17 players we can’t believe are still playing in 2022: Fred, Santa Cruz…

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Fluminense player Fred celebrates scoring against America-MG at Maracana stadium. November 2021.

Footballers seem only to get younger. Every week, a new outrageously talented, fresh-faced whippersnapper pops up in some corner of the globe scoring a wondergoal or pulling off a sublime bit of skill.

Fortunately, the gods of football understand that life needs equilibrium, that every yin must have its yang. To make up for those annoyingly talented children, they allow some players to go on forever and ever until they become withered veterans. For that, we give thanks.

We’ve rounded up 17 players who’ve been around the block, been around it again, stopped off for a coffee, then got back on their bikes and are on one last lap in 2022.

Some of this lot started playing professionally in the 1990s, for crying out loud…


No, not the Manchester United midfielder. You know, the other Fred. Original Fred. Alan-Shearer-said-he-was-shit-at-World-Cup-2014 Fred. Yeah, that Fred.

He’s 38 now, but he’s still turning out for Fluminense in Brazil’s Serie A and he’s still doing the business, too.

He scored seven goals in nine games in the Copa Libertadores last year and got five in the league to help fire Flu to continental qualification again.

Only one player, Roberto Dinamite, has more goals than Fred in the history of the Brazilian top flight. You may well snigger, but Fred is proper legend material in Brazilian domestic football.

READ: Trying to understand how Fred became Brazil’s first-choice striker

Roque Santa Cruz

When Santa Cruz rejoined his first club Olimpia in 2016, we assumed it’d be for one last tour of Paraguay, waving at the crowds and taking in the plaudits before he hung up his boots.

Six years later, he’s still going. He managed 75 goals in 178 games in his second spell at Olimpia, helping the club to a Paraguayan cup and five league titles, the last of which came 23 years after his first.

He’s now left Olimpia but, at 40, is still not ready to call it a day. He’s joined Olimpia’s rivals Libertad and will be playing in the Libertadores once more in 2022, which is his 25th year as a professional.

Ricardo Quaresma

Quaresma was always more renowned for his technical quality than his ability to run around, so carrying on into his late 30s shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise, we suppose.

He’s now at Vitoria Guimaraes, aged 38. And as long as he’s still doing rabonas and trivelas, we’ll keep cheering him on.

Besiktas' Ricardo Quaresma celebrates after scoring against Porto.

READ: 15 of the best quotes on and by Ricardo Quaresma: ‘Life is all about risk’

Nigel De Jong

As well as sitting alongside Andy Gray and Richard Keys to impart his wisdom upon beIN Sports viewers, the ex-Manchester City and Netherlands midfielder De Jong plays for Al-Shahania in the Qatari second division.

We feel sorry for all the other players in the Qatari second division.

Shunsuke Nakamura

Celtic legend Nakamura is still pulling on his boots and, we imagine, still taking delicious free-kicks for Yokohama FC in his native Japan, despite having turned 43 in June 2021.

He’s the only footballer we know who’s got an asteroid named after him and probably the only one to have stuck a football through the window of a moving kebab van.

Vagner Love

Is there any player who screams ‘UEFA Cup’ more loudly than Vagner Love? Answers on a postcard, please.

Anyway, after spells in Turkey, Brazil and Kazakhstan, 2004’s Vagner Love signed for Danish league leaders FC Midtjylland – who are owned by Brentford owner Matthew Benham – in January 2022.

Now he’ll be screaming ‘Europa Conference League’. We can’t wait.

Jermain Defoe

Another one who moved clubs in early 2022, Defoe has finally pitched back up at Sunderland, after leaving Rangers, aged 39.

“I can’t stop smiling because this is a special move for me for many reasons,” Defoe told the club’s official website after signing.

“I’ve had so many messages saying, ‘Remember when you said you would come back’, as I said that I would one day, and when I left, I wasn’t ready to leave.

“I have a special bond with the fans here and the club is in a fantastic position to get promoted. I want to be a part of more special times here and I’m looking forward to it.”

A full 38,395 of those fans turned up at the Stadium of Light to see Defoe make his second debut. They’ll be hoping his goals can finally fire them back into the Championship.

Rodrigo Palacio

The former Argentina striker and Inter Milan stalwart is still trudging around the pitches of Italy’s Serie B with Brescia at the ripe old age of 40.

He still got that horrendous rat-tail hairdo as well.


Jo was famously fonder of the disco than he was of the training ground during his spells at Manchester City and Everton. But he’s had something of a career revival since finding Jesus in 2016.

Back at his first club Corinthians, he won the Sao Paulo state championship and Brazilian league in 2017, before jetting off for a couple of seasons with Nagoya Grampus in the J. League and then returning to Corinthians.

He’s still there now, somehow aged only 34, and is currently linking up with former Spurs midfielder Paulinho and ex-Chelsea man Willian, who joined up for the 2022 campaign.

Phil Jagielka

Jagileka’s middle name is Nikodem, which we weren’t aware of until we looked at Wikipedia just a minute ago. He also got 40 England caps, which seems a lot. He was around for ages though, wasn’t he? A proper stalwart of that Everton backline. Hard, uncompromising. But he could play a bit too.

He’s now 39 and at Stoke in the Championship, if you’re wondering. Signed for them after leaving Sheffield United in January. He’ll still do a job, too. You can be sure of that.

Sebastian Giovinco

Pocket rocket and MLS legend Giovinco is one of those players we don’t think about all that often, but when we do, he brings a smile to our faces.

Remember how good he was at Euro 2012? Or how well he did after his return to Juventus? Or all those outrageous little dribbles and edge-of-the-box goals that would pop up on your timeline when he was ripping MLS a new one with Toronto? Lovely stuff.

And after three years out of sight and out of mind in Saudi Arabia, we’ll finally get the joy of the Atomic Ant back on our screens regularly in 2022 as he’s just signed for Sampdoria.

Valeri Bojinov

When Bojinov signed for Manchester City in 2007, City chief executive Alistair Mackintosh said: “Our signing of Valeri is another sign of the impact made by Dr Thaksin Shiniwatra and Sven-Goran Eriksson. Valeri is an exciting young player and a great addition to the squad.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t pan out like that. Bojinov got injured a lot and played very little before departing in the direction of Parma.

He’s managed to go through 17 spells at 13 different clubs since then and is now playing for Septemvri Sofia in the Bulgarian second tier. He’s 35, even though he looks about 55.


Another former City man and the perfect embodiment of the term ‘marauding Brazilian full-back’, Maicon is still chugging up and down the right flank for Sanmarinese outfit Tre Penne, despite reports that Gareth Bale ended his career at San Siro in 2010.

Jokes aside, Maicon was great for Inter and even later on at Roma, and provided us with the most improbable goal in World Cup history back in 2010.

Diego Godin

The thought of facing Godin in his Atletico pomp is enough to make the hardiest of centre-forwards shiver. He epitomised the fighting spirit of Diego Simeone’s sides, battling his way through games, grittily knocking back attack after attack like a 1970s opening batsman.

His time at Inter may not have been quite so successful, but Godin kept his place in the Uruguay team through a season and a half at Cagliari and has recently joined Brazilian champions Atletico Mineiro.

Godin helped the Celeste to a pair of victories in January’s World Cup qualifiers and, with Uruguay currently fourth in the Conmebol qualifying table, he’ll be hoping to make one last World Cup squad to go to Qatar.

Alessandro Diamanti

Remembered by Premier League fans for being quite good in a really bad West Ham team in 2009-10, Diamanti is now playing for the A League’s Western Sydney Warriors alongside Jack Rodwell.

READ: A love letter to Alessandro Diamanti, an unlikely West Ham cult hero

Alex Song

Song made headlines earlier this year when he revealed the reason he left Arsenal for Barcelona in 2012.

“I met Barca’s sporting director,” Song said in an Instagram chat, “and he told me I would not get to play many games, but I didn’t give a f*ck – I knew that now I would become a millionaire.”

Money can’t be his only motivation though, as Song is still playing for Djiboutian champions Arta Solar 7 aged 34.

Dmytro Chyhrynskyi

Chyhrynskyi looked more like the lead singer of a thrash metal band than a professional footballer when he turned up a Barcelona in 2009. And if we’re being brutally honest, his performances were almost as ragged as his barnet.

While it might not have worked out for him at Camp Nou, Chyhrynskyi has carved out a decent if injury-hampered career since returning to Shakthar Donetsk in 2010 and, after five seasons with AEK Athens, is now turning out for Greek Super League side Ionikos.

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