20 Over-30s Who Have a Final Big Transfer Move in Them
The vast majority of clubs prefer to pick up players in their teenage years or early 20s, sensing value in a deal that can bring them either long-term service or a mighty sale later on.
But as Zlatan Ibrahimovic of Manchester United has proved, there's joy to be had in the transfer market when perusing the over-30s section. They might not bag you a big sell-on fee later on and the wages might be a little higher, but that's the trade-off you make for a ready-made, positive impact.
Inspired by the Swede's continued brilliance despite being 35, here are 20 players over the age of 30 who still have a big move in them.
A "big move" could constitute a large fee, or it could represent a transfer to a top European club competing in continental tournaments.
We've not limited ourselves solely to those who can simply head to China, but we have included the headline names linked.
Radamel Falcao, 31, Monaco
We're not sure how it's happened—we thought his spell at the top level was done and dusted—but Radamel Falcao has refound his form this season and is back to his predatory best.
An ACL tear and two dramatic failures of loan spells in the Premier League prompted many to stick their metaphorical forks in his career, but the Colombian has been an integral part of AS Monaco's remarkable goalscoring exploits this term, scoring 16 times in Ligue 1 so far.
He finds the net every 81 minutes on average, and he still has the ability to produce outrageous finishes—as evidenced at the Etihad Stadium on Tuesday.
Given Monaco's owner has changed focus and now looks to nurture young talent, there's a chance he might sense this summer is a golden opportunity to offload a high-earner. This time, if/when Atletico Madrid and Co. come calling for Falcao, they'll be justified in doing so.
Mario Gomez, 31, Wolfsburg
With Wolfsburg going through an apparent identity crisis and selling players at every opportunity, you never know who is next for the chop.
They're languishing just three points above the relegation play-off places in the Bundesliga, but that hasn't stopped the fire sale, and they seem to be making a concerted effort to freshen up the squad with younger players.
That puts the over-30s on red alert, and the most notable of those left is Mario Gomez. His journeyman career is everlasting proof that, if you can score 10 goals a season, you'll always receive an offer from somewhere should you require it.
Any team who signs him will delight their fanbase—if only because of the magical Gomez button.
Steve Mandanda, 31, Crystal Palace
"It would be a great pleasure to return [to Marseille], because my feeling for the club is enormous," Steve Mandanda told Ligue 1's official website this week (h/t the Evening Standard). Those aren't the words Crystal Palace fans want to hear given the situation the club finds itself in right now.
The goalkeeper has been out with a knee injury for months but is nearing full fitness, and he will be a vital part of manager Sam Allardyce's plan to stave off relegation. Put simply, he's a much better No. 1 than Wayne Hennessey.
But it doesn't sound like his heart's in it for the long term. The Croydon Advertiser reported in January that Mandanda had met with officials from Marseille about a possible return, only this time he won't move for a nominal fee; he'd cost a fair amount to extract from Selhurst Park.
Alvaro Negredo, 31, Valencia (on Loan at Middlesbrough)
Alvaro Negredo's raw statistics this season—six goals and four assists from 24 appearances for a newly promoted Premier League club—aren't bad.
He hasn't ripped up any trees, but he's worked hard up front in a lonely role and made the difference a few times. Still, that likely won't be enough for Middlesbrough to make his loan stay a permanent one.
He's on a huge wage and there's an element of living off past glories to him—he hasn't had a standout season since 2013-14. Still, football has proved time and again that past glories can secure you moves, and striker-needy teams will eventually end up turning to this Spaniard in the summer.
Jesus Navas, 31, Manchester City
Pictured above is the most common sighting of Jesus Navas: in conversation with manager Pep Guardiola, set to enter the fray with approximately four minutes of the game left.
He has barely featured under the new coach due to the glut of quality players Manchester City now have at their disposal on the wings, and with his contract expiring in the summer, Navas is all but certain to depart the club.
Sevilla—the club he stayed with for so long due to homesickness issues—could represent a big final move for him given their lofty position in La Liga. A Villarreal or a Real Sociedad could also utilise his traditional wing play well and coax the best out of him one last time.
Yohan Cabaye, 31, Crystal Palace
Yohan Cabaye has seen his fair share of clubs, and regardless of whether Crystal Palace avoid the drop, you'd expect offers to filter in for his services this summer.
He moved to Selhurst Park to link up with a man who got the best out of him at Newcastle United—Alan Pardew—but now that man is gone.
In the space of two years, Cabaye has gone from playing in the Champions League with Paris Saint-Germain to fighting relegation, and it's easy to guess which of those two realities he prefers.
He's still a super player, and there are plenty of top-tier sides who could utilise his abilities.
Raffael, 31, Borussia Monchengladbach
Borussia Monchengladbach don't tend to win so often when Raffael doesn't start. At 31 years of age, he's their most important attacking player and represents the key that gets the engines churning.
A technically sound, dynamic forward, he creates and links play from the front but also shoots rockets from his boots. He's still reasonably fast, though he uses his brain to outfox defenders rather than attempt to sprint past them.
Gladbach badly missed him when injured this season—particularly in the Champions League, where they bitterly disappointed.
Fernando Llorente, 31, Swansea City
Swansea City spent most of January fending off interest for Fernando Llorente. Per the Guardian, Chelsea made their interest known early, and it wasn't until much later in the month that it became clear he'd be staying put.
But whether the Swans stave off relegation or not, the feeling is Llorente's exit has only been put on the back burner. He'll by 32 at the end of February, but if he wants to move to a significantly better club and play a lesser role, the offers will be there.
It marks quite the turnaround in his career, as he'd gone completely stale at Sevilla, and Juventus didn't utilise him too much either.
Really, Llorente's having his biggest impact on a team since he led the line for Athletic Club Bilbao back in 2013.
Wayne Rooney, 31, Manchester United
Wayne Rooney is edging closer and closer to the end at Manchester United. Sky Sports reported he's received an offer of £750,000-per-week to go to China this month, and while he might not take up that now, he could well do so at a later date.
The 31-year-old hasn't started a Premier League game since December 17, with manager Jose Mourinho committed to playing Ibrahimovic up front and then working through a rotation of Henrikh Mkhitaryan, Marcus Rashford and Anthony Martial to flank him. It leaves Rooney as the odd man out.
While an undoubted club legend, United have a rapidly closing window to make their money back on an ageing former star, and there'll be an element of "should we cash in?" among the powers that be. Football, after all, is a business.
Lassana Diarra, 31, Unattached
Lassana Diarra's time with Marseille has come to an end. The club terminated his contract last week, leaving the 31-year-old free to speak to whichever suitors he pleases.
Despite being named captain of Marseille at the beginning of the season, his attitude and commitment were questioned, and his last start for the club came in December. To compound the situation, the armband was stripped from him and given to Bafetimbi Gomis—a player only on loan at the club this term.
While China will inevitably be attractive to the former Real Madrid man, he's good enough to play for another top European club if he so chooses. His presence in France's Euro 2016 squad serves as a reminder as to his level.
Thomas Vermaelen, 31, Barcelona (on Loan at Roma)
Injuries have essentially ruined the latter stages of Thomas Vermaelen's career. Barcelona took a big gamble on him when acquiring his signature in 2014 and it hasn't really paid off.
He's spending this season on loan at AS Roma, but he features so rarely casual observers might well have been unaware of this. He's made just four Serie A starts this term; for comparison, Federico Fazio has made 22.
This summer he'll be in a strong position. At 31, there's plenty left in him, but Barcelona can't charge too much for his transfer. He's an excellent player when fit, and he's still a first-team factor for the Belgium national side.
Carlos Sanchez, 31, Aston Villa (on Loan at Fiorentina)
Carlos Sanchez's contract with Aston Villa expires this summer, making him an impending free agent. Given the CV he's put together in his career to date, it's fair to expect he'll be fielding some calls.
The Villa debacle put firmly to one side, "La Roca" has proved himself an adaptable and versatile player. Some of his performances for Colombia have been downright dominant, and he's revered in his home nation for nullifying Lionel Messi in a match against Argentina several years ago.
His loan spell at Fiorentina this season has been a success, playing either in midfield or defence. Having played well in France, Spain and Italy, it wouldn't surprise if he receives offers from clubs in all three countries come the summer.
Marco Parolo, 32, Lazio
Marco Parolo is the definition of a late-bloomer. At 32 years of age, he is now garnering respect as one of Serie A's better midfielders, having taken a rocky road to get here.
Lazio are the seventh club of his professional career, and he only made his top-tier debut in 2010 with Cesena—a full six years after his first senior appearance for Como. Fast-forward four years, though, and he was part of Italy's squad for the 2014 World Cup and came off the bench against England.
An excellent all-round midfielder, Parolo could slot into almost any system and play most roles. Managers looking for a quick-fix should consider him—should Lazio be willing to sell.
Gonzalo Rodriguez, 32, Fiorentina
Fiorentina look set to let captain Gonzalo Rodriguez walk away from the club this summer.
Per Fiorentina News (h/t Football Italia), the club haven't spoken with his agent in two months and have thus far only offered renewal terms at a 25 per cent reduction in salary.
Despite all of this going on in the background, the Argentinian has taken to the pitch weekly and fought for the Viola's cause.
He's an extremely accomplished, international calibre centre-back who can also deputise on the flank, and he will represent an extremely astute pickup for a top club somewhere.
Borja Valero, 32, Fiorentina
Those who remember Borja Valero's bizarre, ill-fated spell with West Bromwich Albion still frequently shake their heads in disbelief when watching him on the football pitch now. Just how bad a match were he and former Baggies manager Tony Mowbray?
Years on, Valero is one of the smoothest operators in midfield, relying on technique and composure on the ball to pull the strings for Fiorentina. He's not a goal machine, he's not an assist machine—he's a facilitator and deep-lying creator.
Even now, at 32 years of age, he'd be an ideal acquisition for a club poised to play controlling, possession football. He's so good, he could even feature comfortably for Pep Guardiola's Manchester City.
Santi Cazorla, 32, Arsenal
Now that Santi Cazorla has relocated to a deeper, string-pulling position in central midfield, it's feasible his playing career at the top level will go on for another four years.
Injuries have severely disrupted what was looking like a brilliant 2016-17 season, and the fact Arsenal fans lament his absence so much serves as testament to just how effective he can be.
Should the Spaniard at any point signal an intent to return to his homeland, he'll have a queue of clubs elbowing their way towards his representatives with offers.
Jonas, 32, Benfica
Jonas hasn't been able to build upon his stellar 2015-16 season, sadly, because of injuries wrecking the initial stages of this campaign. He was absent for the entirety of September, October and November, and he hasn't played a single Champions League game this term.
But since returning to fitness in December, he's been typical Jonas: five goals and three assists in the eight Liga NOS games he's played. That's the sort of form that saw him challenge for the European Golden Shoe last season, and the sort of form that will once again attract suitors in the summer.
According to Globoesporte (h/t Goal), Barcelona asked Benfica about Jonas' availability in 2016 but were rebuffed. He's the kind of player who does not rely on physical attributes, so there's longevity in his game and that could lead to another approach.
Samir Handanovic, 32, Inter Milan
It's been a real surprise to see Samir Handanovic stick around at Inter Milan this long; they may be on one hell of a recent streak under Stefano Pioli, and they may be a historically prestigious club, but their propensity to self-destruct is up there with the best.
The Slovenian is coming up to five trophy-less years in black and blue, and given the fact he's one of the 10 best goalkeepers in world football, it's a shame all he can look back on right now is a few Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year awards.
There's always a goalkeeper-needy top club in every window, and summer 2017 is looming. Handanovic could walk into most teams on the planet, and at 32, he still has a long time left at the top.
Claudio Bravo, 33, Manchester City
There will be those who believe Guardiola sticks to his guns on Claudio Bravo, reinstating him in goal at some point soon—if not, it will be in the summer of 2017, ready for the new season.
But the fact remains Bravo is public enemy No. 1 in the blue half of Manchester—the terrace's pariah—and there will be stout opposition to him taking his place between the sticks again. Guardiola's known to be extremely stubborn, but was a precedent set when he took the decision to drop the Chilean in January?
If the City boss opts to find another solution in the summer, Bravo would likely be allowed to leave. If that's the case, every club in Spain will quickly recall how superb he was for Barcelona and Real Sociedad—and he was very good—and place an offer. This season in England has been a strange and anomalous one for the 33-year-old.
Darijo Srna, 34, Shakhtar Donetsk
Darijo Srna has been incredibly loyal to Shakhtar Donetsk throughout his stellar career. He joined in 2003 and hasn't wavered in his commitment to them—even with the country of Ukraine, and the city of Donetsk, being put through some extremely tough times.
But in December, Shakhtar boss Paulo Fonesca admitted the 34-year-old was still attracting admiring glances from afar, with Barcelona the club credited with interest, according to Mundo Deportivo (h/t Goal).
The fact he's still perceived as good enough for an elite club is testament to his conditioning and professionalism, and who wouldn't begrudge the Croatian one final shot at the top level?
All statistics via WhoScored.com