Belgian footballer Eden Hazard has stunned the football world by announcing his retirement at the premature age of just 32.

The attacking midfielder left Real Madrid this past summer upon expiry of his contract and did not join another club, foreshadowing the decision.

Hazard cited wanting to walk away on his own terms as injuries hampered his time at Real following a blockbuster transfer from Chelsea. His retirement ends a decorated 16-year career.

After emerging at Lille, Hazard became a superstar at Chelsea, winning trophies and acclaim as one of the Premier League’s top talents. His play spearheaded Belgium’s 2018 World Cup campaign to a bronze medal finish.

In an emotional statement posted on social media, Hazard thanked all his past clubs, coaches and teammates for the journey. He also expressed gratitude to fans worldwide for their avid support throughout his career.

While still in his early 30s, persistent injury struggles ultimately precipitated Hazard’s call to retire rather than attempting to regain peak form. His retirement marks the exit of Belgium’s “Golden Generation” leader from the game.