Charlie Adam of Stoke City during the Sky Bet Championship match between Stoke City and Rotherham United at the Britannia Stadium

The Charlie Adam paradox: 9 players that are much younger than you thought

Jesse Lingard, Jack Grealish and other footballers unintentionally lulled us into a false pretence about their age. But instead of footballers who are older than we thought, what about the poor souls who are actually younger than we remember?

A career in football is short, but with players getting their breakthroughs at all different ages and peaking in similar fashion, the timelines all get a bit tangled in our brains, especially as we grow up with a certain generation of players and use them as a marker to define how painfully old we’re becoming.

Anyway, enough with that thought. We’ve gone through the players who were older than we thought, thus it only makes sense to take a look at the unfortunate lot who are younger than we imagine, but for some reason appear a lot older.

Connor Wickham

A rogue one to begin with, Wickham isn’t the sexiest name on this list, but he’s certainly one of the most baffling. How has this guy only just turned 30?

Debuting at just 16 years old for Ipswich back in 2009, the striker has been around near enough every club in the EFL at this point having failed to make it stick with Crystal Palace when he found himself in the Premier League with the Eagles. But that’s not the point.

The point is how on earth is he only 30? We could’ve sworn he was due his 30th birthday at least three or four years ago.

Stephan El Shaarawy

El Shaarawy is also only 30 years old. He might well be the Italian Connor Wickham. We might well be the first people to ever compare the two in any way, shape or form.

The video of that kid screaming at his monitor as he packed that iconic silver El Shaarawy Ultimate Team card was all the way back in the days of FIFA 12. We’re now on FIFA 23.

In that time, the Italian left Milan, signed for Roma, headed to China in 2019, was completely forgotten about  – and definitely celebrated his actual 30th birthday – before sneaking back into Europe with Roma in 2021. Don’t think about it too much or it becomes more mind-boggling.

Charlie Adam

Whatever this man had for breakfast every morning throughout his career, we’d like to know – so we can avoid it like the plague.

Adam is 37, but nine months younger than Cristiano Ronaldo. Sure, one is a genetic freak who most likely takes way too many unnecessary steps to stop himself from ageing, but Adam is at the unfortunate other end of the extreme.

In his twenties he looked like he was in his forties, and in his thirties he now looks like he’s comfortably in his fifties and in possession of a forklift licence.

Surely he’s fuelling himself with cement mix and stainless steel three times a day? Whatever it is, it can’t be healthy. Poor lad.


Sorry, since when was this fella only 26 years old? Twenty-six? Have we missed something? Get him some anti-ageing cream, pronto.

Not only does the man play his club football like a 40-year-old with serious back stiffness, but he’s been around in the Premier League for a bloody long time at this point – too long if you ask some fans.

The Brazilian takes a lot of heat for being a nuisance to play against, and for not being very good now that he’s moved on from Everton.

But upon learning that he’s only 26, we should all probably cut him some slack. There’s plenty of time for him to potentially be a late bloomer. Potentially.

Kingsley Coman

Ready for your brain to be fried even further? Coman is only a year older than Richarlison at 27.

One of football’s biggest ongoing conspiracy theories, not only is Coman much younger than he should be at this point, he also seems to win something significant every season without anyone ever actually noticing that he’s kicked a football at any point.

Seriously, has anyone ever actually seen him play a 90-minute football game?

Starting to think he doesn’t even exist, and that we’ve all been gaslighted.

Ruben Neves

The move to Saudi Arabia was the icing on the cake with Neves, who only turned 26 this year, despite putting together a veteran career in the Championship with Wolves before spending what felt like a decade with them in the Premier League.

Check his birth certificate. We’re definitely missing a few years.


He’s been through hell and back, has Dele. Bursting onto the scene at such a young age with MK Dons and then moving to Tottenham, it’s easy to forget he’s actually only 27.

That means there’s still more than enough time for him to recover from his current injury setback and kick on once again. His best years are still ahead of him, which is rather frightening considering just how good he was in those early years at Spurs.

Raphael Varane

Having spent a decade or so at Real Madrid winning Champions Leagues galore, a move to Manchester United in 2021 followed by his international retirement from France in 2022 would suggest that Varane is well past his peak and in his mid-thirties.

Feels like it, doesn’t it? He’s certainly been around long enough. It’s a surprise to learn, then, that he only turned 30 this year. Seriously. How does that one work? Given his shaky injury record too, everything pointed towards the French stalwart being on his way out.

Probably has something to do with United’s wildly poor recruitment and tendency to overpay for players who are past their best.

Gerard Deulofeu

Possibly the only man to have ever completed the feat of enjoying two spells at both Barcelona and Everton, it’s a miracle Deulofeu hasn’t aged 100 years.

Between the spells at each of those clubs, the strange stint at Watford and everything in between, you’d have the rather forgetful winger down as a has-been well into his thirties and long overdue a stint in the Turkish Super Lig.

But no. He’s 29. He only turned 29 earlier this year, too. The man has years left in the tank. Terrifying.

READ NEXT: The Lingard paradox: 9 players we could’ve sworn were still in their early 20s

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