Football has always been a game for those with physical prowess, but it’s even more the case today than it was in the past. Nowadays, you have to be in prime shape as well as avoiding all sorts of vices like smoking, drinking and eating badly – the kind of things that make life worth living for most people!
After years of playing at the top level, the discipline needed to stay at the top is immense, and to fend off the younger, fresher players who have more time on their side is very hard. Clubs want to invest in younger players because they’d never get their money back if they bought an older one, and who knows when the legs will simply give up.
This is a list of the 50 best players over 30, all of whom are more than simply players who can do a job for your team, they’re the players you want to build your team around. From those who are right at the end of their careers to those who are just the wrong side of 30, these players bring a wealth of experience, but also skill and talent. Just as much skill and talent as anyone else in football…
At 31, he’s no longer a spring chicken, but he’s still one of the quickest and most dangerous players in the world. He has a rocket of a left foot too, and would be in any list of the top 50 best players in the world, let alone the top 50 over 30.
A forgotten 3rd place in the Ballon d’Or in 2013 seems a long time ago now, but Ribery is clearly still a fabulous player and one who is not just a good player to have in your team, he’s the guy you build your team around. Although you need to be fit to play in Pep Guardiola’s high-pressure, passing style, Ribery manages it week in week out whilst still standing out as a great player.
He lifted the World Cup trophy aloft last summer, and lifted the Bundesliga title just a few short months ago – his seventh title overall. So Philipp Lahm is still totally at the top of the game.
Although his performances last season suffered quite a bit, Van Persie still has bags of talent, and former boss Arsene Wenger was shocked to see him leave the Premier League. He still has a lot to offer the game, and at Fenerbahce, and in an improving Turkish league, Van Persie can show he still has what it takes.
There’s been some talk of whether Yaya is still up to the stresses and strains of the Premier League given his poor season last year and the reports of his desire to leave City, but the start of the season so far shows he’s still able to compete at the highest level and he hasn’t lost the sharpness or physical prowess he’s been known for throughout his career. International retirement might allow him to play on for many years more at the very top.
Another player who would be in the list of the very best in the world for any age, Zlatan is one of the best players never to have won a Champions League. He’s everyone’s favourite megalomaniac, but his ability on the pitch has never been in doubt. Even at 33 he still exudes class.
Maybe Iniesta will be lonely in the Barcelona midfield without Xavi this season, but Iniesta is still one of the World’s best players. In the thrilling Super Cup game against Sevilla this year, Iniesta came off the pitch with his team 3-1 up. Without him there to control the game, Sevilla took Barcelona to extra time and almost pulled off a shock. If Barcelona can’t live without him, he must still have talent!
If he can stay fit he’ll be a steal for Manchester United, who paid a reported £15m for his services. It’s a lot of money for a player over 30 years of age, but if he can recreate his best form, United will have one of the best in the world running their midfield.
As full backs go, this guy is one of the best in the business. Positionally aware, defensively excellent, a threat in attack and tenacious to the core, Zabaleta is a fans’ favourite because he gives his considerable all. There may be better full backs out there, but Zabaleta will at least be classed in the bracket as they are.
He’s probably the best player in the world, so clearly he’s the best over 30. He can stay at the top for a good few years more and would command an astronomical fee should Real Madrid decide they no longer want him. Could any team afford it?
A Champions League winner with Real Madrid the season before last, when he left for Munich, Real’s hopes of another trophy faded and their manager paid with his job. Alonso’s replacement just didn’t have the defensive nous or the passing range of the wily Spaniard. He’s still one of the best passers in world football and you’d definitely take him in your team, even if he doesn’t have long left before the legs give out. If he’s good enough for Pep, he’s good enough for this list!
Another player who has left the European big time, and another player who still has the skills, the talent and the legs to keep going. At Boca Juniors, Tevez will never be homesick again, but at 31, you have to wonder whether Tevez is leaving the big time too soon.
Although he’s off to the MLS, you get the feeling he could have stayed at the top of the European game for at least another season if he wanted to. He is the personification of class and his effortless style almost makes him look disinterested, but when Juventus played Real Madrid at the Bernabeu last May, Pirlo covered more distance than anyone except Arturo Vidal. He’d still have plenty to offer to Juventus had he decided to give it another year.
He came to the East End’s West Ham at the same time as Tevez, and he’s the same age. Yet Tevez has gone back and Mascherano is still going strong as one of the best defensive players in Europe. He’s converted himself into a very capable centre back alongside Gerard Pique, but he’s equally comfortable patrolling in front of the defence. Playing in the roles where he doesn’t face too much physical exertion mean he can stay at the top of the game for years to come.
Although the start of this season may have cast doubts on whether Terry is still at the top of his game, there were no such doubts last season as he marshalled his Chelsea troops to the title with stellar defensive performances. Surely his recent blip is simply bad form. Terry is still a wonderful defender.
Another Chelsea star who is the wrong side of 30, and another Chelsea star who’s performances at the start of the season have cast doubts over whether he’s a good defender. These doubts are symptomatic of a slow start, and maybe even a slow season from the Champions – Manchester City were in the same boat last season – but not symptomatic of a bad player.
A classy passer and a good tackler, Motta is one of the world’s best defensive midfielders. Although the French Ligue 1 might not test his skills as much as La Liga might have done, PSG will be competitive in Europe again this season and he’ll have a big role to play.
On his day he’s one of the best in the world, nonchalant and cool, almost disinterested, age doesn’t matter him. He was never one for running around anyway, so it doesn’t matter if his legs get tired. We’d never notice!
Cech was unlucky to be displaced by a younger model at Chelsea last season, but when you pass the 30 mark, people start to think you’re past it. Cech most certainly isn’t past it, however, and although he had a rocky start to his Arsenal career, his performances should improve and he can show the world he’s still one of the very best in the world.
Wesley Sneijder has been constantly linked with Manchester United, but even at the age of 31 he could still grace the Premier League. We’ll see him in the Champions League again this year at Galatasaray and yet again we’ll see a wonderful player.
The quintessential one-club man, Totti has always had a nasty streak, but even at 38 he’s still one of the best players in the World. He probably doesn’t have too many more years in him, so we should savour it when we see him, and wrap ourselves in the warm glow of Totti’s twilight.
Another one club man, which perhaps makes people forget about how good he is. But you shouldn’t forget about him. Like Totti, his love for Roma comes before his own career, but he’s always been a tenacious midfielder, and a quality one at that
One of Arsenal’s best players, Cazorla is 30 now and still one of the PL’s best players and Arsenal will find a place for him to make an impact this season. They’ll have to if they’re to win the League.
His departure from Real Madrid was more down to politics than footballing merit. Iker, despite his mistakes in the 2014 WC, is still a quality goalkeeper and Porto will benefit not just from his experience, but also his incredible ability.
Manchester United may not have wanted him, but that’s down to his attitude more than his ability. He’s still on of the best keepers in the world and Besiktas are lucky to have him – he should be strutting his stuff somewhere more prestigious.
A classy ball-playing centre half, the heartbeat of the Juventus defence, even at the age of 31. Age has never prevented class from appearing at the heart of an Italian defence.
Manchester United were fools to let him go when they also lost Vidic and Ferdinand. Evra is a decorated player and played in five Champions League finals. Unfortunately, he lost ANOTHER final this summer bringing his record to one win and four defeats. He is the first man to lose four Champions League finals.
The heartbeat of Manchester United last season, and United win more games when he plays than when he doesn’t. Carrick is a cracking player who is as unsung as he is classy.
Another player who’s off to the MLS but could really do a job for most European sides these days.
Last season’s treble means Alves has yet another Champions League under his belt. He is one of the full backs of his generation and still a player who would grace any pitch.
Maybe Arsenal fans will disagree with his inclusion, but he’s in the squad on basis of his 125 Germany caps. The German international might be a little past it at the tender age of 30, but still has a lot to offer the game. Can he get 25 more caps to take him level with Lothar Matthaus on 150 Germany caps
He’s only 31, but it seems like he’s been around for years. He can pass a ball as well as anyone else and is also a capable defender.
The Marseille goalkeeper is simply top class he’s France’s second choice and behind only Hugo Lloris but if he played for an English club, we’d regard him as highly as French fans do.
Another one club man, Perrin has been at St Etienne his entire career even though he is perpetually linked with Arsenal. He is the best defender in one of best defences in Ligue 1 and deserves his place in the list.
Another player who could still be plying his trade in one of the big leagues, but you feel it’s only loyalty that stops him from appearing in the colours of a Liverpool rival.
Last season showed that Lampard was still one of the best midfielders in the Premier League. The lure of playing in the USA seems to be getting greater and greater, so you don’t blame him for wanted a piece of it.
An underrated defender, Clichy is crucial to Manchester City’s success. He isn’t as capable as some other full backs going forward, but he is a great defender with a wonderful ability for nicking the ball and making interceptions.
One of the big names in Serie A over the last few seasons and now a Leicester City player. Let’s see if he can crack England.
Last season showed just how good Jermain Defoe really is. His goals for Sunderland helped the Black Cats stay in the division, and his ability to score goals in the Premier League remains undiminished.
If Everton have a good season, you can bet that Gareth Barry will be a big part of it. Manchester City were sad to see him leave, such is his class, but at Everton he gets a regular starting berth and he continues to show how good he is.
Tim Howard is another fabulous keeper to add to the list, and even if he’s played nearly 400 Premier League games, Howard’s crowning achievement may just be getting the American public hooked on football with his string of saves for the USA against Belgium at the World Cup in 2014.
An emotional farewell to the Camp Nou in May came before victory in the Champions League final. A treble was a fitting way to end his many years of service to Barcelona, but calling time on his career in Europe can’t have been easy – not just because of the emotion of leaving his boyhood club, but because he still has so much to offer football. He’s still one of the best in the World, and there’ll never be anyone quite like him again.
Still Italy’s best goalkeeper and stakes his claim for being the best keeper ever – one of the best player never to win a European Cup. He won’t get many more chances, but you’d still put him in your team, given the chance.
Still going strong, this time at Betis, Van der Vaart helped Hamburg avoid relegation from the Bundesliga last season, and will look to recreate his best days in Spain this season.
Although he’s absolutely ancient, his place is totally merited given he was the top scorer in Serie A last season. He has found a club in Hellas Verona who simply play to get him goals – given that all strikers just need to be loved, it’s unsurprising he’s flourishing in his Indian Summer.
It’s a little hard to believe that Skrtel is 30. He’s a solid defender, if not one of the very best. He’s crucial to his team, though. If Liverpool are to do well this season, then Skrtel needs to do well.
One of the very finest defenders in world football – despite what Joey Barton thinks of him – Silva is strutting his stuff with PSG and has a very real chance of getting his hands on European silverware with the Parisians. He was absent for his country’s 7-1 humiliation at the hands of Germany in the 2014 World Cup, and the fact he didn’t play was one of the major factors for their defeat.
Even now that he’s over 30, Lavezzi still has pace to burn. He frightens defences, and that’s a talent you want in your team.
Perhaps the most aggressive player in football, Pepe is a hothead, but probably a beast you’d rather have on your side than on the oppositions. He’s pushing on for 300 appearances in all competitions for Real Madrid, if you offered it to most players, they’d probably take three.