At this early stage, it would be tempting to trot out the ‘like a fine wine, these guys just get better with age’ line, but for the most part, footballers stop getting better with age once they hit the 30 mark. And they definitely don’t get better after 35.
But it’s not as if these guys disappear from the face of the earth altogether as soon as they move closer to 40 than 30. Late-thirties renaissances are fairly common these days, albeit generally speaking it’s fair to say that the players who go through them were probably better when they were 28.
With advances in nutrition and technology, odds are we’ll be seeing more and more footballers continuing to appear at the top level well into their thirties. But anyway, to the business end of proceedings. Here are the players we think are the ten best outfielders over 35 still playing the game.
10. Dani Alves (PSG)
The kaleidoscopic Brazilian tat-mannequin is still going strong, having set himself up with a cushy late-career number as Neymar’s cheerleader at Paris Saint-Germain.
Alves was never a man short on energy, bombing up and down the right flank with the enthusiasm of a jacked-up truffle-hound pounding through a forest on the hunt for that sweet, sweet fungus gold, so who knows how much longer he can go on? We wouldn’t be surprised to see this scurrying little devil aiming for the 40 mark – he’s got the athleticism for it, so why not?
9. Ricardo Quaresma (Besiktas)
Ricky Q is a man whose name you’ve probably seen featuring prominently in YouTube compilations with titles like ‘Best Ever Skillz OMG’ or ‘Top 10 Must Watch Unreal Tricks’.
He’s one of those players you’ve been aware of since they were a teenager and who you continuously tell yourself will be a Ballon d’Or candidate as soon as they mature and fulfil that vast potential. Until, suddenly, you wake one day and they’re now in their mid-thirties playing in Turkey or the UAE, but with a YouTube highlight reel that makes them look like Maradona in his prime.
He stole some of the limelight from Cristiano Ronaldo at the World Cup in Russia with a stunning trivela goal, and is something of a star reborn at Besiktas.
8. Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Club)
There were six years between Aduriz’s first Spanish cap and his second. Considering he was 29 when he made his international debut, that’s quite some achievement.
The Basque forward has become something of a byword for late developers, with his career only really taking off once his age began with the digit ‘3’. Since returning to Athletic Club at 31 after some years away, Aduriz has notched 93 league goals in 198 appearances. He’d always been a consistent goalscorer, but he became prolific once his twenties became nothing but a memory.
7. Fabio Quagliarella (Sampdoria)
They say a video speaks a thousand words. Er, at least, I think that’s how it goes. Either way:
What a goal from Fabio Quagliarella against Napoli.. pic.twitter.com/gslcbmSfUa
— Ryan. 🔴 (@Vintage_Utd) September 2, 2018
6. Jermain Defoe (Bournemouth)
Jermain Defoe has had a wonderful career, knocking in goals for fun at the likes of Spurs, Portsmouth and West Ham throughout his teens and twenties. But it seemed to be very much on the wane when he agreed a 2014 move to Toronto FC in MLS at the age of 32.
Yet his performances in Canadaland earned him a return to England with Sunderland. Against all expectations, Defoe started banging in the goals once again, leading the line for the Black Cats before departing the club after relegation. Such was his form, however, that it wasn’t long before he was snapped up by Bournemouth.
5. Joaquin (Betis)
Joaquin is a bit of an icon among fans of Spanish football. A fairly traditional winger, in his heyday he possessed vicious pace and pretty terrifying acceleration, but gradually became a more technical, cerebral player with the passing of the years.
An icon for Real Betis after the turn of the millennium, he departed for Valencia before eventually returning to Andalucia in 2015 and continuing to enhance his legend with some stalwart performances. His 80th-minute winner in the most recent Seville derby shows he’s still got it:
4. Glenn Murray (Brighton & Hove Albion)
Five years ago, not many people had heard of Glenn Murray. He was something of a lower-league journeyman – now, there are some calling for him to be included in the England squad.
Murray’s rise in recent years has been remarkable. He had a prolific spell at pre-PL Brighton several years ago, and did okay following a subsequent move to Crystal Palace. But his career seemed to have stalled after a loan to Reading and an unspectacular stint at Bournemouth, until he returned to Brighton on loan in 2016.
His goals at the Amex in 2016-17 helped fire the south coast club to the top tier, and his form continued in the Premier League, with 12 goals in 35 last season. Now 35, he’s still sticking them in the back of the net for the Seagulls – already this season, he’s managed 5 in 8 in the league.
3. Franck Ribery (FC Bayern)
There’s a sense that Franck Ribery never really fulfilled his potential. Which is pretty remarkable considering he has 81 caps for France, and 254 league appearances for Bayern (81 goals). He’s a World Cup runner-up, has eight Bundesliga titles and was also named UEFA’s Best Player in Europe in 2012-13.
So it’s fair to say he’s an accomplished player, but that lingering feeling that he could have been even more just won’t go away. Few footballers possess Ribery’s gifts with the ball at his feet – on his day, no-one can get near him – and he’s still showing his class in Bavaria alongside another evergreen trickster Arjen Robben.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (LA Galaxy)
Honestly, what more is there to say about Zlatan that hasn’t already been said in a thousand op-eds?
He’s a talismanic, charismatic and often bizarre figure, but is a striker who rarely fails to impress, or at the very least entertain. There aren’t many players whose highlight reels boasts as many spectacular and unique goals as the Swede’s, and in case you’ve been living on the moon for the past seven months, he continues to pull off some astonishing finishes for LA Galaxy in MLS.
1. Daniele De Rossi (AS Roma)
Daniele De Rossi made his debut for Roma in October 2001. For some perspective on just how long ago that was, current Roma team-mate Justin Kluivert would have been two years old at the time, and De Rossi is just seven years younger than Justin’s father Patrick.
Age aside, De Rossi has been an outstanding servant to his club and country, and still plays an important role in the Roma side, all the more so since the departure of Smoky Joe Nainggolan. He had to wait sixteen years in order to become Giallorossi captain, only becoming skipper following the retirement of Francesco Totti, and it looks like he’s going to make the most of it.