Soccer: The 11 Best Old-School Players in World Football

Vijay MuraliAnalyst ISeptember 29, 2011

Soccer: The 11 Best Old-School Players in World Football

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    Football is a sport in which age does have a role to play, and it is regarded that a player is in the peak of his career between 23 and 28 years of age.

    There are a number of players who struggle when they lose their pace and ability to get behind defenders. For example, Michael Owen, who is only 31 years old, has not been effective since he lost his pace due to age and injuries and has struggled to make an impact.

    However, there are many who have defied the effects of age and have adapted their game to suit their advantages.

    However, there are some who make use of their experience and can still continue playing at the highest level. 

    The managers also have a key role in utilizing these players to the best of their abilities. Sir Alex Fergsuon for example believes in having experienced players in the team and under him, many players like Paul Scholes and Gary Neville have contributed a lot despite them being past their best.

    Here is a list of players (over 34 years of age) who are past their peak and yet can contribute effectively to the team as they near the peak of their careers. 

1. Ryan Giggs

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    The Manchester United midfielder has established himself as one of the greatest players to have played for the club and despite Giggs being 37 years of age, it is easy to see why Giggs has an important role in Sir Alex Ferguson's team.

    The left-footed midfielder is one of the most gifted players in the world and his all-round game is still excellent. The main asset of Giggs' play is his intelligence and awareness, and he is capable of making a difference for the team.

    Though he has played most of his career as a winger, he is also versatile and has also played in centre midfield where he has performed quite well for Sir Alex Ferguson.

    The presence of the Welshman in the dressing room does make a difference for Manchester United and with the 37-year-old still performing quite well, Ferguson might be interested in keeping him at the club as long as he wants to play.

2. Alessandro Nesta

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    AC Milan defender Alessandro Nesta has been one of the club's most important players, and he continues to have a very important role in central defense for the current Serie A title holders.

    Nesta joined Milan in 2002 from Lazio, and has contributed immensely to Milan's successes in the past decade. The former Italy international has established a good partnership with Thiago Silva and even last season, Nesta was very important in their title win.

    Though the 35-year-old has lost pace with age, he retains an excellent footballing brain and his positional sense is excellent, which helps him make vital interceptions.

    Alongside the dynamic Thiago Silva, Nesta has shown that he can marshal the Milan defense and the experienced defender is one of the most important players for the club. 

3. Raul Gonzalez

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    Raul Gonzalez has been one of the greatest strikers in the last two decades, and was prolific throughout his time at Real Madrid.

    With the big money signing of Karim Benzema and the emergence of Gonzalo Higuain, Raul decided to move on to Schalke in order to have more playing time.

    The former Madrid striker has also had a good spell with the German club and has scored some very important goals for the club, helping them reach the semi-finals of the Champions League last season.

    The Spain striker is a very intelligent player and his movement and positional sense enables him to score many goals for the club.

    Though the 34-year-old is no longer as devastating as he was during his peak years, he still retains the knack of scoring goals and he remains a very tough player for defenders to keep under control.

4. Alessandro Del Piero

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    Alessandro Del Piero is one of the best players ever to play for Juventus, and has made a record number of appearances for the club.

    The talented striker continues to be an important member of the team even at the age of 36, and is a player who can inspire the team to perform better. He is not only capable of scoring goals but can also create many goal-scoring opportunities for others and it is extremely difficult for defenders to handle his movement and creativity.

    Del Piero is also especially known for his set-pieces and he is extremely threatening when there is a chance of scoring from a set-piece.

    The Juventus striker may be past his best but he still has the ability to make the difference for his side and also, he is capable of performing well in big games.

    His experience is vital to the club as they try to establish themselves back among the big teams in the Italian league, and with new quality additions like Arturo Vidal, Juventus have a good chance of competing for the title this season.

5. Clarence Seedorf

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    AC Milan have had great success in the past and in the last decade, they have had some excellent players in their squads.

    Clarence Seedorf will certainly be considered as one of Milan's best signings in the last decade and the Dutchman has had an important role in Milan's successes in the last decade.

    The former Real Madrid midfielder has enjoyed a long and successful spell with Milan and the 34-year-old is also likely to stay at the club until his retirement.

    Though Seedorf is currently 35 years old, he has shown that he can compete at the highest level and did have an important role to play in their title win last season. The Dutchman is a player who has great determination and work ethic and his experience is vital to the team.

    He still has the creativity to open up defenses and though he does not have a lot of time at the highest level, he is an asset to the team and is an integral member of the current Milan team.

6. Javier Zanetti

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    Javier Zanetti is one amongst very few players who have maintained a high standard of playing while continuing to play beyond the age of 36.

    The 38-year-old continues to be a very important player for Inter Milan, and his leadership is vital to the team. Zanetti's versatility also provides good depth to the team and the Argentinean can play as a fullback or as a defensive midfielder as well.

    The 38-year-old Inter Milan captain is inspirational and has shown great determination for the team's cause on several occasions.

    Zanetti also played an important role in Inter's historic treble achieved under Jose Mourinho, as well as representing his national team in several important tournaments including World Cups. 

7. Francesco Totti

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    Francesco Totti has represented Roma on more than 600 occasions and is considered to be a legend by the club's fans for his contributions to the club.

    The Italian striker has shown great character in the past and has been an integral member of the team for around 15 years. Totti is generally employed as a second striker, or in a role behind the main striker where his creativity can cause plenty of problems for defenders.

    Also, he can score from set-pieces and has excellent composure in front of goal as well.

    The Roma attacker is threatening because of his superb movement and creativity which helps create opportunities.

    Totti has stayed with Roma throughout his career and that sort of loyalty is not common in modern day football, which is why fans do have a huge admiration for the Italian.

8. Michael Ballack

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    Michael Ballack has been one of the best players for Germany in the last decade, but with the emergence of several exciting young talents such as Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Mario Goetze, it does seem like it will be difficult for the 35-year-old to contribute effectively for Joachim Low's Germany.

    Ballack did have successful spells with Bayer Leverkeusen, Bayern Munich and also Chelsea but injuries have meant that he has not played much in the last 18 months.

    Ballack left on a free transfer to Bayer Leverkeusen in the summer of 2010, but injuries have meant that he has not been able to put in consistent performances for the club. However, Ballack is a quality player and if he can stay free of injuries, he can still be an important player for his club in the future.

9. Marcos Senna

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    Marcos Senna has been one of the most integral players for Villareal in the last decade, and has been one of the most consistent players in the La Liga.

    The 35-year-old has slowed down with age and cannot play every game for the club, but his experience is vital to the team. Also, his understanding of the game is excellent which helps him make several important interceptions.

    Senna is also known for his long range shots and is also a good penalty-kick taker.

    The Brazilian-born holding midfielder has also played some important games for Spain as well playing an important role in Spain's win in the Euro Championships in 2008, though he was excluded for the World Cup due to the emergence of Barcelona's Sergio Busquets.

10. Mark Van Bommel

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    Mark Van Bommel has been an excellent central midfielder and has been a vital player for the clubs he has played for, such as PSV and Bayern Munich.

    The tough tackling midfielder was also named as the captain of the Netherlands national team following the retirement of Giovanni van Bronckhurst after the World Cup final. Van Bommel has been inspirational in the past and also, he has shown great determination for the team.

    The 34-year-old is a ball-winner in the middle of the pitch and he is a tough tackler, though that has been criticized by some players.

    He was the first non-German player to captain Bayern Munich and, after having a successful time with the Bavarian giants, he left the club to join AC Milan in January last season.

    He did have a role to play in Milan's title win and remains an important player for the club.

11. Fillipo Inzaghi

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    Fillipo Inzaghi is certainly no longer as good as he was a few years back, and he is not a regular starter for Milan—who have excellent strikers like Pato, Antonio Cassano, Robinho and Ibrahimovic.

    However, Inzaghi is a player who is a natural finisher and is always a goalscoring threat when he is on the pitch. His movement is still excellent and he is known for his positioning which helps him scores many goals.

    In the last season, Inzaghi's introduction changed the game against Real Madrid as the Italian showed that his poaching skills still remained intact. Also, in the second leg against Tottenham, Milan did create several opportunities but could not put them away which is where Inzaghi could have helped if he was fit.

    He was injured for several months last season but was awarded a contract and is still a member of the current Milan squad.