Football’s golden oldies – the oldest football players around the world

Earlier this week, the Wellington Phoenix announced their signing of Australian goalkeeper Ante Covic as an injury cover for Filip Kurto. Covic isn’t a bad goalkeeper – he’s represented his country and he’s played in three European countries as well as Australia. However, he’s also forty-three years old, two months older than his own manager Mark Rudan. That puts him at the older end of active players, but he’s not the oldest. Let’s look at who is.

Across Europe

Before we can go up, we have to go down. The Premier League doesn’t currently have any players as old as Covic, but it does have 16 players over the age of 35. Twelve of these players are goalkeepers, with the exceptions being Glenn Murray, Jermain Defoe, Phil Jagielka and Bruno Saltor, the oldest outfield Premier League player at the age of 38. Only one player crosses the line into 39 – Crystal Palace keeper Julian Speroni.

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La Liga’s oldest is 38-year-old Juanjo Camacho at Huesca, while Serie A has Stefano Sorrentino, 39. The Bundesliga goes up to 40 with Claudio Pizarro of Werder Bremen. Ligue 1 has two more 40+ players, Gianluigi Buffon, 40, and Montpellier captain Hilton, 41.

But we can go higher.

Across the World

Let’s look at international players. It’s increasingly common for footballers to retire early from international service, for a number of reasons – for young players to come through, to focus on club commitments, etc. And this isn’t so bad if you play for, say, Germany, where there’s a talent pool big enough to bring someone into your shoes.

That’s not really applicable, however, for a smaller country, somewhere without the population or facilities to excel in football – or much else, for that matter – but still loves the game. Somewhere like Andorra, the nation of one of the three active international players over the age of 40.

Juli Sanchez was born in 1978. He’s had a decent career by Andorran standards, playing in his home country as well as Spain and Portugal. He made his debut in Andorra’s first FIFA-recognised match, and he managed to get on the scoresheet in their win over Belarus in 2000, their first-ever. He’s played 70 games now for the tiny Pyrenees nation. In many ways, his career is the story of football in Andorra. And he’s still kicking – he played in Andorra’s most recent match, against Latvia, as a substitute.

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For our other two international players over 40, we’re going to leave Europe in favour of the Caribbean.

I can’t find much information on Benny Labadie – perhaps it’s a side effect of playing for the U.S. Virgin Islands. In any case, he was born in 1977 and is forty-one years of age. He spent seven years at Skills F.C. in the Saint Croix Soccer League – there are two separate leagues in the Virgin Islands for mainly geographic reasons. He now plays for Rovers in the same league, he’s a goalkeeper, and that’s about all there is to know. Oh, and he started the Virgin Islands’ most recent match, a 3-0 loss to Barbados in November.

But there is one current international player that is older, and we don’t have to go far to find him.

400km southeast of Saint-Croix, we find the nation of Dominica. There’s only seventy thousand people on the island, and as such, quality footballers are had to come by. This explains the case of Euclid Bertrand, who was born in 1974 and is 44 years of age. Bertrand isn’t a bad footballer, having played in sixteen matches for Dominica, including just a month ago against Sint-Maarten. He’s also got five years’ experience up in Canada – not bad for a Dominican given the rest of their squad either play at home or elsewhere in the Caribbean.

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But we can go higher.

At Club Level

Remember Essam El-Hadary? Of course you do. The Egyptian shot-stopper became the oldest ever player at a FIFA World Cup earlier this year when he played against Saudi Arabia – and saved a penalty – at the age of 45. He’s been left off the internationals part of this article simply because he retired from international football after the World Cup. However, he’s still playing club football, having left Saudi club Al-Taawoun in favour of former club Ismaily back in Egypt. His 46th birthday is in January, and he’s showing no signs of slowing down.

He’s by no means the only one still kicking at 45 – there’s also Oscar Perez, currently at Pachuca. Also a goalkeeper, Perez has 57 Mexico caps and went to two World Cups – 2002 and 2010. He’s not still playing international football, unfortunately, but he’ll be 46 in March and one can assume he won’t stop playing club football.

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We can go older than both El-Hadary and Perez, though, and we’re going back to Andorra to do it.

Leonel Gancedo’s a pretty experienced footballer. He’s played for River Plate and Osasuna among other clubs. He’s got a Copa Libertadores in his trophy cabinet, along with six other competition wins. He retired at the start of 2009, at the age of 37, and one would assume that that was the end of Leonel Gancedo.

It was not. Encamp in Andorra hired him as player-manager in September this year, and Gancedo’s played fifty-one minutes over the course of three matches. He’s not done well at all, as Encamp are sitting in last place with one point and five goals scored in ten games, but he does get the distinction of being the world’s oldest footballer.

Well, no he actually doesn’t. We’re going across Europe, and across Asia, all the way to Japan.

The story of Kazuyoshi Miura

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We’ve all heard of Stanley Matthews, haven’t we? The Englishman was one of the greats of the first half of the 20th century in footballing terms. He played a very long career, 1932 to 1965, and played for England for twenty-four years. He spent nineteen years at Stoke City and fourteen at Blackpool. He’s a true legend of the early game.

Kazuyoshi Miura’s not had that same loyalty – he’s played for thirteen clubs in his career, only two of which he’s been at for more than five years – but he has broken Matthews’ record as the oldest-ever professional footballer, which he achieved in March 2017. He’s played in a few countries – Brazil, Japan, Italy, Croatia and Australia – and he picked up almost ninety Japan caps in his ten years of international football before he retired in 2000 aged 33.

Since 2005 he’s been playing for Yokohama FC (no, not F. Marinos) in the Japanese second-tier. He’s seen twelve managers in that time, and even though his role has been somewhat diminished under new boss Edson Tavares, he’s still going at it at the age of 51. And I, for one, don’t see him stopping.

Top 3 reasons why this season can be Dortmund’s year (and 3 it won’t)

Top 3 reasons why this season can be Dortmund’s year (and 3 it won’t)

With Bundesliga veteran Lucien Favre as the manager of the team, Borussia Dortmund are currently unbeaten in both the Bundesliga and the Champions League, which is the music to the ears of the fans of the club (and sad Minecraft music to Bayern Munich supporters).

This may be the best chance for the North Rhine-Westphalia club to recapture the Bundesliga trophy from Bayern. While it is far from being an amazing run for the Borussens, if the players continue to do well, they are capable of creating a miracle this season under the Swiss.


Reason 1 – Outstanding mentality. 

Against RB Leipzig, Hoffenheim, Leverkusen and Augsburg, they have shown that they can stage comebacks, whether at home or away and however impossible the scoreline was.

This is excellent since Favre has, successfully, instilled the winning mentality to the whole squad, which propel them to do better and keep moving forward, until the last kick of the game.

Without a doubt, this is one of the factors which turns title contenders into champions.

If Dortmund can keep their amazing mindset from the Klopp era, even if they can’t lift the Meisterschale at the end of the season, Favre should be applauded for his effort for inspiring the squad to fight against the odds.


Reason 2 – Quality attacking options. 

Aside from Reus, Kagawa, Mario Götze and Maximilian Philip, loanee Paco Alcácer is currently in superb form with 7 goals in 4 appearances for the Black and Yellows.

With future talents like Pulisic, Bruun Larsen and Sancho started to be on the scoresheet, I’m quite assured that the offence of the team should not be a problem for tearing the opposition defence open.


Reason 3 – Bayern’s poor run. 

After the 1-1 home draw against Augsburg, they lost against Hertha away and Mönchengladbach at home. They also dropped 2 home points against Ajax in the Champions League.

With Dortmund gaining points in these matchdays, this gives the Black and Yellows the numerical advantage on Bundesliga the table. The rest should be self-explanatory.


Despite the fact that Dortmund under Favre looks promising, there are still problems to be prevented and fixed.


Reason 1 – Injuries are a thing. 

It doesn’t matter which club you support, you hate it when injuries hit some of the key members of your team. Dortmund may have a young, talented squad, but sadly, they’re always hit by sufferings and discomfort of the players.

Marco Reus could be seen as a classic case in which he missed out the successful World Cup campaign with Germany in 2014. He did, finally, join the 2018 edition but we know how poorly the squad performed in Russia.

To win the Bundesliga, playing well isn’t enough. A healthy, fit crew is one of the keys to the road of obtaining the trophy. It seems that the medical team of the club is doing well these days but let’s wish that the injury list won’t be piled up.


Reason 2 – Bayern will bounce back. 

Last season, Peter Bosz led Dortmund to a good start in the Bundesliga, yet they suffered a few consecutive defeats and not surprisingly, Bayern won the title, benefitting from the poor condition of their fierce rivals.

Just because they’re halfway there doesn’t mean that they won’t slip up afterwards. Bayern may be 5th on the Bundesliga table but when you take a look at the differences of the points against Dortmund, they still have the chance to turn the tide.

Thus, Favre and his men would need to work very hard to extend their unbeaten run. They’ll certainly make mistakes when they play in their jerseys, but it’ll be best if they don’t afford a margin of error in their training ground, which is what Favre is good at.


Reason 3 – Poor defence yet to be fixed.  

Like Arsenal, Dortmund are facing a problem that they don’t have a good defence.

Diallo may be a good CB but sometimes his rash challenges can get him sent off. Hakimi performs well but Real Madrid may be desperate to get him back. Piszczek is too old while Schmelzer is too injury-prone. Toljan and Toprak aren’t good enough.

Aside from the defence system, goalkeeping is a problem. I’m not discrediting Roman Bürki’s effort between the sticks but he is quite inconsistent, to say the least. 3 clean sheets in 9 games showed that it’s almost time for the Swiss to look for a new club.

Thus, Favre must take a look at the problems of the defence and in goal to see what kind of players they need. But it’s not enough as the integration of new members into the XI is as hard as acquiring them, in reality.


Borussia Dortmund this season can be both exciting and worrying to watch.

On one hand, they’re making significant process and are improving during the last few games. On the other hand, Bayern Munich will be doing everything in the power to put the game beyond reach.

This is why Dortmund will require both hard work and a bit of luck if they want to snatch the deserved Meisterschale from the Bavarians at the end of the season. Come on BVB!

Paco Alcácer – a clear solution and the dilemma in disguise

Paco Alcácer – a clear solution and the dilemma in disguise

Barcelona supporters may have trouble in believing this: Paco Alcácer, the fourth forward in their squad, can’t stop scoring after leaving Camp Nou on loan to Borussia Dortmund, a German Bundesliga giant.

Under Lucien Favre’s guidance, the Spaniard started to find his sense of scoring. And currently, with 10 goals from 10 shots on target, no one would have expected him to be in such a good form.

The 25-year-old used to be a player who lived under the shadows of the players, in the likes of the mighty Leo Messi, Luis Suárez, Neymar and later, Ousmane Dembélé.

But at Dortmund, he’s the star himself. Against Frankfurt, he scored. Against Leverkusen, he wrapped up the comeback all by himself. Against Augsburg, he scored a hat-trick to get all 3 points for his club.

Alcácer’s current situation is a blessing to the Dortmund squad. At the same time, Barcelona would be having a headache for the rest of the season in attracting him to be back to the Catalonian capital.

With an urge for Dortmund to activate the release clause of the loan contract, this is where it gets complicated for both clubs to handle.


To be honest, Alcácer is the solution to one of the problems of the Dortmund squad.

Dortmund may have quality players like Marco Reus, Jacob Bruun Larsen, Maximilian Philipp and Marius Wolf, but the lack of an in-form, traditional No. 9 player is what the BVB are yearning for.

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang did a great job when he donned the Borussen jersey. However, he decided to leave for Arsenal with the German club getting a whopping €63.75M fund in the process.

Michy Batshuayi joined the party on loan from Chelsea as a side-effect of Aubameyang’s transfer.

He did well in the Bundesliga by scoring goals in the last minute to save Peter Stöger’s job, only to have his career there marred by a sudden injury against old rivals Schalke 04 in the Revierderby.

Now, with Alcácer who’s on fire, it is almost certain to say that the whole BVB attack is complete. It’ll be the best if the Spaniard keeps up his form and call Westfalenstadion his “home” after the season.


For Barcelona, the primary objective for them is to take place of, if not replace, the currently misfiring Suárez, who has yet to score a goal after the away win against Real Sociedad.

Munir El Haddadi is, at present, Valverde’s first choice backup to the Uruguayan. Despite assisting the team in salvaging a point from Bilbao at home, the striker spends most of his time on the bench.

The 23-year-old may be the player for the future of Barcelona as Suárez is ageing. However, despite the loan experiences with Valencia and Alavés, he’s still not experienced enough to be a “super sub”.

With 10 goals in 10 appearances for club and country in the ongoing season, the Spanish club may regret in letting Alcácer go, especially if the player decides to make the move permanent.

At the same time, though, they understand that Dembélé was a transfer for the future. Alcácer may be a good player but for Barcelona, they may want to develop the young, French striker more.

So for Bartomeu and his men, here’s the question, “if you can keep only one player, would you rather keep Dembélé or Alcácer?” And the answer is, frankly, obvious.


In short, this deal of Paco Alcácer is complicated, provided that both clubs have contrasting interest in the deal. Dortmund would want to secure the player’s ownership rights while Barcelona are seeking for a “super sub” in hot form.

Dortmund would be more than happy to pay the cash if Alcácer continues to score, yet Barcelona won’t afford to lose him. Anyway, it may be too early to say, but only time will tell if the agreement is worth the transfer fee stated or not.

An XI of French-born footballers playing for other countries

An XI of French-born footballers playing for other countries

In the wake of the 2018 World Cup, many people were speculating on the origins and background of the French team. It’s hard to blame them – after all, the side doesn’t exactly look like twenty-three randomly selected French lads. The point made by many was that France’s victory was a victory for Africa too, since they contributed so much to the team. This, of course, was controversial and led to people from all walks of life weighing in with their opinion.

Instead of talking about that, however, I think there’s an important point to be made in the reverse. As opposed to looking at perceived foreigners in the French set-up, we’re going to look at French-born players with other international sides. It’s a better side than you might expect so let’s jump straight in.

In goal, we’ve got Anthony Lopes of Portugal.

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Anthony Lopes is in between the sticks for our side. The Portuguese shot-stopper was born near Lyon and came through Les Gones’ academy before making his debut for the club in 2012. Still at Olympique after six years in the first team and eighteen at the club, Lopes was Rui Patricio’s backup for the 2016 European Championships which Portugal won.

Our fullbacks are Raphaël Guerreiro and Faouzi Ghoulam.

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Guerreiro is one of world football’s underappreciated talents. Born in northern Paris, Guerreiro is half-Portuguese and used this to his advantage, becoming an important player in Portugal’s Euro win in 2016 and being nominated for Young Player of the Tournament. He’s also had a successful club career with Stade Malherbe Caen, Lorient and Borussia Dortmund and was in the Champions League Breakthrough XI in 2016.

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Faouzi Ghoulam, meanwhile, plays his international football for Algeria. The left-back has 35 caps for his country at the age of 27, and went to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup. In terms of his club career, Ghoulam has been at Napoli since his move from boyhood club Saint-Etienne four years ago and has been solid at the back there, being linked with just about every English club at some point.

In the middle of defence, we’ve got Kalidou Koulibaly and Medhi Benatia.

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Ghoulam’s Napoli teammate Kalidou Koulibaly is also French-born, hailing from the north-east. He spent his formative years at Metz before a 2012 move to Genk in Belgium and a switch to Napoli two years later. Koulibaly went to Russia for this year’s World Cup and has twenty-eight caps for Senegal in four years. Oh, and Chelsea may or may not be interested in him.

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Medhi Benatia is the most experienced player on our team so far with time at two of Europe’s biggest clubs and four consecutive league titles under his belt. Hailing from Courcouronnes in southern Paris, Benatia joined the academies of Guingamp and then Marseille before graduating into the first team. Time at Clermont, Udinese and Roma followed, before moves to Bayern Munich and then Juventus. Internationally, Benatia has fifty-five games for Morocco.

Running the show in the middle of midfield, it’s Adrien Silva and Geoffrey Kondogbia.

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The final member of our Portuguese delegation, Silva is in the same boat as Guerreiro – although unlike Guerreiro, Silva’s famly returned to Portugal when he was eleven and therefore he went through Sporting’s academy. Silva was loyal to the Verde e Brancos for fifteen years total, before his move to England and Leicester City. He also played a role in Portugal’s Euro triumph and went to the World Cup in 2018.

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OK, so Kondogbia has played for France before, but he’s switched his international allegiance away so he’s all good for this list. Kondogbia is from Nemours, forty kilometres south of Paris, and played for Lens in his youth. Moves to Sevilla, Monaco, Internazionale and then Valencia followed. Kondogbia has also played five friendlies for France, but has changed his allegiance to the Central African Republic (a republic in the central bit of Africa).

Out wide, there are Riyad Mahrez and Yacine Brahimi.

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It’s easy to forget that Riyad Mahrez is just twenty-seven years of age, what with the frankly ridiculous career he’s had. He never joined an elite academy, instead playing for Quimper in the fourth tier before moving to Le Havre, and then Leicester City where he won the league title and the Premier League Fans’ and Players’ Player of the Year awards. Earlier this year he transferred to Manchester City. Internationally, Mahrez has represented Algeria at the 2014 World Cup and has almost forty caps. Oh, and he came seventh in the Ballon d’Or 2016.

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Porto winger Yacine Brahimi is our other French Algerian. Originally from Paris, Brahimi joined the PSG academy in 2004 before moving to Stade Rennais, making his debut in 2009. Transfers to Granada and then Portuguese giants Porto followed, and he’s been linked with English teams including Liverpool and Everton. He also has thirty-nine caps for his country and represented them at the 2014 World Cup.

And our attacking partnership are Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang and Gonzalo Higuain.

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Aubameyang is Gabon’s captain but was born and raised in France, and lived there until his 2007 move to Milan’s academy. The striker stayed at the Italian club until 2011 when he moved back to France with Saint-Etienne, and in 2013 he joined German side Borussia Dortmund, winning the Bundesliga top scorer award in 2017. In 2018, Arsenal signed Aubameyang for £56m. Internationally, he’s only the top scorer of all time for his country of Gabon.

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Yep, you read that right. Higuain was born in France as his father was playing for a French team, Stade Brestois 29, at the time of his birth. It didn’t take long for him to leave – he spent his first birthday in Argentina – and to this day he’s never played for a French club, being the only player on this list (apart from Silva) not to have done so. Internationally Higuain’s not done badly – three international silver medals is pretty neat – but you have to think he would have taken a World Cup with France if he had the opportunity.

And there you have it, folks. Yes, I know about Toko Ekambi, or Ayew, or Harit, Bolasie, Bentaleb, whoever. This wasn’t an easy list to make.

Images: https://i.pinimg.com/originals/ff/35/f9/ff35f9139a1bd408dbb1a1a4384b8c8f.jpghttps://images.performgroup.com/di/library/omnisport/65/2a/raphael-guerreiro-cropped_sadu505de4pd1mdlndofl947y.jpg?t=739525917&quality=90&w=1280https://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/cc/8c/faouzi-ghoulam-napoli-2017_gj5wx209dmyd1eqxwjp7qo58f.jpg?t=650110520&quality=100https://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/16/a3/kalidou-koulibaly-napoli_1acj84171g6z51mvgp0icf0o7j.jpg?t=-1708635135https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Moroccan-footballer-Mehdi-Benatia.jpghttps://images.performgroup.com/di/library/GOAL/26/be/adrien-silva-leicester_vzgrt5wqqim21pfw8wzhsp6v2.jpg?t=967334994&quality=100http://www.squawka.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/GettyImages-689471078.jpghttps://premierleague-static-files.s3.amazonaws.com/premierleague/photo/2018/07/13/c3294e0c-20b3-4239-9af8-c63380ea47fb/TF_18188.jpghttps://e2.365dm.com/18/08/768×432/skysports-yacine-brahimi-porto_4381191.jpg?20180805110346https://cdn.images.express.co.uk/img/dynamic/67/590x/Aubameyang-934607.jpghttps://images2.minutemediacdn.com/image/upload/c_scale,w_912,h_516,c_fill,g_auto/shape/cover/sport/fbl-friendly-esp-ita-real-madrid-milan-5b7159dbc445672401000001.jpg

England is failing its young talent

England is failing its young talent

A move to the Premier League is so often touted as a “dream move.” And it’s a fair statement. To play in arguably the best league in the world, or at least the most watched league in the world, with some of the finest footballing talent on display, is nothing short of that dream move.

 

And yet, despite all of this success that happens in England, the English national team results have remained poor, for the most part.

 

Not counting the team’s recent success in the FIFA World Cup, the last time before that that England had won a game in the knockout stage of a competition was back in 2006. 12 years without winning a knockout stage game, in a team that has boasted stars such as David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, and John Terry.

 

There’s a reason why Gareth Southgate recently called for Englishmen to be given more playing time in the top flight. When English players have made up just 30% of the total minutes played, the options are really dwindling.

 

To make matters worse for Southgate and England, the bigger clubs in the Premier League, where you might hope to see some of England’s true stars play, have even less English players.

 

Chelsea and Arsenal are the worst in this category, with Chelsea having used just two English players, Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus-Cheek, while Arsenal has only used Danny Welbeck and Ainsley Maitland-Niles.

Jesse Lingard has been one of the few English players to make it at a big premier league side

 

And for young English players, the pushback has begun. Jordan Sancho, formerly of Manchester City, left the Citizens last year and joined Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga. Meanwhile, Reiss Nelson joined Hoffenheim on loan from Arsenal.

 

It makes sense why youngsters would want to leave for Germany. The environment there is so much more youth-friendly compared to the cutthroat environment of the Premier League. There, the basic ideology is that if you perform well at your current playing level, you will get a chance at a higher one.

 

So, especially when it comes to the big clubs, England has very much failed its young talent, and its general playing squad.

 

However, you can’t blame the managers of the big clubs for this. As Chelsea proved last season with Antonio Conte, simply failing to qualify for Champions League football is enough to get the sack.

 

When you are under so much pressure to succeed year after year, why would you take a punt on a youngster? And when you do, more often than not, youngsters from Argentina or the Netherlands may have more potential.

 

When it comes to promoting its youngsters, England and the premier league are in a real bind. What from the top clubs down to the bottom clubs need is a real culture shift.