The exhausting nature of soccer makes it really difficult for the players to perform at the highest level for many years and after crossing the age of 30, even the best of players start to show signs of decline in their game. It's because of that even iconic players either have to take lower roles in their clubs or have to move to cash-rich, developing soccer leagues to use their stardom and try and help with the development of soccer in those regions. While some players have managed to thrive and play in the top leagues of soccer even in the final years of their career, there are some others who have continued playing for relatively unknown clubs over the past few years.
While some legendary players know when to hang up their boots after starting to grow weary, some others can't let go of the game and continue to play even after losing much of their majestic talent. It's because of their unbridled love for the game or even the need of a stable financial income that many players have opted to continue playing to the point of becoming irrelevant and often forgotten amongst the fans. There are many soccer players who bought into the temptation of getting paid a lot of money to play for relatively unknown clubs and help them gain some mainstream attention.
A mixture of needing financial support and the love for the game of soccer has made these 20 legendary figures continue playing; it might be shocking for some fans to believe that these players are still going at it!
20 Joe Cole
Joe Cole will be remembered fondly by Chelsea fans for his amazing years at the club, where he was a terrorizing attacking-winger for them and created many special moments in his tenure with the blues. Cole won the Premier League three times with Chelsea and then went onto play for smaller English clubs, but he'll also be remembered for his amazing goal in the 2006 FIFA World Cup against Sweden. Cole's stature might've declined over the years, but he's still going strong and playing for ULS side Tampa Bay Rowdies. He's actually made more than 50 appearances for the club and despite being in his late 30s, Cole is still aiming to excite fans with his stunning talent.
Lucio is widely recognized to be one of the best defenders of his generation as he enjoyed a glittering career in European soccer as well as for his country of Brazil. Not only did Lucio win the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, but he went to be a dominant defender in Europe who could shut out the best of strikers. Lucio had some greats years with Bayern Munich and Inter Milan, winning league titles and an even UEFA Champions League titles with them. But after his tenure at Inter, Lucio's stock started to fall, forcing him to play for smaller clubs. Lucio's surprisingly still playing at 40 years of age for a Brazilian club Brasiliense, as it seems that he's unable to let go of soccer.
18 Rafael Van der Vaart
Rafael van der Vaart received most of his recognition because of his terrific work at Dutch side Ajax, where he came up as a wunderkind. Van der Vaart would go onto play for clubs like Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur later on and also perform pretty well for the Netherlands side in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. While he's had a pretty celebrated career, Van der Vaart just doesn't know when to call it quits and has continued playing for his obsession with the game of soccer. He recently played for a Danish club, FC Midtjylland and has voiced his longing to continue playing in the near future, proving how Van der Vaart really needs soccer to enjoy a comfortable life.
17 Alexander Hleb
Alexander Hleb was quite the prolific midfielder for Arsenal and Barcelona in his years playing for them and he helped the big clubs attain a lot of success with his clever playing-style in the 2000s. Hleb won the La Liga title with Barcelona and also a few illustrious ones with Arsenal, but the fact that he won the Belarusian Footballer of the Year 6 times proves just how much a legend he is for them! Hleb has continued playing over the years for small-time clubs and recently signed a new contract for Belarusian club BATE Borisov. Despite being widely forgotten, Hleb is still going strong in his late 30s and trying to use his reputation to increase the popularity of small-time clubs.
16 Michael Essien
Michael Essien is one of the most popular African soccer players of his time because of the amount of success he attained in Europe and his amazing time at Chelsea. Essien spent 9 years playing for the Blues and was influential in helping them retain a rock-solid midfield. Essien's terrific ball-winning and passing abilities made him an asset for Chelsea, as he won the Premier League and UEFA Champions League with them. But after his tenure at Chelsea (and short loan to Real Madrid), Essien's tired legs forced him to start playing for relatively unknown clubs. His most recent tenure was at Indonesian club Persib Badung and even at the age of 35, Essien has continued to play as a full-timer wherever he goes.
15 Tim Cahill
Tim Cahill will be remembered by EPL fans for his years playing at Everton, where he made famous the "boxing" celebration after scoring goals. Cahill was actually a really dangerous striker for Everton and despite his short size, he terrorized defense and scored 56 goals in 226 matches for the club. The Australian had quite the blast playing for Everton, but after leaving them, he's struggled to keep his popularity intact. Cahill's been playing for smaller sides all over the world since then and most recently played for Millwall, where he returned to after gaining initial popularity early in his career. Cahill has shown a lot of heart playing all these years and is still terrorizing defenses at a weary age.
14 Florent Malouda
Florent Malouda was quite the creative winger for Chelsea many years ago and after gaining popularity in his successful years at French club Olympique Lyonnais, Malouda started terrorizing English Premier League defenders with his trickery. Malouda was proficient for Chelsea, often scoring and setting up important goals for the Blues in his many seasons with them. Malouda helped Chelsea win the Premier League and UEFA Champions League titles, but started to run out of steam in his final years with them. Malouda didn't have the energy or trickery which made him so dangerous and has declined since leaving Chelsea. But he's continued playing and is playing for a Luxembourg club FC Differdange, as he tries to bring popularity to them with his reputation.
13 Asamoah Gyan
Asamoah Gyan became a widely known superstar for his heroics in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, where he led Ghana to the quarter-finals and scored some delightful goals at that. Gyan scored three goals in the World Cup and became a legend for Ghana because of his amazing performances in it. He played for EPL side Sunderland for a few seasons, before moving onto a Dubai based club Al Ain. Since then, Gyan has almost become forgotten by the fans who adored him in 2010 and he's played for a range of unknown sides. He's currently playing for Turkish club named Kayserispor and at the age of 32, Gyan is still looking to have a blast whenever he plays.
12 Dimitar Berbatov
Dimitar Berbatov delighted Manchester United fans with some special moments in his few seasons with the Red Devils and he took the Premier League by storm whilst playing for them. Berbatov played for United and Spurs in the PL and won the PL Golden Boot award in the 2010-11 season when he helped United win the Premier League. Berbatov's majestic touch and eye for goal made him a dangerous striker, but after leaving United, he fell off the grid. Berbatov has since been playing for small-time clubs and most recently played for Indian club Kerala Blasters. He looks a weary figure whose majestic talent is withering away, but Berbatov's love for the game forces him to continue playing even in his late 30s.
11 Ashley Cole
Ashley Cole is regarded as one of the best left-backs in the Premier League era because of how trust-worthy and rock solid he was playing for Arsenal and Chelsea for many seasons. Cole won the PL title three times with Arsenal and Chelsea, as well as winning the FA Cup titles and UEFA Champions League title. But after starting to show signs of decline, Chelsea sold Cole to Roma and he couldn't impress there either. He eventually moved to LA Galaxy and even though many fans have forgotten about him, he's going strong in the MLS. Cole is actually the captain of La Galaxy and an important clog in their defense and is using his experience in leading them proficiently.
10 Diego Forlan
Diego Forlan is one of the greatest strikers to come up from Uruguay for a long time and he played a huge part in their success in the 2010 FIFA World Cup when they defied the odds to reach the semi-finals! Not only did Forlan win the Golden Ball in the World Cup, but he proved how he was a late bloomer and could terrorize defenders despite his "old age". But after showing signs of decline in his years with Inter Milan, he lost his place at the top. He's since played for numerous clubs and while some think that he's retired, Forlan's still going on and most recently played for Hong Kong club "Kitchee" where his performances proved that he isn't retiring just yet.
9 Robbie Keane
Robbie Keane was quite the clinical goal-scorer back in his days playing in the English Premier League, where he gained popularity whilst playing for Tottenham Hotspur. Keane's fantastic goal-scoring abilities and striker's instincts helped win Spurs many matches and he became a renowned figure for Irish soccer because of that. He later also had a short stint at Liverpool, but as the years wore on, Keane's decline became even more apparent. He had a long tenure at LA Galaxy, and he's currently playing for Indian club ATK. While signs of his aging are apparent in his slower game, his love for the game is helping Keane come up with some special moments even at the age of 38.
8 Bastian Schweinsteiger
Bastian Schweinsteiger is a name recognized around the whole world because of the amazing work he did in his years for Germany Soccer and won so many things with Bayern Munich and Germany as well. Not only did Schweinsteiger win numerous league titles and an elusive Champions League title with Bayern, but he completed his dream by winning the FIFA World Cup in 2014. He went onto have a short tenure at Manchester United as well, but the decline in his game was apparently while playing for the Red Devils. Schweinsteiger might have lost much of his energy, but he's still an important part of MLS side Chicago Fire. Some might've forgotten him, but Schweinsteiger is still wowing fans in the MLS with his dazzling ability.
7 Didier Drogba
Didier Drogba's contributions to Chelsea in the Premier League is something almost impossible to replicate, as he created some amazing moments for Chelsea fans and was a beloved figure at Chelsea. Drogba scored 100 goals for Chelsea and helped them win multiple League titles as well as playing an important part in their UEFA Champions League win in 2012. But after that euphoria, Drogba would start playing for small-time clubs as he had lost his powerful ability. What many fans might not know is that he's still playing these days for Phoenix Rising in the United Soccer League. Being 40 years of age, Drogba looks visibly exhausted these days, but his passion for soccer and financial requirements has compelled him to continue playing.
6 Iker Casillas
Iker Casillas had a legendary career at Real Madrid, with whom he was a part of for almost 16 years before moving on. Casillas won numerous league titles, UEFA Champions League titles and basically everything there is to win with Madrid. He also won the UEFA Euro's and FIFA World Cup in the national level, but his move to FC Porto in 2015 came as a surprise to many. That move has made Casillas go under the radar, with many fans not even remembering whether or not he plays anymore. But Casillas is a constant performer for FC Porto, using his experience and fantastic goalkeeper ability to help them attain success and even in his late 30s, Casillas is still solid in between the posts.
5 Robin Van Persie
Robin van Persie is still regarded as one of the greatest strikers in the Premier League era because of his terrific years of being a lethal striker for Arsenal and Manchester United. The Dutch striker scored more than 150 goals in the Premier League during his tenure at Arsenal and United and won the Premier League title in his first season with United. But his next years would show a bit of a decline in his game, as his age was catching up to him. Van Persie was sold to Fenerbahce and while some thought he retired after that, van Persie has proved them wrong as he's currently playing for his home club Feyenoord and rocking in goals as usual.
4 Wesley Sneijder
Wesley Sneijder had a glittering career playing for some of Europe's top clubs and while he wasn't really successful at Real Madrid, he went onto excel at Italian club Inter Milan. Sneijder was at his very peak at Inter, with whom he won the treble(League+Champions league+ Cup) in 2009-10 season. He also gave a terrific showing for Netherlands and helped them get into the finals of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and was one o the best players in the world that season. But Sneijder's stock has fallen over the past few years and after playing for some average club, he's still surprisingly playing for Qatari club Al-Gharafa. Some fans might've forgotten about him, but Sneijder's still playing on and impressing in Qatar.
3 Samuel Eto'o
Samuel Eto'o was an extremely dangerous striker during his time at Barcelona, where he formed a terrorizing partnership with Lionel Messi and continued giving defenses nightmares with his movement and an impressive eye for goal. Eto'o would go onto score 108 goals in 145 appearances for Barca and had a great tenure with them and later with Inter Milan, with the unbridled success keeping him as the best African player in the world for many years. But over the past few years, Eto'o has really fallen off the grid, which has made many forget about him. He's shockingly still playing at a Turkish club Konyaspor and with football being everything to him, Eto'o will continue playing for as long as he can.
Xavi's incredible career at Barcelona has given him the reputation of being one of the greatest Spanish players ever and the midfield maestro played a significant part in Barcelona's success a few years ago. Xavi won it all with Barcelona and was often named among runners-up to the Balon D'or as well, with many thinking that he should've won one. But when it was announced that Xavi would leave Barcelona after almost 18 years with the club, many thought that we'd never see him play again. Most fans presumed it to be Xavi's retirement, but the Spanish wizard has continued playing! Xavi has been playing for Qatari side, Al Sadd since leaving Barca and is silently trying to improve their reputation with his presence.
1 David Villa
David Villa's contribution to Spanish Soccer was immense as he not only succeeded at club level but also on the big stages. Villa scored five goals and played a big part in Spain's 2010 World Cup success, which established himself as a worldwide star. Villa excelled at Barcelona afterward, winning the La Liga and UEFA Champions League titles with them before having a short stint at Atletico Madrid. But his poor tenure at Atletico proved regression in his game, forcing Villa to move to MLS side New York City. While fans thought that he must've retired by now, Villa has surprisingly carried on playing and has scored 71 goals in over 100 appearances for them, proving how he's still gotten the majestic goal-scoring talent in him.