World Football's 35 Best Footballers over 35
Last week, my Bleacher Report colleague Michael Cummings wrote an article on the 30 Best Footballers Over 30. After reading it, I decided I'd one-up him and profile the 35 best footballers over 35.
I know what you're thinking. This list is either going to be nothing but goalkeepers or full of way-past-it oldies, who are in the last year of their careers.
But take a look at the list, and you'll be surprised. I've only included players who are regularly playing for their respective teams, so backup goalkeepers have been excluded.
After the Top 10, the name recognition does admittedly drop considerably, but that doesn't mean that these guys aren't doing pretty remarkable things, especially given their age.
Let me know if there's anyone who you think I missed or could be considered for this list!
Also, as a minor note, many of the players on this list are actually 35. Just as most under-21 lists include 21-year-olds and over-30 lists include 30-year-olds, it only made sense to include 35-year-olds on this list. Otherwise I'd have had to cut the size of this list in half!
These are the guys who really are knocking on the door of retirement and are struggling to get much playing time in the final season (or seasons) of their playing career.
They aren't getting enough playing time at present to make this list, but they've done so much during their respective careers that I felt they deserved a mention.
Alessandro Del Piero
After a couple of seasons of below-par production from the Juventus talisman, Antonio Conte has brought Del Piero's playing time down significantly, and Del Piero has been little more than an impact substitute this season for the Bianconeri.
Still, if you thought that Del Piero was close to calling it quits...think again.
Ruud Van Nistelrooy
Malaga CF signed the towering Dutchman on a one-year contract, hoping that he'd be able to continue the form he showed at Hamburg.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen, and with one goal in eight starts, Van Nistelrooy, like Del Piero, has been reduced to the role of an impact substitute.
Unlike Del Piero, though, it seems like Ruud Van Nistelrooy does actually understand that his playing career is drawing to a close.
You have to feel sorry for Inzaghi.
After scoring that double against Real Madrid in last year's Champions League, Inzaghi was rewarded with a new contract until the end of this season, only to have his perfect career ending spoiled by being frozen out of the AC Milan squad.
He's been linked with a January move to Novara, but surely ending his career at the Serie A bottom-feeders will not feel as great as finishing his career at Milan, no matter how successful he is.
I wouldn't personally rank Crespo as great a player as any of the previous three guys on this list, but he has had a very impressive career as a striker, both domestically and internationally. He is currently a backup striker at Parma.
He has made it clear that this season will be his last professional season.
35. Sebastian Abreu
Sebastian Abreu has never remained with one team in his career for long, and he failed in his one stint in Europe with Deportivo La Coruna. But, that has not stopped him from scoring a colossal amount of goals throughout his career.
It's hard to get a total number, since he's played with so many teams in many different competitions and different leagues, but a look at his Wikipedia page shows that it's at least above 300, which just on its own is quite remarkable.
Despite his age, Abreu seems to be having no trouble in the Brazilian Serie A, having scored 13 goals in 23 games for Botafogo this season.
His form has allowed him to prolong his international career with Uruguay long past the normal end date of most international footballers.
34. Rolando Schiavi
The guy looks mighty old in his picture, doesn't he?
Well, guess what? That picture was taken in 2005, when Schiavi was still "only" 32 years old.
Fast-forward six years, and Schiavi is still regularly starting games in the Argentinian league. Ironically, after leaving Boca Juniors in 2005 (shortly after the above picture was taken), Schiavi played with four other clubs before once again returning to Boca Juniors this summer.
His return to Boca Juniors has helped the club overcome its recent struggles and become champions of the Torneo Apertura, by a margin of 12 points.
33. Jussi Jaaskelainen
Jussi Jaaskelainen is the longest serving foreign player in the Premier League, having been at Bolton since 1997. He has made over 500 appearances for Bolton since joining the club.
I could not rank Jaaskelainen very high up on this list because his form this season (as well as the form of his entire team) just hasn't been very good.
He's been exposed to a lot more shots than almost any other keeper in the Premier League and made some great saves, but he's made some silly mistakes too that have caused Bolton to lose by large margins.
32. Nicola Legrottaglie
I'm a firm believer in the fact that you should go out with class or with a bang (a good one, not a bad one) when you retire, rather than continuing to play until no one will take you, and you are forced to retire.
With Nicola Legrottaglie, it's hard to say which side of the spectrum he's presently closer to.
Currently playing with Catania, he's taken a big step down from Juventus and Milan, but at the same time, he's playing regularly after having been limited to a single game while at Milan for the first six months of 2011.
He's helping Catania overachieve, as they now sit eighth in the league standings, so surely his employers aren't complaining.
31. Ivan Hurtado
Introducing Ivan Hurtado, ex-captain of the Ecuador national team and starting center back for Barcelona (the Ecuadorian one, not the Spanish one).
Ivan Hurtado is an Ecuadorian legend, having accrued the most caps in his nation's history with 167. He retired from international duty after Ecuador failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
In his heyday, Hurtado reportedly drew interest from both EPL and La Liga clubs, but he ultimately spent the vast majority of his career in Ecuador and Mexico, with the exception of a few forays into the Middle East and a short stint in Spain with Real Murcia.
30. Wael Gomaa
My Bleacher Report followers will know that I never pass up an opportunity to spotlight the biggest football stars of Egypt, my country of birth. So, as the first of two Egyptians on this list, I present to you: Wael Gomaa.
One thing to know about Egyptian footballers: Their careers rarely get off the ground before they're 25, and the best players are usually pushed or convinced to keep playing well into their late 30s.
This is the case with Wael Gomaa as well.
After impressing against Al-Ahly in the final of the 2001 Egypt Cup, Gomaa was signed up by Al-Ahly for the 2001-02 season and has been a starting central defender for the club about a decade now.
The same holds true for Gomaa's international career, which got started roughly around the same time he became a starter for Al-Ahly.
Gomaa has 102 caps to his name, has won the AFCON three consecutive times from 2006 to 2010, has been named the Best African Defender four times from 2006 to 2010, and he continues to be a rock for club and country today.
29. Ahmed Hassan
The second Egyptian on this list is the most capped footballer in history (or second most, depending on which sources you use), Ahmed Hassan.
Hassan isn't the first name, or even the second or third name, that most people think of when they think of great Egyptian footballers, but he should be.
Unlike the vast majority (and here I mean around 98 percent) of Egyptian footballers, Hassan managed to have a very healthy, professional footballing career outside of Egypt.
Ahmed Hassan's resilience as a player is remarkable. Even at the age of 36, he is still proving his doubters wrong.
Case in point: At the end of the 2010-11 season, Hassan was allowed to join Al-Ahly's arch rivals, Zamalek, on a free transfer, as Al-Ahly believed Hassan was way past his prime and would probably hurt more than help Zamalek in their quest to win the league title.
How did Ahmed Hassan respond? By scoring six goals in his first six games.
28. Gilberto Silva
What? Gilberto Silva still hasn't retired?
Nope, apparently not. Silva has returned to Brazil with Gremio and has started practically every game he has been fit for.
It's amazing how long Brazilians manage to stretch out their careers. You could almost make a starting 11 of 35-year-old and older Brazilians who used to be quite good in their day.
There's Ze Roberto, who starred with Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, Gilberto, who featured regularly for the Brazilian national team, Rivaldo, who needs no introduction, Juninho, one of the best free kick takers in history, and a couple of other guys who will feature later on in this list.
That's seven Brazilians, 35-plus years old, who are still cutting it at the highest level. And if you dropped the bar down to 34 or 33, you could easily fill up the team with other quality options.
How do they do it?
27. Juan Sebastian Veron
Juan Sebastian Veron has had quite an interesting career. After becoming known as one of the best midfielders in the world during his time at Lazio, he flopped badly at both Manchester United and Chelsea before being rescued by Inter Milan.
At Inter, Veron stabilized his game and improved from the poor form he showed in England, but after two seasons decided to return to Argentina, where his former greatness really returned to him.
Interestingly, Veron was actually due to retire at the end of this calendar year. However, due to pressure from his teammates, Veron has agreed to stay with the team for six more months.
26. Anders Svensson
Anders Svensson isn't a name that you should readily recognize, since he's spent most of his career with (and currently captains) Elfsborg in Sweden's Allsvenskan.
What mostly earns Svensson his spot on this list is the fact that he's been a regular with the Swedish national team since 1999 and still starts regularly for his country.
For a country blessed with so many talented players, especially up front (Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Johan Elmander, Ola Toivonen), that's quite an achievement.
25. Roman Sharanov
Roman Sharanov is a central defender for Rubin Kazan of Russia. At 35 years old, he continues to regularly start and captain the team.
Roman Sharanov was also a starter for Russia in Euro 2004, which is where the photo to the left comes from.
24. David Weir
David Weir is the oldest player on this list.
At 41 years old, Weir continues to start for and captain Glasgow Rangers in the Scottish Premier League.
Weir has the honor of being the oldest player to ever play in the Champions League and still makes appearances for Scotland's national team on occasion.
23. Pedro Munitis
Pedro Munitis is our first oldie from La Liga.
Munitis has spent the majority of his career at Racing Santander, coming through their youth system and playing for the first team in three different spells. He also has played for Real Madrid and Deportivo La Coruna.
Munitis has been famous at Racing for his high assist totals (he had nine in 2008-09 and 2009-10), but even as those have gone down, Munitis has continued to receive regular minutes at left wing with the club.
22. Marco Di Vaio
Bologna's hitman broke the 35-year-old age barrier in the summer, and this season, after three seasons of impressive goalscoring, it looks like his age is finally catching up with him.
That doesn't mean that Marco Di Vaio is washed up and done, however. After recording only a goal and an assist in his first 12 league games for Bologna, Di Vaio has scored three times and assisted a goal in his last four games for the team.
Though Bologna have an up-and-coming talent in Gaston Ramirez to rely on for goals as well, Bologna's hopes of retaining Serie A status will likely depend upon their captain, as they have in all the years he has played for the club.
21. Timmy Simons
Can you still call people "Timmy" if they're 35 years old?
Timmy Simons is a 35-year-old current playing for FC Nurenburg in the Bundesliga as a defensive midfielder. He also continues to start regularly for the Belgian national team.
Despite being a defensive midfielder, Simons has always scored a decent amount of goals and already has three in the 2011-12 Bundesliga season.
20. Rory Delap
And contrary to popular belief, Delap does actually have footballing ability beyond just his inhuman throwing abilities. Here's proof.
Rory Delap claims that he hasn't even thought of retirement yet, and if he keeps his performances up and his throwing hands strong, he won't have to for quite a while.
19. Cristian Brocchi
Cristian Brocchi is a defensive midfielder who starts for Lazio in Italy's Serie A.
In more ways than one, Brocchi's career and playing style are very Gattuso-esque. Both are physical, battling defensive midfielders. Both played for AC Milan.
Despite the rising quality of Lazio's midfield and overall team, Brocchi's ability to continue to pick up starts is a testament to his quality and determination.
18. Andriy Shevchenko
At 35 years old, everyone's favorite Ukrainian still continues to play and score goals.
Andriy Shevchenko continues to start for Dynamo Kiev and captains the Ukraine national team.
After his dry spell at Chelsea (and in his loan year with Milan), everyone said that Shevchenko was done, but the Ukrainian veteran has managed to regain his form and confidence in his homeland.
17. Javi Venta
Javi Venta has been one of the biggest reasons why Levante have managed to have such a good season in La Liga thus far.
The right back has performed consistently down the right for his club and even assisted the winning goal against Real Madrid this season.
At 36 years old, Venta, along with one of his defensive partners to be featured in the next slide, are showing that sometimes, age isn't enough to slow you down.
16. Sergio Ballesteros
At 36 years old, you're supposed to be on the lower end of your career. But some people don't follow that logic.
Sergio Ballesteros is one such person.
At 36 years old, Ballesteros is possibly at the highest, or at least one of the highest, points of his career, playing for and captaining a high-flying Levante side that continue to defy expectations.
His impressive defensive work was recognized by Goal.com in its Team of the Season for the 2011-12 season thus far.
15. Mario Yepes
The fact that someone like Mario Yepes can get games at AC Milan, who have one of the stronger defenses in the world, is quite remarkable.
Despite facing competition from Thiago Silva, Alessandro Nesta, Philippe Mexes and Daniele Bonera for starts in central defense, the 35-year-old Columbian has managed to start a healthy number of games this season.
He still captains and starts for the Columbian national team on a regular basis.
14. Rogerio Ceni
I've written about Rogerio Ceni before, and its definitely more detailed than anything I was going to write here.
My previous slide on him can be found here.
13. Ariel Ibagaza
One thing you'll notice about this slide show is that while there are many center backs, goalkeepers, forwards and defensive midfielders, there are very few attacking midfielders.
That's because attacking midfielder is usually a position which requires a great deal of pace and calls for a player in his prime to dictate the flow of the offense for his team.
Only the most disciplined of players can continue to play the position well into their 30s.
Ariel Ibagaza is one such player.
The Argentinian playmaker may have lost his goal-scoring touch, but he still creates a healthy amount of opportunities and assists for his teammates each season.
Like many South Americans, Ariel Ibagaza is currently plying his trade in Greece with Olympiakos and is expected to either return to Argentina or retire at the end of this season.
12. Sergey Semak
Sergey Semak has spent the entirety of his career in Russia, with the exception of a short one-year stint at Paris Saint-Germain.
He started out in Russia's lower divisions before moving to CSKA Moscow at only the age of 18 and establishing himself as a legend with the club.
After stints with FC Moscow and Rubin Kazan, Semak moved to Zenit in 2010 and has been with the club ever since. He does not play as regularly as he used to, but he's still capable of scoring some nice goals (skip to 6:15 to see his goal).
11. Mark Schwarzer
Mark Schwarzer is currently injured, and he may return to find himself usurped in goal by up-and-coming David Stockdale, but the 39-year-old has been an impressive starter for Fulham thus far and continues to start for the Australian national team as well.
As with most goalkeepers I talk about, I'll let myself take it from here.
10. David Beckham
David Beckham has definitely had a good year professionally, picking up the MLS Cup and Supporters' Shield.
At 36 years old, David Beckham has still managed to put in some excellent performances, and it looks like he still has much to offer, whether it's with the LA Galaxy or Paris Saint-Germain.
9. Roberto Carlos
Roberto Carlos makes quite a spiffy player-manager, as you can see above.
On the field, though, Roberto Carlos has managed to perform very well for Anzhi Makhachkala, scoring three goals and assisting four others in his first season with the club.
Anzhi have never lost when Carlos gets on the scoresheet or assists a goal, so Anzhi will want to get Carlos more chances if they want to improve on their somewhat disappointing record this season.
It should also be noted that although Roberto Carlos still starts primarily as a left back for Anzhi, he has also learned how to operate as a defensive midfielder for the club.
8. Shay Given
Shay Given is another veteran Premier League goalkeeper who's currently out due to injury.
Despite his understudy's (Brad Guzan) impressive performances, a goalkeeper with Given's pedigree can feel safe knowing his position will likely be waiting for him when he returns.
For more on Given's career, read here.
7. Brad Friedel
6. Clarence Seedorf
Remember that thing I said about only the classiest of attacking midfielders being able to play until they're 35? Yeah. Seedorf is about as good an example as you're going to get.
Seedorf is well known as the first (and to my knowledge, only) player to win the Champions League with three different clubs: Ajax, Real Madrid and AC Milan.
He's probably lost count of the trophies he's won in his career, yet he keeps plowing away at AC Milan.
Seedorf's days of being a regular starter are over, but he's still called upon frequently to contribute to the cause and often rises to the occasion in AC Milan's biggest games.
5. Michael Ballack
After a rough first season at Bayer Leverkusen in which he was forced to deal with many injures, Ballack is back and playing regularly at the highest level.
He has become a psuedo-defensive midfielder at Leverkusen.
This means that the goals now come much more rarely, but he does give Leverkusen an extra element of toughness and leadership, which will surely come in handy when the German side attempt to overcome Barcelona in January.
4. Francesco Totti
Very worrisome for Luis Enrique and Roma, it seems that Francesco Totti's scoring touch has deserted him this season, as he is goalless through nine Serie A games thus far.
He even missed a penalty in Roma's match against Juventus, which would've given head coach Luis Enrique a huge morale-boosting win over the title chasers.
Still, Totti has chipped in with three assists this season and serves as captain and leader for a very young team, attempting to emulate Barcelona-esque football in the Serie A.
3. Ryan Giggs
Despite seeing limited minutes this season, Ryan Giggs has continued to be an important weapon and player for Manchester United.
His experience has been called upon regularly in the Champions League (prior to Man U's exit) and helped the team come back after going down 3-1 to FC Basel.
In the league, Giggs has been used largely as a substitute, but he performed excellently with a goal and an assist in Manchester United's semi-recent 5-0 win over Fulham.
2. Javier Zanetti
Oh, to have Javier Zanetti's fitness.
How exactly does a 38-year-old manage to start regularly for one of the biggest clubs in Europe (Inter Milan), while still making regular appearances for his country?
And somehow, he's still capable of making runs like these.
1. Alessandro Nesta
Yes, he's injury prone. But even at 35 years old, Alessandro Nesta remains one of the best center backs in the world.
His speed is nearly gone, and I'm reminded of this fact every time I try to use him in FIFA 12, but his strength and tenacity are still there and help AC Milan boast one of the strongest central defense partnerships in all of football.
Disagree with the rankings? Think someone should've been included that wasn't? Make your opinion known in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!