Francesco Totti vs. Javier Zanetti and the 20 Best One-Club Men of Recent Times
Saturday is always a day to look forward to for the football fan, but those who cast their eyes toward Italy's Serie A this weekend could witness two genuine greats of the modern age in battle against each other: Francesco Totti and Javier Zanetti, as AS Roma host Internazionale.
The two have a combined age of 77, have more than 1000 senior appearances between them and have spent almost all their careers with just those clubs.
In respect of these two, and Totti particularly, we pay homage to the finest recent players to have spent their entire careers as one-club men—here are 20 of the best.
Criteria and Honourable Mentions
Naturally, any player with an appearance or spell of time as a senior player spent at a second club is excluded. This includes loan deals for players in their younger years, so don't expect to see the likes of John Terry or Philipp Lahm—neither are one-club men in true form.
Indeed, as Zanetti featured for Banfield as a youngster he is also not a one-club man, though is entirely synonymous with Inter Milan.
As this list features still-playing or recently retired individuals, no players who ended their careers before 2000 will be incorporated within—it has become much less common in the past couple of decades to see one-club men compared to beforehand.
There is also the consideration of time to take into account: Technically, a 20-year-old in his first senior season is a one-club man, so to gauge longevity and quality, only those with a minimum of 14 campaigns with senior appearances at the same club will count.
To that end, a whole host of current top players just miss the cut but will bear watching as they will qualify over the coming years...presuming they don't move on. Some of those include:
Andres Iniesta, Barcelona
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Bayern Munich
Daniele De Rossi, AS Roma
Other notable one-club men who fail to make the cut:
Mikel Aranburu, Real Sociedad
Ledley King, Tottenham Hotspur
Marco Bode, Werder Bremen
Nir Davidovich, Maccabi Haifa
The star of the show on Saturday and central to Roma's continued Serie A and (next season's) Champions League challenges is forward Francesco Totti.
The 37-year-old has been in the Roma side since the 92-93 season, making close to 700 appearances all told.
He won over 50 international caps, along with a single league title and the 2006 World Cup.
Still going strong in England is Manchester United's Welsh winger, Ryan Giggs.
Now part of the coaching set-up at Old Trafford, Giggs' playing days may be finally winding down to an end, but at age 40 he is still a regular squad member, adding to his tally of well over 900 United appearances.
Though he only attained a little over 60 caps for Wales, his list of honours is one of the longest around: 13 league titles, four FA Cups, two Champions Leagues and even a FIFA World Club Cup are included.
Russian goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev has spent his entire career with Zenit St. Petersburg, playing in the first team since 1999.
He has appeared over 300 times in league action for them and has won multiple titles with them, as well as being Russia's national team stopper at both the 2012 European Championships and in other major tournament squads previously.
A strong and dominant goalkeeper, the 34-year-old has retired from international duty now but remains one of the top keepers in the Russian Premier League.
We embark now on a run of five defenders in a row, beginning with Bulent Korkmaz.
The Turkish centre-back spent his entire club career with Galatasaray, playing nearly two full decades at the club and making over 600 senior appearances in total. An aggressive and powerful defender, he once played out a European cup final with a dislocated shoulder and ended on the winning side in the 2000 UEFA Cup.
Having made more than a century of appearances for his nation, including playing at the 2002 World Cup where Turkey finished third, he retired in 2005.
Perhaps one of the very greatest defenders to have ever played the game, Paolo Maldini played out an incredible 25 campaigns with AC Milan, making just over 900 senior appearances all told.
Playing either at left- or centre-back, the graceful and cultured defender was rarely beaten on the ground or in the air and made 126 appearances for Italy.
He won seven league titles, five European Cups, the FIFA World Club Cup and was a World Cup runner-up.
Former Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher retired only at the end of last season, having played 737 times for the Reds between 1996 and 2013.
A ferocious and committed defender, he played across the back line during his career before playing his best years as a centre-back for almost the last decade.
Carragher won two European trophies with his club and featured at two World Cups for England.
Gary Neville made just over 600 Manchester United appearances in a career spanning 19 seasons, before retiring in 2011.
The right-back was a major part of United's team for more than a decade and was regularly the first-choice at international level too for England.
Neville won eight Premier League titles and two Champions League medals, as well as a haul of 85 international caps.
Manuel Sanchis is one of Real Madrid's greatest defenders, having appeared in more than 500 league games for the side and captaining the club for more than a decade through a successful period in their history.
Sanchis played centrally or as a sweeper for Real, making over 700 appearances in total as he won two Champions League titles, two UEFA Cups and eight league titles.
He was a Spanish international on almost 50 occasions, playing at the 1990 World Cup, before retiring in 2001 after 18 years with the club.
Another Manchester United star to have recently retired, Paul Scholes played a total of more than 700 games for his club, starting in 1994-95 and ending in 2012-13.
He briefly retired at the end of the 2010-11 season but was back within a few months for another short spell at the club.
Scholes initially starred as a forward in his younger days before emerging into a wonderful all-round midfielder. He won over 60 caps for England and won 11 league titles and two Champions League titles during his career.
39-year-old goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy has spent a remarkable 21 seasons at Dynamo Kyiv and is still a current member of the squad.
Though he has finally lost his place as the regular No. 1 over the past couple of years, he was for most of that time a regular starter and has played more matches for the Ukrainian giants than any other player in history.
His honours with the club run easily into double figures, with a dozen league titles alone, while on the international stage he has also had fame as Ukraine's keeper for almost a century of matches. He became the first goalkeeper to not concede a penalty in a shoot-out at the World Cup, and he only retired from action for his country two years ago.
One of the finest players in the modern game, Barcelona's Xavi Hernandez continues to dictate matches with calmness and quality, having been a part of the team for 16 seasons, now at age 34.
His skills need little introduction, having been a master of the pass-and-move style of play that has wowed the world over the past few years at club and country level. Xavi has so far won seven league titles and three Champions Leagues with Barcelona.
With his national team Spain, Xavi has amassed 130 caps and is still going strong, having won two European Championships and a World Cup title along the way.
How many one-club men have scored over 100 goals for their club? Probably a fair few. How many of those have been goalkeepers? Quite possibly, just Rogerio Ceni.
The 41-year-old Brazilian has spent more than two decades in the Sao Paulo team, amassing over 1000 senior appearances along the way and scoring well over 100 times as the team's designated penalty and free-kick taker.
Although a regular in the Brazil national squad for years, he won only a handful of caps, including an appearance at the 2006 World Cup. He has won two Copa Libertadores trophies and a FIFA Club World Cup.
Another member of the still-playing brigade, Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard is in his 16th season as a senior player with his club and has played over 650 times for the Reds. In addition, he has made over a century of appearances for his national team.
Gerrard has played in a variety of midfield roles, most often during his peak as an attacking midfielder, while he now operates in a deeper playmaking position.
He has won numerous titles with his team, chief among them a UEFA Cup and a Champions League medal.
Perhaps the best Spanish defender of all time, Barcelona's Carles Puyol is still just about going as a professional, now aged 35 and in his 15th season as a senior.
Rugged and aggressive despite a relatively short frame, Puyol won his way into the team as an offensive right-back before switching central later on. He has been a leader for his club since assuming the captaincy in 2004 and won 100 caps for Spain.
Among his honours are the World Cup and European Championships, six league titles and three Champions Leagues.
Matt Le Tissier
Southampton's biggest legend of all time, Matthew Le Tissier, played for the club from the 1986-87 season right through to 2001-02, making well over 500 appearances all told.
Capable of scoring the spectacular and the sublime, the attacking midfielder was known for his great close control and great scoring rate from set pieces—he missed only one of his 48 career penalties. Le Tissier also scored the last goal at Southampton's old stadium before they moved from The Dell to St. Mary's.
The modest nature of his club meant honours escaped him during his career, and even at international level he managed only eight caps—a ridiculously low number for a player of his calibre.
German midfielder Dieter Eilts was recognised as one of the most consistent and reliable central players of the 1990s in particular, playing out his entire career with Bundesliga side Werder Bremen.
The defensive midfielder was a great reader of the game and his conservative nature on the field allowed him to fill in seamlessly into defence during the national team's era of operating with a marauding sweeper who would break forward.
Eilts played close to 400 league games for his club before retiring in 2002, as well as over 30 international caps for Germany. He won two Bundesliga titles, one Cup Winners' Cup and the 1996 European Championships with his country.
Tony Adams played in 19 consecutive seasons for Arsenal as a central defender, captaining the side from the age of 21.
He played close to 700 games for the Gunners in all competitions, winning three "doubles" along the way as captain. In total he won four league titles and a Cup Winners' Cup for Arsenal.
A real leader, a fine reader of the game and strong in the air, Adams played 66 times for England and retired from professional football in 2002.
Julen Guerrero was something of a youth prodigy when he broke through the Athletic Bilbao ranks as a teenager, playing as a goalscoring attacking midfielder from 1992-93 season onward.
His career dipped rather earlier than might have been expected from him, playing 14 seasons in the end before retiring age 32, but for most of the 90s he was one of the stand-out players in Spain not playing for one of the two big clubs.
Guerrero played over 400 times for Bilbao, scoring more than 100 league goals, and also won over 40 caps for Spain and played at the '94 and '98 World Cups.
Borussia Dortmund's youngest-ever player when he made his debut, Lars Ricken was a midfielder who spent his entire career with the Bundesliga club.
Playing either on the right or centrally, Ricken had great technique and ability but found his career somewhat hampered at times by injury. He still played more than 300 times in the league for his club, from 1993-2007 when he retired.
Despite winning only 16 caps for Germany, he was a World Cup runner-up in 2002, while he won the Champions League, the UEFA Cup and three league titles with his club.
We finish up with one of the best players in the world in the goalkeeping position, Iker Casillas.
The Real Madrid stopper has played for the club since the 1999-2000 season, now in his 15th season with the club having made over 650 appearances. Great reflexes, a penchant for wonder saves and a captain for club and country are the hallmarks associated with him.
He has won five league titles and two Champions Leagues with Real, as well as a World Cup and two European Championships during his 152 caps for Spain, but it remains to be seen if he sees out his career as a one-club man after losing his place at club level over the past 14 months.
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