The Tuesday 10: Golden oldies

Dan Ross takes a look at 10 men who continue to defy Father Time…

Ryan Giggs

At 35, most footballers are content with adding vital experience to the Championship’s promotion hopefuls or those clubs clinging desperately to the top flight. Ryan Giggs is not most footballers.

Last season he won the PFA Players' Player of the Year award, and he has carried his sparkling form into the early stages of this season.

Last week Giggs laid on both goals as United overcame Stoke 2-0, and he helped United come from behind to claim a 2-1 win over German champions Wolfsburg in the Champions League.

His sixth assist in seven games set up Michael Carrick for the winner after the veteran Welshman grabbed a 59th minute equaliser to become only the ninth player to score 150 goals for United.

His curling free-kick against Tottenham in early September notched the winger’s 99th Premier League goal, meaning Giggs had achieved the remarkable feats of both having scored in every season and been the club’s record goalscorer in the competition since its inception in 1992.

But Giggs sets a record every time he steps onto the pitch. United's record appearance-maker; he surpassed Sir Bobby Charlton's 758 on the night he helped the Red Devils secure a third European Cup.

A true professional, Giggs’ application, determination and loyalty mark him out as a dying breed among footballers, and the perfect role model for youngsters learning the game. A knighthood surely cannot be far away.

Javier Zanetti

In June 1995, Inter unveiled a young Argentine full-back - who had only played two seasons at his former club Banfield - in a transfer that hardly made a ripple in the Calcio ocean.

Nearly 15 years later Zanetti is captain, fan favourite and a club legend.

Often likened to a fine wine, the Argentine veteran seems to be getting better with age, and the man dubbed ‘Il Trattore’ (the Tractor) for his strength, resilience and stamina, is far from taking a step back in his twilight years, having started nearly 60 matches in all competitions last season.

In fact, the 36-year-old’s last few years at his beloved Nerazzurri have brought the most success in Zanetti’s career, as he has led the team to four consecutive Scudetti since 2005.

Zanetti’s Inter side have dominated the Serie A in recent years, but the Argentina international – his country’s most capped player – is desperate for success in the Champions League, having made more European appearances in the famous blue-and-black stripes than any other player.

With Inter struggling under Jose Mourinho in the Champions League this term, a winner’s medal seems unlikely, but should he play on next season another individual gong could be heading his way, as the Tractor ploughs ever closer to Giuseppe Bergomi’s club record of 519 Serie A games.

Ze Roberto

Like many players in their mid-thirties, including several on this list, Ze Roberto has prolonged (and enhanced) his career by changing his position.

Just as Zanetti, Giggs and Beckham have all adopted a central midfield role in recent seasons to compensate the loss of pace that such an age brings, Ze Roberto converted from a winger to a defensive midfielder.

After more than 100 appearances for Bayern Munich and thrice helping them to the domestic league and Cup double between 2002 and 2006, the 32-year-old fan favourite departed for Santos in his native Brazil.

However a year later, days before his 33rd birthday, Ze Roberto was surprisingly re-signed by Bayern.

Critics lambasted the club, decrying their lack of ambition and claiming the signing smacked of desperation.

It was as if he had never been away. A revitalized Ze Roberto came back and slotted straight into the centre of Bayern’s midfield, forming a concrete partnership with Mark van Bommel.

His inspirational form saw him bag five goals and as many assists and drove Bayern to yet another domestic and cup double.

Last season, though the club fared much worse in the Bundesliga, Ze Roberto was again magnificent, netting four times and creating 6 goals.

Despite this form, Bayern chief Uli Hoeness refused to offer Ze Roberto a new two-year deal, and rivals Hamburg snapped up the 84-time Brazilian international.

Hoeness and Bayern are living to regret their decision as a 35-year-old Ze Roberto has notched three goals in eight starts so far this term, and his assist for Mladen Petric saw Hamburg defeat the Brazilian’s former club, who are stuck in seventh place.

Francesco Totti

Few footballers divide opinion like Francesco Totti. But like him or loathe him, rate him or slate him, the AS Roma captain and idol keeps on producing the goods.

Totti turned 33 not long ago, but that hasn’t stopped his club offering him a new five-year, £4 million-a-season deal, keeping him at the club until 2014.

It will be interesting to see if, upon the expiration of that contract, the five-time ‘Italian Footballer of the Year’ is offered another deal, as ‘Er Pupone’ (‘the Babe’) continues to roll back the years, banging in goals left, right and centre.

While the last two seasons have seen Roma’s record appearance maker and greatest ever goalscorer hampered by injury, Totti still managed to make double figures in each.

This season Totti is fighting fit and in sensational form, making Roma tifosi forget the loss of coach Luciano Spalletti with six goals in seven Serie A starts.

But it has been his form in the qualifying rounds of the UEFA Europa League in which Totti has truly shone.

The Roma talisman secured his club’s place in the tournament proper almost single-handedly, racking up five goals in two games against Gent before repeating the feat against Kosice.

He declared his ambition to finish the season as top goalscorer in Serie A. Don’t bet against it.

David Beckham

On Saturday it was revealed that David Beckham was close to finalizing a deal which would see him return to AC Milan on loan, as the 34-year-old attempts to prove fitness and form ahead of next summer’s World Cup.

And while Goldenballs has had his fair share of critics, his contribution to the England national team cannot be ignored.

Becks has currently amassed 114 caps for his nation – a total that puts him only 11 short of Peter Shilton’s all-time record, a milestone he could pass in South Africa.

But more than the statistics, Becks has been a true ambassador for the English game – his character and commitment on the field matched only by his remarkable consistency and desire to succeed.

This desire sets the aging icon apart from many reaching the end of their career. Though Beckham has won everything there is to win in club football, an international trophy remains elusive.

Becks has unfinished business, and his performances in the last 12 months certainly indicate as such.

Though he initially struggled at the LA Galaxy, and has hardly won friends across the pond for his continent-hopping antics, his displays have continually improved.

Orchestrating the Galaxy’s best moves from a central role, Becks is cool, confident and classy, and his side are now on the brink of a play-off place.

Despite a playing schedule that has seen him spend more time in a plane than on a pitch in recent years, Beckham has shown little sign that it has taken its toll on his mental or physical fitness.

If Becks’ time at Milan is as successful as his last Serie A spell (two goals and five assists in 18 matches) then expect two things – Fabio Capello to call him up to the squad for the World Cup, and Beckham to play a vital role in England’s bid to win it.

Clarence Seedorf

After the humiliating loss to FC Zurich in the Champions League, panic has set in at San Siro.

The Rossoneri have struggled so far this season and languish in 11th place in the Serie A having collected just over half the points earned by top-of-the-table Sampdoria.

Netherlands star Clarence Seedorf - the only player to win the UEFA Champions League with three different clubs – has been Milan’s stand-out player so far this term.

He saved his side three points with the winner in a battle against Bologna, and has admirably filled the creative void caused by Ronaldinho’s lack of form.

In Milan’s opening Champions League fixture Seedorf carved out both chances for fellow veteran Pippo Inzaghi, who notched a brace as they limped past Marseille.

At 33, Seedorf is one of the elder statesmen at the club, but judging by his early season form the Milan tifosi will be relying on him to play more of a crucial role this season than expected.

Henrik Larsson

A striker who needs scant introduction to Celtic fans, Larsson was an idol at Hamden Park, scoring nearly 230 goals in over 300 appearances for the Scottish giants.

In a 20-year career spanning several countries and many of Europe’s finest clubs, the 38-year-old Larsson has won the Dutch Cup, the Swedish Cup, the Scottish, Spanish and English leagues and the UEFA Champions League.

Larsson was last on these shores as an emergency loan at Manchester United, after which he returned home to former club Helsingborg in 2007.

It was a case of out of sight, but not out of mind, as a host of British clubs have flirted with the idea of signing Larsson after his 2007 and 2008 seasons brought 43 goals in all competitions.

After a broken knee-cap and the untimely passing of his brother earlier this year, many expected the Swede to retire, and no-one would have blamed him for doing so.

Helsingborg fans instead saw their hero return late this September and bag a brace to defeat rivals AIK.

He has netted ten times in just over 20 appearances for his home town club this season, showing his fire is far from extinguished.

His career is far from over, too, as the veteran is back in Sweden's squad for the last two crucial World Cup qualifiers against Denmark and Albania in October. Watch this space.

Roberto Carlos

His name is synonymous with football. For years there was only one choice at left-back for Real Madrid, Brazil and football computer game fanatics desperate for the best.

Probably the greatest compliment that can be given to Carlos is that he played for Real Madrid for over a decade.

While a host of ‘Galacticos’ came and went, the consistency and dynamism of Carlos in the wing-back berth ensured that Madrid never thought about replacing him.

That he managed over 70 goals in all competitions from defence is equally as impressive, and demonstrates the attacking mentality that marked him out as a firm fan favourite at the Bernabeu.

When his time at Madrid came to an end, Roberto Carlos had a stunning CV. He won, among others, four la Liga titles, three Champions League trophies and the World Cup with Brazil.

Teams around the world were clambering to sign him, but it was Fenerbahce that agreed terms with the free agent.

And while he hasn’t been able to secure a trophy other than the Turkish Super Cup since his arrival, Carlos has brought a wealth experience and quality to the Şükrü Saracoğlu Stadium.

He has also managed to net an impressive 10 times and carved out numerous assists in his short time there, and at 36 his pace, energy and stamina remain surprisingly unchanged.

His rocket shots and trademark free-kicks have ensured he is as loved at Fenerbahce as he is in Madrid and across his native Brazil.

Edwin van der Sar

The importance of the Premier League’s oldest goalkeeper to Manchester United is most evident when he is absent.

Edwin Van Der Sar doesn’t go about his business in the same way as Peter Schmeichel. He does not have the bossy, bellowing, larger-than-life character the immense Dane, but he is certainly as valuable.

Van der Sar was 34 when he arrived at Old Trafford. The signing initially seemed a stop-gap measure, after a raft of keepers had come and gone between the sticks at Old Trafford.

Mark Bosnich, Fabian Barthez, Tim Howard, Roy Carroll and – perhaps, most memorably, Massimo Taibi Ã¢Â€Â“ had all been pretenders to Schmeichel’s throne following his departure.

None managed to measure up. Until Van der Sar - the man many deemed a panic buy.

The Dutchman, who holds a record 130 caps for the national team, is now entering his fifth season at United but far from diminishing, the veteran has gone from strength to strength.

Two seasons ago Van der Sar kept 24 clean sheets in all competitions as United won the Premier League and Champions League trophies, and last season set a British and European record as he played 1,311 minutes in the league without conceding a goal.

Calm, confident and consistent, Van der Sar commands his area superbly, his decision-making and positioning rarely mean he is forced into desperate saves and he seldom gives his defenders cause for concern.

With Van der Sar currently nursing a hand injury, Ben Foster has deputised in goal for United this term.

And while he is a capable replacement, the Red Devils' faithful have witnessed a series of errors, highlighting the quiet quality Van der Sar brings to the United back-line.


At 33, the iconic Brazilian is a veritable youth compared to the rest of this list. But his performances for Corinthians more than justify his inclusion.

After rupturing his knee ligament in February 2008 for the third time in his illustrious-turned-tragic career, then AC Milan striker Ronaldo’s time in football seemed over.

Though he had an impressive goal-to-game ratio during his two years in the red half of San Siro, his time there was plagued by injury and he was released at the end of the season.

Ronaldo returned to Brazil to train with Flamengo and showed dedication and resolve in his rehabilitation.

In December that year, the man who had showed no fear in moving to Madrid after playing for Barcelona, or in signing for the Rossoneri after playing for Inter, controversially joined Brazilian league rivals Corinthians.

‘The Phenomenon’ rolled back the years, scoring 15 goals in 20 appearances in all competitions, and driving the club - on the brink of relegation the previous season - to the League and Cup double.

Ronaldo has extended his Corinthinas stay to play in the prestigious Copa Libertadores for the first time in a sensational career that has seen the legend win a host of honours, including three FIFA World Player of the Year gongs, two World Cup winner's medals, two la Liga titles and a UEFA Cup.

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