Not many people in the world ever get to breath the rarefied air of the professional footballer. Those who do entrance the many fans of the beautiful Game as they execute complicated moves with grace and strength.
This level of football is impressive for however long a player lasts, but the longevity of some is truly incredible. In a sport dominated by younger athletes, a surprising amount manage to maintain their careers beyond 35. Below is a list of the 5 oldest footballers that are active today.
The Cameroon native was 37 on 10 March, and plays for Turkish club Konyaspor as a striker. The most decorated African footballer of all time, Eto’o retired from the international circuit in 2014 and received the 2015 Golden Foot Award.
Born in a very underprivileged area of Cameroon, Eto’o worked hard to get to the top. In addition to overcoming adverse circumstances he has dealt with racism throughout his career, and been vocal in exposing it. He holds the record for the most African Player of the Year award, having been so- named in 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2010. In 2005 he also ranked third in the FIFA World Player of the Year.
He may be turning 37 in October this year, but Ibrahimovic is still hot property. The Swede plays for LA Galaxy and was part of his country’s national team from 2001 to 2016, captaining the side from 2010 to his international Football retirement in 2016. His acrobatic style has garnered him many notable awards, including the Golden Ball (or Guldbollen) given to Sweden’s Player of the Year, a record 11 times.
Nicknamed “King Kazu” in his native Japan and as beloved for his eccentricities as he is for his football moves, Kazuyoshi Miura is a legend on the pitch. He turned 51 in February, after he had renewed his contract with Yokohama Football Club in January. All the players on this list are impressive, but with an intercontinental career that has spanned 3 decades, Miura is especially so.
Among the many accolades in his celebrated career are the 1993 Asian Player of the Year title (the first Japanese footballer to win this award) and the scoring of 14 qualifying goals to get his country to their debut FIFA World Cup in 1998. He’s still going strong, and said in a recent interview that he’d like to retire at 60!
Xavier Hernandez Creus
The only Spanish player more successful that Xavi, as Creus is popularly known, is Andres Iniesta. Born in January 1980, he started his youth career at just 11 years of age. He has been voted into the FIFA World XI no less than 6 times; in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013, and won the 2012 Prince of Asturias Award for Sports.
Before retiring from international Football following the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Xavi also became the first player in the world to 2 register assists in the Euro Finals of 2 separate years, namely 2008 and 2012. The central midfielder now plays for Qatari club Al Sadd.
Beppe Marotta, Director General of Buffon’s team Juventus, has described him as “the best goalkeeper in Football history”, and said he is not sure how he will replace him. The 40-year- old who was born on 28 January 1978 still plays for the Serie A club as well as Italy’s national team, so Marotta doesn’t need to worry just yet. In fact the netminder did retire from international Football in 2017 when Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup but returned for his country’s friendly matches this year.
Buffon’s 2001 transfer to Juventus from Parma cost €52 million making him history’s most expensive goalkeeper to date, but it could easily be argued that he is worth the investment. He holds the Serie A record for the most clean sheets and was unbeaten for 974 matches as recently as the 2015-2016 season. Internationally, Buffon has 176 caps to his name making him the most capped player ever not only in Italy, but in all of Europe. His list of achievements goes on and on, stretching much longer than we have room for here.