logo
logo
Pepe is still bringing the heat at 41.

9 elite footballers that aged like a fine wine: Pepe, Totti, Xabi Alonso…

Some footballers are like the little pieces of magnesium you burned in GCSE science. They burn bright and fast, and then they’re dust. Michael Owen was magnesium. Adriano was magnesium.

Some footballers are the opposite, though. Some are sturdy logs that burn for as long as there is oxygen to consume, eternal flames in a room of spent candles.

That’s who we’re interested in today. Footballers who defied the science of cellular degeneration and only got better with age.

We’re going to talk about some of our favourites. No ranking, pitting them against each other — just pure appreciation for the football elders.

For practicality’s sake, we’re not including goalkeepers because they just age differently, like those vampire jellyfish that don’t die. OK, let’s go.

Pepe

The Brazilian-born Portuguese fear merchant is a freak of nature. Forty-one years of age and still putting in stellar performances in the Champions League knockout rounds, giving it the big’un to the opposition fans. Big scary hero.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name the 20 oldest goalscorers in Champions League history?

Antonio Di Natale

There was a point when we thought Toto Di Natale would just keep getting better and better until he had lasers coming out his eyes and he turned into some sort of Dragon Ball Z Super Saiyan.

He had a 20-year career full of genuinely gorgeous goals, a man who took responsibility for the care of his deceased former Udinese teammate’s sister (who had no other family and lives with disability), and a man whose name roughly means ‘Tony Christmas’ when translated to English.

Just the best.

Kazuyoshi Miura

You all know about King Kazu — 57 years old and still playing professionally. What we find astounding is that, according to Transfermarkt, Miura has made 709 apps, scored 193 goals, but only contributed FIVE assists in his entire career.

Now, we’re aware that assist statistics are probably difficult to source from the Brazilian regional leagues and Japanese football in the pre-internet era.

But if that career assists tally is accurate, it begs so, so many questions.

Formiga

A living legend of the game, the ant played in SEVEN consecutive World Cups. That’s two more than any male footballer history.

When you take into account that, as a child, her brothers would allegedly beat her up for trying to join in with football, her record is all the more astounding.

Build statues, name streets after her, recognise her.

Formiga of Brazil celebrates her goal during the women's football semifinal match 23 between Brazil and Germany at Shangahi Stadium in Shanghai during the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, China, 18 August 2008.

Formiga, The Ant, is unrivalled.

Joaquin

O Captain, my captain. Playing as a winger at the highest levels of professional football, at 41 years of age should be illegal. It’s a joke.

Giggsy dropped into the centre when he began to slow down, and he did yoga 27 times a day. Joaquin was one of the very, very few whose level never seemed to drop throughout his career. Some boy.

Fabio Quagliarella

Capocannoniere at the age of 36. No further questions, your honour.

Marta

The Brazilian is still doing the business in Orlando at 38. A six-time FIFA World Player of the Year, and the World Cup all-time top goalscorer. The finest of wines.

USA lifting the FIFA Women's World Cup trophy in 2019.

TRY A QUIZ: Can you name every winner of the Women’s World Cup?

Francesco Totti

The Eighth King of Rome’s late-career renaissance as a false 9 made us feel again. No pace—that was long gone—but enough technique to feed the five-thousand.

Anyone who’s seen those recent videos of Totti playing five-a-side knows he’s still got it, as well. God, he’s still got it.

Xabi Alonso

Real Sociedad > Eibar > Liverpool > Real Madrid > Bayern Munich

Alonso’s trajectory is probably still rising. He’s probably better at football now than he was when he retired.

The only thing about Xabi Alonso that faded was the ball at the end of those aesthetically perfect backspinny passes. And that was entirely intentional.

He’s now probably Europe’s most in-demand manager and set to casually brush Bayern off their Bundesliga plinth. A football god bound in flesh and bones.


READ NEXT: Man Utd’s 11 oldest PL debutants in the PL era: Blanc, Ibra, Cavani…

TRY A QUIZ:Can you name the 25 oldest Premier League goalscorers in history?