World Football's 15 Best Players Age 35 and Over
It's always a fashionable topic to discuss future stars of the game and debate which players will become the next Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo.
What's not as prominent, however, is a focus on the elder statesmen of the game—the players adaptable enough to impact several different eras of football.
Therefore, here's a look at some of those seasoned professionals still competing and bettering athletes half their age.
All of the following are playing past their 35th birthday and making major contributions in a competitive environment.
Due to several goalkeepers finding their most consistent form in their thirties, this is a list of outfield players only.
All statistics via WhoScored.com.
Alessandro Del Piero
Name: Alessandro Del Piero
Club: Sydney FC
We start with a legend of the game. He may be finishing his career playing a lower standard of football, but it's hard to leave out the talent that is Alessandro Del Piero.
At 39, the former Juventus favourite still shows touches of class and fired in 14 goals during his first campaign with Sydney, the fourth-most in Australia.
He has five goals in 11 games this season and remains a key player for his new club.
Name: Thierry Henry
Club: New York Red Bulls
The lower standard of the MLS prevents several potential choices from making this list, yet one who cannot be ignored is Thierry Henry.
His world-class status may have diminished, but he remains a cut above his current surroundings, displaying sporadic flashes of brilliance.
He continues to score and assist a large portion of New York Red Bulls' goals, helping them win the Eastern Conference twice in the past four years.
Daniel Van Buyten
Name: Daniel Van Buyten
Club: Bayern Munich
Daniel Van Buyten's level may have fallen over the past few years, but the fact he still features for Europe's leading club, and one of the most exciting international sides, makes him a hard man to omit.
Bayern have used him far more sparingly this season, although the defence has only conceded five goals in the 11 games he's appeared in.
Van Buyten also remains a key part of Belgium's plans, starting their final four World Cup qualifiers.
Name: Mario Yepes
At 38, Mario Yepes is one of the oldest players on this list, still playing in Serie A and for the Colombian national side.
The former Milan defender moved to Atalanta in the summer and, when available, remains a key selection.
The Colombian announced he will retire after the coming World Cup, where he may well collect his 100th cap.
Name: Massimo Ambrosini
After almost two decades at AC Milan, Massimo Ambrosini made a switch to Champions League-chasing Fiorentina during the summer.
Despite his new club's impressive midfield resources, the 36-year-old has featured in 17 games for his new club in all competitions.
He remains as tenacious and combative as ever, disrupting opponents and mopping up in the heart of midfield.
Name: Sylvain Distin
Sylvain Distin's lack of international recognition often sees him underrated, but the Frenchman has been one of Everton's most consistent players over the past few years.
He's played in 147 out of a possible 173 Premier League games for the Toffees, helping his club keep the division's best defence so far this season.
At 36, he remains as strong and as fast as any defender currently playing in England.
Name: Ricardo Carvalho
Now in France, Ricardo Carvalho remains one of the most uncompromising defenders in Europe.
He's played every minute of Monaco's successful return to Ligue 1, helping them sit second after 20 games, just five points off the lead.
At 35, he shows no sign of slowing down just yet, and Monaco would be wise to extend his current one-year deal.
Name: Luca Toni
Luca Toni remains as bullish as ever, spearheading the attack of an impressive Verona side.
The striker's nine goals and six assists leave him responsible for almost half his side's overall goals, as he continues to perform at a high level.
Playing for his 16th club, the former Italian international has already recorded his best scoring season in five years.
Name: Miroslav Klose
Serie A harbours many of these ageing greats and another one still making an important contribution is Miroslav Klose.
The German has remained prolific in Italy, scoring five times this season having scored 12 and 15 goals in his previous two campaigns.
He will go to the World Cup this summer—his fourth—just one goal shy of matching Ronaldo's overall tally of 15 goals.
Name: Javier Zanetti
Club: Inter Milan
The oldest player on this list, Javier Zanetti is a freak of nature, continuing to perform well past his 40th birthday.
Having torn his Achilles last season, many anticipated an end to his playing days or at least nine months off the field; however, Zanetti recently returned in November, just six months after his injury.
His complete dedication to his profession is an example to all and the primary reason for his lasting success.
Name: Didier Drogba
Now in Turkey, Didier Drogba is a key player for Galatasaray, helping them qualify from a tough Champions League group above Juventus.
He scored one and set up both other goals against the Italian giants, showing his class and experience when needed most.
He will travel to his and his country's third World Cup as captain, with a strong chance of making the knock-out stages for the first time.
Antonio Di Natale
Name: Antonio Di Natale
Remarkably, Udinese's Antonio Di Natale has become more prolific with age.
He's scored 107 league goals over the past four-and-a half seasons—the most productive spell of his career—with just 93 strikes coming over his first 11 seasons.
Aside from Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, no player has scored more goals in Europe's five major leagues since 2009—an incredible return for a 36-year-old.
Name: Ryan Giggs
Club: Manchester United
The second 40-year-old on this list is Ryan Giggs, who continues to defy logic and produce decisive displays in Manchester United's midfield.
What makes his decorated career even more imperious is his switch from electric left winger to a more composed, cultured central midfielder.
With United struggling post-Sir Alex Ferguson, the Welshman remains as important as ever at Old Trafford.
Name: Frank Lampard
Frank Lampard continues to produce at a high standard on a consistent basis, as Chelsea battle for Premier League and Champions League honours.
He may not belt in as many long-range efforts, but he remains as productive as ever in scoring terms, reaching double figures in each his past 10 Premier League seasons.
He will travel to his third World Cup this summer, with a strong chance of starting for Roy Hodgson's side.
Name: Francesco Totti
Many of these players are still performing at a high level; Francesco Totti, however, is still dominant.
At 37, the Roma captain remains integral to his club side, scoring four and assisting seven in the 12 Serie A games he's played in.
Roma have won 10 of those 12 games but only three of the seven matches he's missed—a measure of his enduring influence.
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