World Football: Top 10 Footballers Who Still Had It After 35

Ned HarwoodContributor IIIJuly 12, 2011

World Football: Top 10 Footballers Who Still Had It After 35

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    Old age and soccer were never meant to go together. They are contradicting concepts thrust together that usually produce disappointing results and exhaust a career.

    The majority of footballers unfortunately fall into this trend as they waddle their way to a post-professional life. However, there is a common misconception that once footballers hit their 35th birthday, their careers always fade into the shadows and retirement is just days away.

    A handful of footballers swim against the tide and don't let sore knees, legs or minds cut their careers short. These are the players scattered amongst this slideshow and are the equivalent of expensive wines in a room full of tasteless beer.

    They are the ones who despite living in an older generation than the competition, still manage to produce results and sufficiently continue to fill their thirst of stardom.

    If the world knew what makes their game taste so good so late, soccer would be a much older game. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Kevin Poole

    Position: Goalkeepr

    Nationality: English

    Feat: Currently playing professional football for Burton Albion at the age of 47.

    Javier Zanetti

    Position: Fullback

    Nationality: Italian

    Feat: Three-year starter for Inter after his 35th birthday. 

    Roberto Carlos

    Position: Left-Back

    Nationality: Brazilian

    Feat: Consistent starter for multiple teams in Turkish, Brazilian and Russian Premier Leagues.

    Lothar Matthaus

    Position: Center-Back

    Nationality: German

    Feat: Four-year starter for Bayern Munich and won the German Footballer of the Year in 1999. 

    Gordon Strachan

    Position: Central Midfield

    Nationality: Scottish

    Feat: Started 96 Premier League matches after his 35th birthday. 

    Gary McAllister

    Position: Winger

    Nationality: Scotland

    Feat: 55 Caps for Liverpool (five goals) after 35th birthday. 

10. Ze Roberto

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    Birthday: 6 July 1974 (age 37)

    Nationality: Brazilian

    The Brazilian has done some special things in his long career, especially after his 35th birthday. Ze Roberto scored more goals in his first season after reaching the big 3-5 then he did in any of his previous Bundesliga seasons.

    In 2010-2011, he stunned in a different statistic, recording nine assists on the year, good enough for sixth place in the league.

    It is safe to say that whenever or wherever Ze Roberto was needed, he filled the role like he was in his prime.  

9. Pavel Nedved

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    Birthday: 30 August 1972 (age 38)

    Nationality: Czech Republican

    The former Czech international was producing results on the top level deep into his 30’s.

    In 2009, Nedved played 44 games for Italian giant Juventus, the third most competitions he had played in a single season for his career.

    He managed to net nine goals after his 35th birthday in the Serie A and was a consistent starter on the left wing. Not bad for an old man, eh?

8. David Beckham

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    Birthday: 2 May 1975 (age 36)

    Nationality: English

    Beckham has been a household name for nearly a decade-and-a-half and at 36, has still got the X-factor that makes him so memorable to many.

    The amount of injuries the superstar has encountered could have ended his career long ago, but his desire to play English football once again has kept him on the field and in top form for the LA Galaxy.

    Beckham has recorded eight assists and two goals on the season, earning him fan praise and a starting spot in the 2011 MLS All-Star Game.

    He may not be good enough for an English call-up, but he still has some mojo left in the tank. 

7. Romario

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    Birthday: January 29, 1966 (age 45)

    Nationality: Brazilian

    The Brazilian legend played professional football for 24 years before retiring in 2009. In short, Romario was a traveling man, playing for 10 different teams on five continents throughout his career that lasted until he was 43 years of age.

    From 2002-2006, Romario scored 48 goals in 92 appearances for various Brazilian clubs, his best year being in 2005 when he was the Brazilian League’s top scorer.

    He has come out of retirement multiple times the last couple of years, and at 45, don’t yet count out a possible return for Romario.  

6. Roberto Baggio

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    Birthday: 18 February 1967 (age 44)

    Nationality: Italian

    Though more known for his feats at Juventus, Baggio still managed to earn some honors in his late 30’s at Brescia.

    The prestigious Italian scored 24 goals in his first two full seasons after his 35th birthday and was on the Serie A top-10 scoring list for the 2003-2004 season.

    Baggio is one of the few players who didn’t let age or health taint his legacy. 

5. Edwin van der Sar

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    Birthday: 29 October 1970 (age 40)

    Nationality: Dutch

    Has there ever been a goalie more dominant so late in his career than the long-limbed Dutchmen? Van der Sar is coming off arguably his greatest season at the age of 40, recording 14 clean sheets and leading the Red Devils to an EPL crown.

    Since his 35th birthday, Van Der Sar has done all of the following: Won four EPL Titles, two Champions League Titles, 180-plus caps and three Best European Goalkeeper awards.

    Who says form diminishes over time?!

4. Teddy Sheringham

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    Birthday: 2 April 1966 (age 45)

    Nationality: English

    Engine. That is the word I would use to describe the English legend who decided to work against the odds and play Premiership football in his 40s.

    Sheringham never seemed to score remarkable amounts of goals, but he consistently managed to find the back of the net all the way until his retirement at the ripe age of 42.

    To this day, there is no other player who has scored more EPL goals (39) after the age of 35 than the great Teddy Sheringham.  

3. Ferenc Puskas

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    Birthday: 2 April 1927 (Deceased 2006)

    Nationality: Hungarian

    Although I admit I never saw the man play, it was hard to keep the great Hungarian off the list. Puskas was the star midfielder of Real Madrid during the 1960s glory days even after his 35th birthday.

    Puskas scored 62 goals in his final four seasons (35-plus) at Madrid and became the first player ever recorded to score 26 goals in a season at his age.

    Though many of us never got to witness his mature dominance, his stats really do speak for themselves.

2. Paolo Maldini

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    Birthday: 26 June 1968 (age 43)

    Nationality: Italian

    Not many retired footballers can look back at their careers and be proud of 25 years of professional service.

    Paolo Maldini was one of the most consistent defenders in the Serie A for two-and-a-half decades, branding his legacy into the San Siro grass.

    Maldini was truly nearly as effective at 41 as he was at 16, making him eligible to earn the No. 2 spot in my rankings. 

1. Ryan Giggs

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    Birthday: 29 November 1973 (age 37)

    Nationality: Welsh

    It is remarkable how little old age affected the game of the great Ryan Giggs. Though he lost some speed the last couple of years, his terrific control, precision passes and overall presence were still felt as much in the 2011 UCL final as they were the moment he arrived at Old Trafford.

    Not many men can fight for First XI football at the age of 37, and Giggs did it at one of the most prestigious clubs in the world.

    Cheers Ryan, and thanks for reading!