 2022. The Brazilian legend enjoyed a playing career spanning 21 years, in which he scored a record 1,281 goals in 1,363 appearances.
At international level, he helped Brazil to win the World Cup on three occasions in 1958, 1962 and 1970. When Pele won his first World Cup in 1958, he was just 17.
Pele fought a long battle with cancer, which is reportedly the cause of his death. He will be remembered by many as a great character on and off the pitch.
The popular Serbian was both a successful player and, later in his career, a coach in his own right. During his playing career, he was regarded as something of a hardman who was a free-kick specialist. Mihajlovic shares the record for most goals from free-kicks in Serie A, his 28 goals two more than his nearest competitor, the great midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo.
The defender won the European Cup in 1991, playing for Red Star Belgrade, before a big move to Serie A, where he spent the rest of his playing career. Mihajlovic also played a crucial role in Lazio’s 2000 Scudetto win, which was only their second-ever Italian title.
Although his managerial career was not as prestigious as his time playing, Mihajlovic managed Catania, Fiorentina, Serbia’s national team, Sampdoria, AC Milan and Torino.
The Serbian passed away on December 16th, 2022, at the age of 53, after bravely fighting a long battle with Leukaemia since 2019.
Tributes have been made to Mihajlovic, including by Serie A president Lorenzo Casini, who said of the Serbian: “Sinisa will always remain a great example of a fighter,” adding that “he was able to make himself loved by his fans and respected by his opponents.”
The forward represented both Merseyside giants Liverpool and Everton during his playing career. In fact, he is one of the rare few that is highly regarded on both sides of Stanley Park.
Johnson enjoyed the best days of his playing career at Liverpool, making 213 appearances and scoring 78 goals for the Reds. During his time with Liverpool, the forward won the English First Division title on three occasions, as well as the European Cup in 1981.
Johnson played for England internationally eight times, scoring a respectable six goals after making his debut in 1975.
He passed on November 23rd, 2022, at the age of 71, after a battle with throat cancer. He was a popular figure on Merseyside. His former Liverpool teammate David Fairclough wrote this tribute on his Twitter account: “So sad to hear my great friend and Liverpool legend David Johnson has passed away today,”
“Shared so many great moments and memories with ‘Jono’. Today is a very sad day. Condolences to all Dave’s family. RIP ‘Doc’.”
His first professional club Everton released a club statement, which read: “saddened” to learn of his death. Our thoughts are with David’s family and friends at this time,”
The midfielder made 275 appearances for Arsenal in his playing career while also being the club’s youngest-ever captain at just 20. He also represented Northern Ireland on 59 occasions before a stint as player-manager of his national team.
He became player-manager of Hull City at just 28, before two years as Tottenham boss. However, he returned to Arsenal, this time as the manager, in 1976, at just 34 years old.
Neill guided the Gunners to three straight FA Cup finals between 1978 and 1981. Unfortunately for the north London club, only one of those finals ended in victory, which came in the 1979 final. Arsenal threw away a two-goal lead against Manchester United. However, a last-gasp winner sealed the win. Arsenal sacked Neill in 1983 at just 41, and he never returned to football.
The former Arsenal stalwart passed away on July 28th, 2022, at the age of 80. On his death, an Arsenal official club statement read: “Terry Neill’s status as both club captain and manager made him a major influence on 20th-century Arsenal.
“His fantastic contribution – and indeed his character – will always be appreciated by everyone associated with the club.
“His larger-than-life character and willingness to talk football with everyone always made him a well-liked figure at the club on matchdays.
“Our thoughts are with Terry’s family and close friends at this difficult time.”
The full-back was famous as one of England’s 1966 World Cup winners. Cohen played every minute of The Three Lions campaign and won 37 international caps in total. He was the first of the 66’ World Cup-winning team to retire from international football.
At club level, Cohen was a Fulham stalwart, spending his whole career with the Cottagers and making 459 appearances for the team from south west London.
Cohen passed away on 23rd December 2022, aged 83, but he will live forever in the memory of anyone who witnessed England’s most significant football moment.