In a time where money and success triumphs all, there is one word that is very rare in footballing terms: loyalty. Players regularly move from club to club, even the game’s greats (Maradona, Pele, Cruyff, Beckenbauer etc.) moved to various different teams in their illustrious careers. That’s why it’s so refreshing to see players who have stayed with the same club for their whole career, an honour that only a small group of players can claim. Here are an ultimate XI of players from the last decade, who have played for the same club for at least ten years (which rules out the likes of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta) and carved themselves out a place in their respective team’s history.
Real Madrid (1999-present)
A product of Real’s youth system, Casillas made his debut in Madrid’s first team in the 1997-98 season and became the youngest ever keeper to play in a Champions League final in 2000, four days after he had turned 19. Still just 28, Casillas is one of the top keepers in the world, has won 101 international caps and has surpassed Andoni Zubizarreta’s record of 56 clean sheets for his country. Casillas has won La Liga four times, the Champions League twice with Madrid and a European championship in 2008 with Spain.
Admired by United fans but despised virtually everywhere else, Neville made his first team debut in 1994 and quickly became the first choice right-back for United and England. Admired for his leadership abilities and no-nonsense attitude, Neville has won eight Premier League titles, three FA Cups, one League Cup and two European cups at Old Trafford and is the most capped right back in England history. Injuries have dogged his career in recent years, with Neville missing the whole 2007-08 season.
Regarded as one of Arsenal’s greatest players ever, Adams was one quarter of Arsenal’s feared backline that included Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn and Steve Bould/Martin Keown. Battling an alcohol addiction over the course of his Arsenal career, Adams won a host of honours, including four League titles, three FA Cup’s and a UEFA Cup Winners Cup whilst at Highbury.
He may not be the most popular person in England right now, especially with Fabio Capello, but Terry is “Mr Chelsea”. Installed as captain by Jose Mourinho after former skipper Marcel Desailly left the club, Terry’s never say die attitude and excellent leadership skills have led Chelsea to three Premier League titles, two FA Cups and two League cups.
AC Milan (1984-2009)
An inspirational leader, Maldini epitomised everything Milan stood for, spending two and a half decades at the club. Making 647 appearances for Milan, Maldini smashed every Serie A appearance record going and was still playing at the very top level aged 40. Maldini played in 126 games for Italy and won seven Serie A titles, five Champions League titles and a World Cup, amongst others. Milan retired Maldini’s #3 shirt, which will only be restored if one of his son’s makes the senior side.
Manchester United (1992-present)
The most decorated player in Premier League history, Giggs has won 11 Premier League titles, 2 Champions League and a host of FA and League Cups, and is the only player to have played and scored in every season since the inception of the Premiership. Giggs has surpassed Bobby Charlton to become the all-time leader in appearances for United and despite losing the blistering pace that defined the winger in his prime, Giggs has been used in a playmaker role in recent years, even winning the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award in 2009.
Manchester United (1994-present)
Scholes has been a great servant for United in his time at the club and possesses excellent passing skills, great technique and the ability to score goals in and out of the box, as well the ability to make wild, over-the-top tackles. Like Giggs and Neville, Scholes has helped United win numerous titles in his time at Old Trafford.
At a club where so many players and coaches come and go every season, Xavi has remained the one constant for Barcelona in the last decade. Considered as one of the best playmakers in world football, Xavi has been an integral part to Barcelona’s recent success: starring in the club’s treble-winning season last year and earning man of the match honours in last year’s Champions League victory over Man United.
Like Terry at Chelsea, Gerrard has epitomised Liverpool in the last decade. Since replacing Sami Hyypia as Liverpool captain in 2003, Gerrard has led to Liverpool to Champions League glory in 2005, as well as winning two FA Cups, two League Cups and a UEFA Cup in his time at Anfield.
Real Madrid (1994-present)
The Spanish striker has shattered every record going for Real Madrid in a time where everyone apart from Casillas and Guti have gone through the revolving doors at the Bernabau. Raul is the all-time leader in Champions League goals (66), appearances (128), leads Madrid in all-time goals scored (321) and appearances (726) and has scored the most goals for Spain (44). The striker has also pocketed a host of trophies, including six La Liga titles and three Champions League wins. With all that he has accomplished, it is hard to believe that Raul is only 32.
Roma’s number one goal scorer and all-time leader in appearances with 241 goals in 560 games, Totti is considered one of the greatest players of his generation, despite having mixed success in Europe with Roma and on the grand stage with Italy. Totti has only won a single Scudetto with Roma in 2001, as well as two Coppa Italia’s, and was part of Italy’s 2006 World Cup winning side.
Subs: Jamie Carragher (Liverpool 1996-present), Alessandro Costacurta (AC Milan 1987-2007), Carles Puyol (Barcelona 1999-present), Guti (Real Madrid 1995-present), Matt Le Tissier (Southampton 1986-2002)
What do you think? Are there any other players that should be on this list?
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