10 World Footballers It's Easy to Forget Are Still Playing

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistMay 7, 2012

10 World Footballers It's Easy to Forget Are Still Playing

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    If you're reading Bleacher Report's World Football coverage then it is a fair assumption to make that you are passionate about the "Beautiful Game."

    Beyond watching your favourite team home and away, as well as the several leagues and competitions from all over the world that are now easier than ever to watch, you also want to learn about and discuss the players, coaches and clubs that make football such a major part of your sporting consumption.

    Yet, with the best will in the world, it is impossible to keep up with everything that is going on.

    There is only so much football you can watch or consume elsewhere, so even if you do fancy yourself an aficionado, some goings-on will invariably escape your attention.

    With that in mind here are ten footballers you may have forgot are still playing.

    All of those listed have had a relatively high-profile career, but in their autumn years may have fallen off your radar for one reason or another. This is not a definitive list of course, so please feel free to contribute your own suggestions of those you forgot were still going on.

Nuno Gomes

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    The last of Portugal's 'Golden Generation' to still be playing professional football, Nuno Gomes is currently plying his trade at Braga.

    Thirty-five year-old Gomes is part of a squad that for a time threatened to challenge for the Portuguese Liga title this season before they fell behind Benfica and eventual champions FC Porto.

    Six goals this season is a decent return for the forward considering he is not a regular starter, and is in keeping with a career where his all-round play has marked him out for notice rather than just his goal tally.

    That career has included two spells with Benfica, the latter proving especially successful with two league winners' medals among the haul.

    And while he did not become the star he threatened to be around the time of his move to Serie A with Fiorentina (he was there from 2000 to 2002), those spells at Benfica and his 79 appearances for Portugal showed him to be one of the more valuable forwards of his era in European football nonetheless.

Juan Román Riquelme

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    Juan Román Riquelme never became the force in European football his talent might have made him capable of, but the contributions of this skillful performer in helping Villarreal to one of the most successful spells in the club's history has meant the play-maker is still fondly remembered.

    The Argentinian's time in Spain did not end especially happily, but despite occasional rumours of a return to Europe, Riquelme has opted to remain in his home country with Boca Juniors.

    Riquelme's second spell with the capital club has seen him win a third Copa Libertadores, as well as enjoy success in the Primera Division. He has remained available for selection with the national side also.

    Still only 33, Riquelme's quality is such that age might be a while yet in catching up with him. Boca supporters will be hopeful their talisman decides to spend the remainder of his career with them, but it is not against the realms of possibility that a good offer might see him tempted elsewhere.

Fabio Grosso

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    Italy's World Cup winning hero of 2006, Fabio Grosso has fallen off the football radar these past couple of years, but as of this season is still employed by Juventus.

    Since scoring the penalty that beat France to win the Azzurri's fourth World Cup, Grosso has endured his ups and downs.

    Joining Internazionale after the tournament, the fullback's spell in the capital did not work out and in 2007 he moved to Lyon. His first season proved a success as he played his part in a league and cup double success for the club.

    Moving back to Italy with the Old Lady of Turin, Grosso's appearances have fallen with each subsequent season, this year making only two in Serie A.

Rivaldo

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    You can be forgiven for having a little difficulty in keeping track of Rivaldo's moves further and further into football obscurity.

    After being replaced by more youthful compatriot Kaka at Milan in 2002, the move to Greece and subsequent spells with Olympiacos and AEK Athens were a step down, but the Brazilian did at least remain in a league of decent standing.

    But on either side of a spell back home with Sao Paulo, Rivaldo has gone where few Ballon d'Or and World Cup winners have gone before.

    First there was Uzbekistan, where he joined FC Bunyodkor following a lucrative offer. Rivaldo gave a decent return for the money and scored plenty of goals, but rather than hang up his boots after this final payday, he has set up what is one of the strangest conclusions to a career of one of the greats.

    In January this year he moved to Angolan side Kabuscorp. Though that looks set to be his final destination, don't rule out any further moves!

David James

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    After two seasons in the second-tier of English football with Bristol City, 41-year-old David James is on the lookout for a new club.

    Despite getting on in years, the former-England No.1 wrote in his most recent column with The Observer newspapers that he has "no intention of retiring."

    After spells with the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Portsmouth, James could yet enjoy a memorable swansong to his long career by reaching the landmark of 1000 career appearances.

    But his hope of once more playing in the Premier League might be overly optimistic, as the goalkeeper is not as in demand as he was only a couple of seasons ago, and he might have to settle for another club in The Championship.

Alessandro Del Piero

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    Having stuck with Juventus through thick and thin, Alessandro Del Piero will always be adored by the Bianconeri faithful.

    Though not as vital to the Juve cause as he once was, Del Piero is still there to be called upon. In the form of two goals, two assists and invaluable experience, their club captain has more than contributed this season as the Turin club won their first (official) Scudetto since 2003.

    Just as sweet as it will be for the club's many fans, Del Piero will too savour the success that has been some time in coming following the difficulties that followed the Old Lady's relegation to Serie B post-Calciopoli in 2006.

    Del Piero himself has fallen off the radar a little for those who don't follow Serie A closely. Should he stay on another season, with a return to Champions League football for his club, Del Piero could yet enjoy one more season in the limelight with Juventus as they return to the big time.

Ronaldinho

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    Currently with Brazilian giants Flamengo, Ronaldinho is hardly out of the limelight in a league that is increasingly growing in prominence.

    But at least in the eyes of a European audience that were wowed by him so often for the better part of the last decade, as of now the Brazilian forward is out of sight, out of mind.

    Considering just how great Barcelona and Lionel Messi have been in recent years, it is easy to forget that prior to the Argentinian's rise to stardom the Catalan club were already one of Europe's most entertaining and successful. Of which the very same can be said of Ronaldinho.

    He was good in his spells at PSG and Milan, but at Barca he was truly something special.

    That skill and quality that made him a star remains with Ronaldinho now at Flamengo, but it is unlikely we will ever again see him delivering it with the same frequency and effectiveness as that golden time in Catalonia.

Michael Owen

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    The once, bright-young hope of English football, injuries have sadly conspired to heavily restrict the number of appearances Michael Owen might have otherwise made.

    Owen can look back on his career with pride, and even if he might not himself, those of us who have seen him at his brilliant best will regret that he was unable to continue in that manner as long as he could have.

    This past season with Manchester United will possibly have been the most frustrating of that career. Injuries and falling down the pecking order have meant the former-England striker has played just three times in 2011/12.

    Still only 32, you would think Owen will be keen to have a crack at first-team football elsewhere next season. But that remains to be seen, and it may be the case that after being at Old Trafford, the alternatives for him will be something of a let-down.

Luca Toni

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    From joining Palermo in 2003 until departing Bayern Munich in 2010, Luca Toni could rightly be regarded as one of the best strikers in football.

    That reputation and the fear he once struck in the hearts of opposition defences has subsided somewhat in the past couple of years however.

    Bouncing around Serie A, spells with Roma, Genoa and Juventus have now led the 34-year-old to Al Nasr of the UAE Pro-League.

    Toni is not the first player to head to the Middle East to seek riches late in the day, but with his size and ability to finish, he remains an intimidating prospect as a forward and could yet earn another opportunity in a more high-profile location.

Harry Kewell

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    Harry Kewell is back home in Australia playing with Melbourne Victory in the A-League.

    Three years with Galatasary preceded his return Down Under, and though he will look back on the past five years as having had a decent time of it, there may be a level of frustration that he was never able to reach the consistent heights his peers have in the English Premier League.

    Those years with Leeds United and Liverpool saw the attacking midfielder enjoy some terrific highs (especially in the Champions League) which were tempered by some difficult lows as he fought numerous injuries.

    But make no mistake, Kewell in his prime was a great watch, and even now is capable of making a solid contribution to a fledgling home league that is looking to go from strength to strength.