In a game so dominated by money, loyalty in football can be hard to come by. Even the most committed talent or boyhood supporter can be persuaded over to his league rivals for the right price. There is a rare title that exists amongst just a few of football’s elite, only gifted to those that rise in the ranks to claim their spot as a true local legend. One club players are the footballers who never left. Choosing to spend their entire playing (and sometimes managerial) careers at just one team, earning their place in folklore and city history for decades to come.
Here are five of football’s greatest one club players.
Goalkeeper, freekick taker and penalty specialist all in one? If that’s the question then there’s only one answer… Rogério Ceni.
The São Paulo player had an astonishing one club career. Spanning 25 years, Ceni put in just short of 1,200 appearances for the Brazilian top division side before his retirement at age 40.
Ceni’s trophy cabinet is littered with 20 domestic titles, 16 international caps, a World Cup and arguably the greatest goalkeeping achievement of all-time – ‘most goals scored by a goalkeeper’ with an astonishing 131.
One of the most decorated players to grace the English stage, Manchester United legend Ryan Giggs spent his entire playing career with the Red Devils. Brought up through the academy, Giggs was a vital part of Manchester United’s era of complete Premier League dominance of the 90s and 2000s.
A 23 year playing career eclipsed with a Managerial stint at the same team, Giggs took to the pitch a whopping 963 times. Subsequently winning almost every trophy possible whilst he was it. The only one club midfielder on the list, Paul Scholes obviously could have been included to but misses out on the ‘one per club’ rule.
Inevitably Giggs has the most appearances for once club in the Premier League with 632, though that isn’t the most Premier League appearances overall, with that honour going to Gareth Barry who had a massive 653.
Il Capitano was arguably the greatest defender that football has ever seen. 25 years propping up the Milan defence saw Paolo Maldini achieve an incredible 902 appearances, winning 7 league titles, 1 Coppa Italia, 5 European Cups, as well as a whole host of personal accolades.
Although recently overtaken by Buffon in each, Maldini also held records for most Italian international appearances, most games played as captain of Italy and most Serie A appearances of all time.
One of the Premier League’s greatest defenders, Jamie Carragher spent his entire playing career as Liverpool’s main defensive driving force. Born in Liverpool (although into an Evertonian supporting family) Carragher racked up an impressive 737 games for the Reds before retiring in 2013.
“Most games played for Liverpool in European football” is no easy achievement (149) and regardless of who you support, the Miracle of Istanbul has to go down as one of the greatest cup finals of all time – just don’t look into his career goal tally.
Behind his numerous achievements as manager of Middlesbrough, Sheffield United and the Republic of Ireland, is the great one club career of Jack Charlton.
629 appearances for Leeds United from 1952 to 1973, Charlton was a no nonsense stalwart who helped Leeds to their first ever Football League title in 1968.
His 20 year career brought about multiple titles for the Midlands side, as well as having a hand (literally) in England’s 1966 World Cup Victory. Although some would argue brother Bobby had a slightly great contribution.
He rounds off our list of the great one club players and, in Charlton’s immortal words, “Can we go now please? I’d like a beer”