Euro 2012: 5 Top Veterans Set for Final Tournament at European Championships
As leagues around Europe draw toward the end of another frantic season, the focus moves to this summer's European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.
As with any major international tournament, there is talk of Euro 2012 being a chance for young players to break out, which it certainly is. However, the older generation of players must not be forgotten.
These players have seen it all—and won most of it—in stellar careers for both club and country, and still have a thing or two to teach the new kids on the scene.
The veterans on this list have been at the top of European football for a long time, and are still more than capable of performing at the highest level, although they may not be able to do so for much longer.
With that in mind, here's a list of five veterans who may well be staring their final international tournament in the face.
Ukrainian legend Andriy Shevchenko will probably not have many more outings on the international scene.
Shevchenko had an extraordinarily successful stint at AC Milan, scoring at a rate of over one goal every two games, before moving to Chelsea, where he seemed to lose his mojo. Now back with Dynamo Kiev, the Ukrainian seems to be enjoying his football once again.
Whether or not Ukraine's top scorer retires after Euro 2012, one thing is for sure—the striker will give his all when the European Championships come to the Ukrainian's homeland this summer.
Mark Van Bommel
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Mark van Bommel has been a top-class player for well over a decade and, at 35 years-old, he's not going to be able to keep going at the top level for all that much longer.
However, the Netherlands' captain still has plenty to offer this summer. He's a great ball winner and playmaker, but also brings bundles of experience and calm to a Netherlands side that will be looking to win Euro 2012.
The Dutchman has denied that he intends to retire from international football after Euro 2012, and has stated that he would like to finish his career at PSV, although that could be as soon as next season given that a contract extension at AC Milan looks unlikely.
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Miroslav Klose will turn 34 the day after Euro 2012 starts, a fact that means that the Polish-born German is entering the final stages of his career.
Klose has netted 63 times for Germany in 114 appearances, and will certainly be looking to add to that tally this summer.
The German has been in good form this season with Lazio. He has scored 13 times in 26 league games this season, and contributed five assists.
Whether he will be able to continue getting into the positions that have made him so deadly over the last decade as his career draws to a close remains to be seen, but he will still be lethal when called upon this summer.
There is a chance that, at 36, Klose will feature in the 2014 World Cup, but it seems unlikely—especially considering Germany's focus on developing new players.
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At 33 years old, Rio Ferdinand has begun to face the inevitable questions about his age whenever he performs less than perfectly.
The Manchester United stalwart has, however, put in some very good performances this season and has suffered from fewer injury problems than he has in previous seasons.
However, with the emergence of Gary Cahill, Phil Jones and Chris Smalling, Ferdinand's England place is far less of a certainty than it once was; he has played just once for England since the end of 2010.
The centre-back missed out on the 2010 World Cup after being injured in the build up to the competition and will be keen to make up this summer, if he is afforded the opportunity.
Ferdinand may not even be first choice centre-back for England this summer, especially given the problems between Ferdinand's brother and John Terry, but either way this will be Ferdinand's last major international tournament.
Alessandro Del Piero
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Alessandro Del Piero's chances of a final hurrah for the Italian national side received a major boost after Guiseppe Rossi was ruled out of the tournament after aggravating a pre-existing knee injury, Antonio Cassano suffered a heart problem and Mario Balotelli was an idiot, repeatedly.
Now the 37-year-old is the subject of calls for a dramatic recall, four years after his last appearance for the Azzurri.
The Juventus striker has not featured prominently for his club this season, being limited mainly to substitute appearances. He is not even being offered a contract extension by his long-term employer.
It is due to his experience, and ability to both score and create goals, that the veteran striker is being touted by the Italian media as needing to be taken to Euro 2012.
He also appears to be being considered by Italy coach Cesare Prandelli, and the coach has claimed that age is not his primary concern—something that can only be good news for Del Piero, a man undoubtedly in the twilight of his career.