Steven Gerrard (Liverpool FC) – 690 matches
Francesco totti ( AS ROMA) – 700 matches
Jamie Carragher (Liverpool FC) – 737 matches
Paolo Maldini (AC Milan) – 647 matches
Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona) – 770 matches.
Ryan Giggs (Manchester United) -785 matches
Jurgen Klopp (FSV Mainz OS) – 330 matches.
Familiar names? Yes, they should be.
I call them “the one club men”.
One club men are rare in football, it has become so rare that the mere sight of one, radiates respect and legendary.
The names listed above and some many more, are names of players who found pleasure doing what they are meant to do, steadfastly and satisfactorily to one club only.
To be a good and renowned footballer has never been easy, it comes with a price, a price sometimes too steep to pay.
One of such prices is “demand”.
Imagine being known as the best winger in the football world, every club will seek your service, clamouring to have your signature on contract, their jersey on your back, their fans scream out your name. To achieve this, these clubs present tempting offers, too juicy to resist and too real to doubt.
To this players, these offers are the reason they spend 90 minutes on that pitch harnessing victory. To some players, its a choice they crave for and anticipate while to some others, its a choice they do not lose sleep on.
For some players, this choices work out well for them like Paul Pogba’s move from Manchester United to Juventus, Morientes move from Real Madrid to Monaco while for some players it ended up been their achilles heel like in Andrei Shevchenko’s move to Chelsea and many more.
Carefully, let us look at a few “one club men”, men who refused to succumb to the tempting offers and steadfastly stood with their clubs through the thick and thin.
ALESSANDRO DEL PIERO : Del Piero, the goal machine, remains the 2nd highest all time italian top scorer in all competitions, with 345 goals to his name. He played for Juventus for 19 years 1993 -2012. Del Piero continued to play with Juventus and captain the team even though they were relegated in the wake of the Calciopoli scandal. One of the most loyal players in the history of football.
FRANCESCO TOTTI: To write this piece without mentioning “il capitano” Francesco Totti- the king of Rome will be a crime.
One of the best players of his generation. Totti won a world cup with Italy in 2006 and finished runner up in the European Championship twice in 2000 and 2003.
At Totti’s prime, offers from many big clubs, including the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid came, had he decided to move, he would have won many more silverwares probably including the Champions league, however he rejected the offers to stay and lead Roma both professionally and spiritually, doing whatever he can do to help the club.
“LE GOD” : MATTHEW LE TISSIER.
Another player whose mercurial football skill caught the eye of the footballing world is Southampton’s Le Tissier or known by the fans as “Le god”.
Le Tissier played for Southampton from 1986- 2002, a club with a pedigree uncompared to Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, AC Milan. It was at this club that Le Tissier displayed talents that stunned the world week in week out. It was just a matter of time before clubs came calling, they tried to lure him away but he steadfastly clinged to Southampton lifting them to victory when needed. His loyalty to the club never wavered, spending 16 years with 540 appearances and scoring 210 goals.
In 2010, Spanish soccerstar Xavi, revealed that Le Tissier had been one of his childhood inspirations, claiming that “His talent was simply out of norm. He could simply dribble pass seven or eight players but without speed. He just walked past them. For me, he was sensational”.
PAUL “SCHOOLBOY” SCHOLES.
Recognized by many legends of the game as one of the best midfielders they have seen.
Paul Scholes played for Manchester United for the last two decades, putting in more than 700 games.
He announced his retirement in May 2012 and joined the coaching staff to still be associated with the club.
When the club was later hit by an injury crisis, he came out of retirement and just continued from where he left.
He never had an agent represent him over his entire career, signing whatever paper the club puts in front of him, all he was bothered with was playing the game”.
“He doesn’t have an agent, he doesn’t employ a PR guru and there are no celebrity mates. He is just a kid from Middletown who grew up playing football in the streets and achieved his dreams” – Gary Neville.
Surely, there are a handful of more players like this but these are top on my list, for now.
Now, it is worthy to note a certain factor in this dilemma, “background check”.
Yes, I call it background check, because, if a certain player plays for a big club like AC Milan of the 80/90’s like Paolo Maldini or Real Madrid like Raul Gonzalez, the question of loyalty will be vague, it will leave room to wonder where else does such player wish to go to, at this stage, the only reason to explore will be that he went for the money like in the case of Louis Figo’s move from Barcelona to Real Madrid.
It is much harder when such player plays in a smaller or relegated club and this offers are been presented, then it can be affirmed that the player’s loyalty has been truly put to test.
But most of this players insist that it is never about the money but for glory and ambition.
Lets highlight the case of Robin Van Persie’s move from Arsenal to a fierce rival club Manchester United, the move stunned football lovers but he gave the reason for his leaving to be “to further his career and win trophies”, which he did in his first season at Old Trafford.
Okay, this may have been to fulfil his ambitions but does that mean that if Manchester United offered him half the wage he was earning at Arsenal (£90,000 per week) he would have accepted? He even turned down Arsene Wenger’s (Arsenal’s coach) improved offer of £130,000 which would have made him the highest earning player in Arsenal’s history (what a sacrifice for Wenger) for a whooping £250,000 per week at Manchester United.
Ambition, to the best of my knowledge is to fulfil a dream irrespective of what comes in your way, but I want to strongly believe that a decrease in wage would have driven a wedge between Van Persie’s dream move.
It is safe to say that money is the priority in the footballing world nowadays. In years before now, we have seen a great amount of players break through the youth academy at a club followed by a ten to fifteen year stint at the same club afterwards.
This ideology can’t be said for footballers in recent years with money as rife as it is.
Players are all too quick to kiss the badge on their chest and proclaim their undying love to the team they are playing for, all for them to then jump ship when an influx in wages is waved before their faces.
So, you can now see why I chose to celebrate my “one club men”, men who played the game with one principle “to enjoy the game” and win trophies if they can, with one club alone.