Theo Walcott announces retirement despite Saudi Arabia offers

  • Ex-Arsenal, Everton & Southampton winger Theo Walcott hangs up his boots
  • Famously named in England's 2006 World Cup squad aged 17
  • Rejected offers from clubs in the Championship and Saudi Arabia
Theo Walcott has chosen to end his career at the age of 34
Theo Walcott has chosen to end his career at the age of 34 / Richard Heathcote/GettyImages

Former Arsenal and England winger Theo Walcott has announced his retirement from football at the age of 34, having rejected offers from Saudi Arabia and clubs in the EFL Championship.

Walcott most recently played for boyhood club Southampton but was released at the end of last season. He had shot to fame with the Saints as a 16-year-old, before joining Arsenal and getting a shock call-up to England’s 2006 World Cup within two months of turning 17.

At that point, Walcott was yet to make his senior debut for Arsenal, but went on to play just shy of 400 games for the Gunners over a 12-year period – he scored 108 goals and won two FA Cups.

With Arsenal career petering out, the forward joined Everton for more than £20m in January 2018. A 2020 loan to Southampton was then followed by a permanent transfer the next year.

Having remained unused in 2006, making his controversial selection even more of a talking point, Walcott eventually earned 47 senior England caps. He also scored eight goals, including three against Croatia in September 2008 – the youngest player to get a hat-trick for the Three Lions.

Walcott didn’t make the cut for the 2010 World Cup and missed the 2014 finals through injury. He was selected for Euro 2012, but was not chosen for Euro 2016, while his lack of club form saw his international career permanently end as of 2016.

"I'm officially going to be hanging up my boots. It's very scary, I can't lie," Walcott said to former England teammate Gary Neville on The Overlap podcast.

"It's scary because football's all I've known from the age of 16 or even younger. I want to try new things I never experienced as a kid - I missed out on a lot. I just feel like I want to experience life - things [usually] revolve around football for me.

"I've had offers abroad and from some very good Championship teams. There's been some Saudi offers but it's not where I see myself playing, to be honest. Nothing against the money or the league but if my heart isn't into playing football it's not fair on the clubs, not fair on me."



Walcott also posted a lengthy video from The Overlap on social media.

"The first moment I put my football boots on aged ten was a special journey for me. From playing in the park with friends to performing in some of the biggest stadiums in front of huge crowds across the world,” he said.

"The support shown to me throughout this time has been incredible and in every way imaginable I am truly grateful. I shared the football pitch with so many incredible players and we have created so many unforgettable memories.

"I'd like to say a big thank you to all the managers and coaches that I've worked with, especially Harry [Redknapp] for giving me a start and Arsene [Wenger] for showing the belief and supporting me when I joined the club at only 16 years old. Over 18 fantastic years in the Premier League, there are so many moments I will cherish.

"The early days at Southampton Football Club, my transfer to Arsenal where I spent 12 enjoyable years and scored over 100 goals, winning the FA Cup and scoring in the final which is every kid's dream. To have had the opportunity to represent England 47 times and to go to the World Cup in 2006 aged just 17 and still to hold the record for the youngest-ever debut by a senior England player and the youngest hat-trick goalscorer at 19 - I will never forget that feeling.

"I'm lucky enough to have had offers to continue playing but it feels right to finish where I started and hang up my football boots. Thank you to everyone who has been with me along the way."