The 10 longest serving club players in Europe: Noble, Chiellini, Busquets…
Lionel Messi‘s shock departure from Barcelona is mindblowing for a number of reasons. Not only are they losing the best player in their history, but a whole new generation of football fans won’t remember a time when he wasn’t turning out for the club.
The Argentinian first made his debut all the way back in October 2004, which made him the longest-serving player for any club in Europe’s top five leagues. The sudden move to PSG obviously changes that.
So who are the most loyal, longest-serving club players in European football? Here are the top 10.
The youngest player on this list at 29, it’s mad to think that Koke’s Atletico Madrid debut came nearly 12 years ago as a second-half substitute in a 5-2 defeat to Pep Guardiola’s Barcelona.
The only player that’s still at Atleti that arrived before Diego Simeone, Koke is also the only player to have played a prominent role in the title wins of 2014 and 2021 with what’s otherwise been a total rebuild in the seven years in-between.
Given the current state of Real Madrid and Barcelona, don’t be surprised if he goes on to lift more La Liga titles with Atleti.
🔙🗓 September 19 2009 Koke makes his debut for Atleti at Camp Nou…
🏅 May 12 2021 Koke makes his 500th appearance for Atleti.
ONE LIFE IN RED AND WHITE🔴⚪🏧 pic.twitter.com/dQ20bU4WmG
— FutureCentro (@FutureCentro) May 13, 2021
9. Mario Gaspar
Gaspar is only 30 but he’s been around for bloody ages. He made his debut as an 18-year-old for Villarreal back in March 2009 and has been a regular ever since, including their one-season stint down in the Segunda Division in 2012-13.
His years of service were rewarded with a starring role in the Yellow Submarine’s first-ever piece of silverware. He scored their ninth penalty of 11 in the penalty shootout victory over Manchester United in the 2021 Europa League final.
8. Gerard Pique
The centre-back might well have moved up several places in this list if he never left his boyhood club for Manchester United back in 2004.
Pique’s four years at Old Trafford barely seem real now. He made 23 appearances for the Red Devils under Sir Alex Ferguson, and has a Champions League winners medal to show for it, but it was his return home in 2008 that has defined his career.
7. Sergio Busquets
A league winner under Pep Guardiola with Barcelona B back in 2007-08, the midfielder – son of former Barca goalkeeper Carles Busquets – was trusted with the step up when his coach was given a promotion to the first team.
His first season at senior level ended by lifting the Champions League trophy to cap off a historic treble, and a glut of trophies have followed ever since. Still every chance he retires as a true one-club legend. Only Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Messi have made more appearances.
Just a week before making his @FCBarcelona debut, he was playing in the third tier. Since then…
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) September 13, 2018
6. Marcel Schmelzer
Schmelzer didn’t make a single appearance in the 2020-21 season but the 33-year-old signed a one-year contract extension at Borussia Dortmund as he looks to put a long-term knee injury behind him.
He may have been reduced to a role on the periphery in recent years, but he’ll forever be a Dortmund legend. Jurgen Klopp handed him his debut at the start of the 2008-09 season and he went on to become an integral part of the unforgettable side that won back-to-back league titles and reached the Champions League final.
One of the less famous faces on this list is Oier Sanjurjo, Osasuna’s all-time third-highest appearance maker. The 35-year-old defensive midfielder made his first-team debut in 2007 following time with the B team, and has since represented the club in the top three tiers of the Spanish pyramid.
Surely one of the best pound-for-pound signings in football history, Marcelo has proven ridiculous value at Real Madrid since he joined from Flamengo in January 2007. Fabio Capello handed the Brazilian his debut at the age of 19 a short while later.
14 years later, he’s still at the Bernabeu, having made over 500 appearances, winning five La Liga titles and four Champions Leagues. Not bad for about €5million.
3. Giorgio Chiellini
It’s felt like forever that Chiellini has been in the ‘veteran defender’ stage of his career, having originally joined Juventus from Livorno back in 2004.
He was immediately loaned out to Fiorentina for his first season on the Old Lady’s books but has been a mainstay ever since – including the post-Calciopoli stint in Serie B back in 2006-07.
A towering figure during Juventus’ imperial nine-in-a-row phase, but the Champions League remains elusive.
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) March 12, 2019
2. Francesco Magnanelli
Captain, leader, legend for Sassuolo, Magnanelli is their all-time appearance-maker, having joined the club when they were in Serie C back in 2005. He’s been with them ever since as they’ve climbed up the leagues to become one of Serie A’s ones to watch in recent years.
The 36-year-old midfielder just signed a one-year contract extension in the summer to keep him at the Citta del Tricolore for another season.
1. Mark Noble
Dethroning Messi as European football’s longest-serving one-club man (save for early loans away to Hull and Ipswich), Noble has made over 500 appearances for the Hammers since making his debut back when they were in the Championship during the 2004-05 season.
He came off the bench as an 18-year-old in the 2005 play-off final victory over Preston and hasn’t looked back since. Noble has announced that the 2021-22 campaign will be his last, but it promises to be a memorable one with West Ham turning out in Europe.