Australian football great Aaron Mooy calls time on career just months after starring at World Cup

Aaron Mooy has announced his retirement from professional football, bringing an end to a distinguished 13-year playing career.

The 32-year-old confirmed on Friday afternoon he would be stepping away from the game – both at club and international level – after battling an ongoing back issue.

Mooy closes the curtains on his career only months after playing a starring role in Celtic’s run to back-to-back Scottish Premier League crowns under Ange Postecoglou, and at the 2022 FIFA World Cup with the Socceroos.

He retires as one of Australia’s greatest ever midfielders, having being capped by the Socceroos 57 times, gone to two World Cups and made close to 100 Premier League appearances for Huddersfield Town and Brighton & Hove Albion.

The Sydney-born midfielder was also one of the best players to lace up the boots in the A-Leagues, earning a move to England off the back of his exploits with Melbourne City.

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“I’ve been lucky enough to live out my dreams of playing for Australia,” Mooy said.

“As a young kid, starting out in football you watch the national team on TV and imagine yourself there one day – to have lived that is something I’m truly grateful for.

“I’ve had the honour of playing alongside some of the best footballers that Australia has produced, creating lifelong friendships along the way.

“I wanted to thank my teammates, coaches and the backroom staff for all their support and guidance during my time with the Socceroos, the camaraderie amongst the group is something I’ll never forget.

“This has been a hugely difficult decision [to retire], but I feel like the time is right for the next generation to be given the opportunity to experience international football.

“As a group we were able to set a new bar [in Qatar] for the Socceroos and I believe we have the talent coming through to build upon that as work begins towards 2026.”

Socceroos captain Mat Ryan – a teammate of his both at international and club level – paid tribute to Mooy for helping pave the way for the next generation of Australian footballers to follow in the same footsteps.

“I’ve had the privilege of sharing many dressing rooms with Aaron and I’ve been lucky enough to see him go about his business in club football and for the Socceroos,” Ryan said.

“An amazing player who played such an important role for us over the past decade, he’ll certainly be missed.

“What he’s been able to achieve in his career has helped pave the way for the next generation, and we’re now seeing that through the young, Australian talent playing club football overseas and those entering the national team set up.

“I know he’s not one for the attention an announcement like this brings, but I think it’s important we celebrate what Aaron’s done for the Socceroos and Australian football.”

Football Australia CEO James Johnson echoed similar sentiments: “when you take a moment and look at the trajectory of Aaron’s career, along with his various achievements for club and country, you see the marks of an eminently talented footballer.

“In now closing this chapter of his life, Aaron joins some illustrious company, having played consistently in the EPL, appeared at multiple [FIFA] World Cups and capped more than 50 times for his country. 

“Aaron epitomises the hard-working values that underpin the Socceroos and our junior national teams, a pathway he was able to tread on his way to success in leagues across the world – a fitting example to young footballers across the country. 

“On behalf of Football Australia, I’d like to thank Aaron for his contribution to the Socceroos and wish he and his family all the best in the next chapter of their lives.” 

Mooy started his professional career in England at Bolton Wanderers, after making the move from the New South Wales Institute of Sport. He didn’t feature for The Trotters’ senior side, but soon after made the switch to Scotland where he debuted at senior level with St Mirren in 2010.

After two seasons at the Buddies, Mooy was announced as one of Western Sydney Wanderers’ inaugural signings in 2012, helping the club win the A-League Premiership in his first season and playing a central role in their run to back-to-back Grand Finals – which they lost on both occasions.

During Mooy’s time at the Wanderers, he made his Socceroos debut at the East Asian Cup, scoring a free-kick against Guam in his maiden cap – in turn becoming the 558th player to pull on the green and gold.

In 2014, he signed with City, where he took his career to another level under John Van’t Schip. Mooy became the first player in A-Leagues history to reach double digits in both goals and assists in a single season in the 2015/16 campaign – with 11 and 20 respectively.

His exploits earned him a move to City’s sister club – Manchester City – who loaned him to then Championship side Huddersfield whom he helped earn promotion to the top tier for the first time in club history in 2017.

Mooy – who had quickly became a fan favourite – signed for the club permanently on a then transfer record fee for an Australian (also Huddersfield club record at the time) of around $17.4 million (AUD) and helped the club avoid the drop in their first season in the top flight.

He had also became a Socceroos regular in the Ange Postecoglou era after their 2015 Asian Cup success, helping them qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. At said tournament, he played every minute under Postecoglou’s successor Bert Van Marwijk as they were bundled out in the group stage.

A knee injury months later ruled him out of the 2019 Asian Cup.

After Huddersfield were relegated in his third season at The Terriers, Mooy joined Brighton on loan in August 19, with the move made permanent shortly after – linking up with Ryan in southern England.

His time Brighton was short lived, as Chinese Super League side Shanghai Port came calling and activated his release clause.

Mooy only played 31 games in two years and struggled with fitness issues during his stint there, but despite not playing regularly at club level, he continued to be a mainstay under now Socceroos boss Graham Arnold on the road to Qatar.

After helping Australia achieve qualification for a fifth straight World Cup, he was given another chance in Europe by Postecoglou who brought him to The Hoops in July 2022.

At Celtic, Mooy rediscovered some of his best form and made his UEFA Champions League debut against Real Madrid early in the campaign. He finished the season with seven goals and 11 assists in all competitions, helping them to the Scottish treble.

His time at Celtic was intertwined with a starring role at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, playing an integral part in Australia’s run to the Round of 16, where they fell just short to eventual world champions Argentina.

“We saw Aaron’s qualities as a player on full display in Qatar, he was tremendous throughout the World Cup and integral to us reaching the Round of 16,” Arnold said.

“I thought the same watching him in [the 2018 World Cup] Russia, he was able to rise to the occasion on football’s biggest stage and show just how talented he truly is.

“A player like Aaron is a joy to coach, an exceptional talent who embodies the spirit of the Socceroos every time he took the pitch.

“Aaron would be the first to say he was never the most vocal of players, but he had his own way of leading the group – through his actions. I think that’s something that a lot of our players will have learnt from over the years, he’s left a huge mark on this team and the individuals within it.”

Meanwhile, returning Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers said the game will “miss him dearly”.

“Clearly we are disappointed that Aaron will be retiring, however, it is something we absolutely respect. He has done so much in the game for a number of clubs and for his country and he deserves to make this decision on his own terms,” he said.

“I am delighted for Aaron that he has gone out on a real high after making such a telling contribution to Celtic last season and that, together with all his other achievements, should be a real source of pride to him.   

“Club football and the international game will miss him dearly, but on behalf of everyone at Celtic I send Aaron and his family our heartfelt best wishes for the future.”