When it comes to loyalty in the game today, there are very few players who are able to pledge their allegiance. This is down to a number of different factors that defenders and attackers must take into consideration. The game has now emerged as global business entity where players have the opportunity to make a wad of cash. From sponsorship endorsements to boot deals, footballers have a plethora of options as far as making money is concerned. In fact, players are being governed more and more by their agents who also want to dip their toe in the fiscal honey pot.
It is certainly a time when players rather than clubs dictate what takes place, whilst contracts are becoming a thing of the past. Gone are the days when one individual would remain at a club for a significant period of time. This has been replaced with a host of money making incentives where players can enjoy the fruits of labour. This includes the likes of goal scoring bonuses not to mention number of appearances and even a stake in shirt sales.
One of the most astute players to have exploited his footballing brand has to go to David Beckham. After spells with Manchester United and Real Madrid, the boy from Leytonstone earned in excess of a quarter of a million dollars with LA Galaxy. This is coupled with his exclusive deals over the years with some of the most premium brands in the world such as Armani, Samsung and Diet Coke.
It just goes to show the influence and reach of Beckham but amidst the dollar signs and tinted Maybachs, there are still some players who have remained fiercely loyal throughout their career. We recently published a list of players who played for just one club throughout their careers, however that list only featured retired players. Here, we will also include current players who have remained loyal to their clubs. Here is the rundown of the Top 10 Most Loyal Players Of All Time.
10. Leon Osman
Pushing into his 30’s, Evertonian midfielder Leon Osman is one to definitely count on. The robust player has been a very loyal servant for the Merseyside club and has been a part of the club from an early stage. In fact, Osman came through the youth ranks and has gone on to become a genuine fans favourite at Goodison Park. He emerged on to the first team scene at the start of the 2004-05 season and has never looked back since. A real stalwart in the heart of the Everton midfield, Osman was rewarded for his loyalty with a testimonial against FC Porto.
9. Francesco Totti
The term legend is often thrown around in today’s footballing society. However, there is one man that this certainly can be attributed to. In spite of being in the autumn of his career, Francesco Totti has spent the best part of two decades at AS Roma. He has been the skipper of the Italian side for several years and is still defying the odds despite being into his late 30’s. Considered to be one of the finest strikers in his day, Totti is adored by the fans for his true never say die attitude. Playing his entire career in the Italian capital, he is the top goal scorer and has also made the most appearances for the club. Furthermore, Totti has won a host of trophies whilst at Roma featuring the World Cup.
8. Carles Puyol
Former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol is again testament to undeniable faith. He certainly merits being in the list thanks to his loyal service to FC Barcelona. His incredible versatility has seen him adapt to numerous positions along the back four. One of the most recognizable players, his Samson like locks ensured he was a real menace whilst on the field of play.
His tough no nonsense tackling made Puyol a firm favourite at the Camp Nou. Since he signed for the Catalan club at just 17, Puyol has won the lot at Barcelona including La Liga and a handful of UEFA Champions League trophies. Unfortunately due to injury, Puyol eventually called it a day and hung up his boots last year. In the last few weeks, he has left the club after a brief stint as Barcelona’s assistant sports director.
7. John Terry
Whether a lover or a hater, John Terry has been among some of the most loyal players of recent time. The Chelsea centre back has been a part of the Blues set up for more than 15 years. Ever since he came on to the scene in 1998, Terry has been an instrumental figure in Chelsea’s defensive displays. On the other hand, he has been involved in their most successful period under Portuguese manager Jose Mourinho. This featured capturing three Premier league titles as well as four FA Cups to boot. For Terry, Stamford Bridge has certainly been a permanent fixture over the years and is still putting in impressive displays despite knocking on in years.
6. Steven Gerrard
This Anfield icon will soon be saying his final farewell to The Kop but there is no denying the impact that Steven Gerrard has had on Liverpool. For more than a decade, he has been a regular first team choice on the team sheet. This midfield maestro has also been involved in some of the most dramatic moments in the club’s history.
This features the memorable three nil comeback against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League Final and the injury time winner in the FA Cup against West Ham.The notion of a one club man is sadly lacking today but Gerrard is the true essence of this idea. Gerrard’s appeal and general like abilities have carried Liverpool in some games and will be sorely missed when he departs for the MLS in the summer. With more than 400 appearances to his name, Gerrard will no doubt go down in the history books as one of the finest Liverpool players of all time.
5. Paul Scholes
This pint sized midfielder is worthy of plenty of praise for his loyalty. After a career spanning close to two decades, former Manchester United player Paul Scholes is the epitome of being faithful. His faithful service to the Red Devils runs deep and goes right back to his days in the youth ranks. At the time, the red headed magician was part of the same side that featured the likes of David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs.
Scholes could control a game from start to finish and his pinpoint passing earned him the nickname of “Sat Nav”. He even came out of retirement when United were in a midfield pickle just a few years ago. With impeccable timing of the highest order, Scholes had the ability to get into the box at the right time. Whilst under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson, Scholes captured a myriad of trophies. This included the Champions League, FA Cups and several Premier League titles.
4. Javier Zanetti
For almost 20 years, Argentine defender and midfielder Javier Zanetti was an integral part of the Inter Milan squad. Since his introduction to the San Siro back in 1995, Zanetti has achieved legendary status among the fans. He is most notable for his versatility and adaptability to change positions at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile, he was involved in the prestigious treble which Inter won under Jose Mourinho in 2010. At nearly 40 years of age, Zanetti eventually called it a day in the blue and black stripes but has been part of more than 700 games for the club. His legacy includes being one of the all-time record appearance holders for Inter behind Giuseppe Bergomi.
3. Gary Neville
Another member of the famous youth team at Manchester United, Gary Neville was a key figure for the Red Devils during his playing career. In fact red run through his veins so much that there was simply no other club for the former United right back. Having made his debut back in the mid 90’s for Manchester United, Neville never looked back. He flourished in the youth ranks and was soon launched into the team by Sir Alex Ferguson. He made an incredible 602 appearances and played alongside some legendary figures such as Eric Cantona and Roy Keane. Neville’s passion coupled with his trophy haul and consistent defensive performances ensures he will go down as one of the greatest United defenders in history.
2. Paolo Maldini
One of the most committed defenders bar none, Paolo Maldini is another iconic figure to be hailed. The former defender spent more than twenty four glorious seasons at the San Siro playing for Italian giants AC Milan. The left back was also two footed and he provided a sense of reassurance every time he received the ball. Constantly being voted as one of the all-time greatest players, Maldini’s loyalty never wavered in spite of several big money offers. He appeared for AC Milan on more than 900 separate occasions and is their current record appearance holder. After retiring in 2009, the number three shirt worn by Maldini was retired on a permanent basis as a fitting tribute.
1. Ryan Giggs
Without question the most decorated player in English football history, Ryan Giggs is a soccer god among mortal men. The Welshman joined Manchester United at just the tender age of 14 as Ryan Wilson. After being signed by Sir Alex Ferguson from Manchester City’s School of Excellence, the rest as they say is history. Born in Cardiff, the Welsh international scored at least goal in more than 20 seasons in the Premier League. His tricky wing play, technical ability has dazzled many a player over the course of his career. It is extremely rare these days to find an individual who is so committed to one club like Giggs. Not only will he be remembered for his emphatic loyalty but his array of goals.
One of the most famous was the scintillating solo effort against Arsenal in the 1999 FA Cup semi-final. This was to be Giggs’ crowning glory as he helped United on to achieving the unique treble in the same season. When he came on as a substitute in the 2008 UEFA Champions League Final, Giggs broke the appearance record for the Red Devils. He surpassed that of Sir Bobby Charlton and in total played a mind boggling 963 games for the club. His personal trophy collection includes 13 Premier League titles, 2 Champions Leagues and numerous FA Cups among other silverware.
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