Soccer players reach their peak in their mid-20s and start declining in their early 30s. Often though, goalkeepers tend to last longer.
But advancement in sports science, nutrition, and training regimes has been helping footballers to extend their playing careers in modern times.
In fact, some even get better with age — using their experience to further improve their game and even surpass younger players.
In this article, TOP SOCCER BLOG presents you with the top 10 best soccer players that are over 35 years old but still playing.
1. Lionel Messi (35 years old)
Widely regarded as the greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi has won a record 7 Ballon d’Or awards.
The Argentine is on course to win an unprecedented 8th Ballon d’Or after leading Argentina to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup — at the grand age of 35.
At the tournament, Messi won the Golden Ball for a record second time and also broke the record for most appearances in World Cup tournaments (26 matches).
The 35-year-old is also the footballer with the most individual awards, and might also become the most decorated soccer player before he retires.
2. Cristiano Ronaldo (37 years old)
Widely regarded as one of the greatest players of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo has won 5 Ballon d’Or awards and 4 European Golden Shoes, the most by a European player.
The Portuguese is undoubtedly among the best soccer players of all time.
He has won 32 trophies in his career so far — including 7 league titles, 5 UEFA Champions Leagues, the UEFA European Championship, and the UEFA Nations League.
Having starred for the likes of Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus, Ronaldo joined Saudi Arabian football club, Al-Nassr, this month at the grand age of 37.
The move made CR7 the highest-paid footballer in the world.
3. Luka Modrić (37 years old)
The greatest ever Croatian footballer, Luka Modric, is also regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of all time.
He has won 21 major trophies at Real Madrid, including 5 UEFA Champions League titles, 3 La Liga titles, 1 Copa del Rey, and 4 FIFA Club World Cup titles.
In 2018, Modrić became the first Croatian player to win the UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award after sensationally leading Croatia to the FIFA World Cup final.
Furthermore, he won the FIFA Best Player and Ballon d’Or awards that same year — becoming the first player other than Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo to claim the awards in more than a decade.
At 37, Luka Modric is still excelling at the highest level, and is said to be one of the best midfielders in the world right now.
4. Thiago Silva (38 years old)
Considered one of the best defenders of his generation, Thiago Silva is known for his defensive prowess, discipline, and leadership.
There were huge doubts about his adaptation to the Premier League when he signed for Chelsea on a free transfer in 2020, aged 36.
But the Brazilian helped the Blues win the UEFA Champions League in his first season at the club.
Now 38, he is still an integral member of the Chelsea first team.
And even among the talented crop of players in the Brazilian national team, Thiago Silva is also one of the best Brazilian soccer players at the moment.
5. Manuel Neuer (36 years old)
Manuel Neuer is regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers in the history of soccer.
He is famous as a “sweeper-keeper” because of his playing style and speed when rushing off his line to anticipate opponents, and going out of the goalkeeper box.
The German was named the best goalkeeper of the decade from 2011 to 2020 by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS).
He joined Bayern Munich in 2011 and has since won 28 trophies, including 10 Bundesliga titles and 2 UEFA Champions League titles (2013 and 2020) — both as part of Trebles.
Neuer won the 2014 FIFA World Cup with Germany as well as the Golden Glove award for being the Best Goalkeeper of the Tournament.
That same year, he finished third in the Ballon d’Or award race — behind Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.
Now 36, Neuer is the captain of both Bayern Munich and the German national team.
And despite being one of the soccer players over 35, he is still one of the best goalkeepers in the German Bundesliga.
6. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (41 years old)
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is regarded as one of the greatest strikers of all time and is one of the most decorated active footballers in the world — having won 34 trophies in his career so far.
The Swede has scored over 570 career goals (including more than 500 club goals) and has scored in each of the last four decades.
At 41, Ibrahimovic won the Serie A title with AC Milan last year.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic is incredibly among the oldest soccer players still playing soccer.
7. David Silva (37 years old)
Nicknamed “El Mago” (Magician) by teammates and fans, David Silva is considered to be one of the greatest midfielders of his generation.
He is one of Manchester City’s greatest-ever players, having won 4 Premier League titles, 2 FA Cups, and 5 League Cups with the club.
When he was 33 years old, Silva became the fastest (and youngest) player to reach 200 Premier League wins.
Now 37, he is currently playing for La Liga club, Real Sociedad.
Nonetheless, there are rumours that David Silva could be among the soccer players retiring in 2023, but we hope it isn’t true.
8. Karim Benzema (35 years old)
Karim Benzema is Real Madrid’s all-time 2nd-highest goalscorer and top assist provider.
The French striker has won 23 trophies with Madrid — including 4 La Liga, 2 Copa del Rey, and 5 UEFA Champions League titles.
His exceptional performances in 2021/22 saw him win the UEFA Player of the Year and the Ballon d’Or.
At 34 years and 302 days old, Benzema became the 2nd-oldest player to win the Ballon d’Or — after Stanley Matthews.
9. Luis Suarez (35 years old)
Luis Suarez is regarded as one of the best players of his generation and one of the greatest strikers of all time.
The Uruguayan won 2 European Golden Shoes, an Eredivisie Golden Boot, a Premier League Golden Boot, and a La Liga Golden Boot.
Now 35, the January-born Suarez currently plays for Brazilian side Gremio.
He has already cemented his status as one of the greatest Uruguayan soccer players of all-time, and one best-evers finishers in history.
10. Olivier Giroud (36)
A late bloomer, Oliver Giroud only started playing top-flight football at the age of 24.
He has since excelled at Montpellier, Arsenal, Chelsea, and now AC Milan.
Moreso, Giroud only made his senior international debut for France when he was 25 years old.
But has since earned 120 caps, including appearing in 6 major tournaments — winning the FIFA World Cup in 2018.
Olivier Giroud is France’s all-time top goalscorer, and currently one of the best French soccer players.
Now 36, he is currently the captain of the national team after Hugo Lloris’ retirement from international football.
- Hugo Lloris (36 years)
- Diego Godin (36 years)
- Sergio Ramos (36 years)
- Dimitri Payet (35 years)
- Jamie Vardy (36 years)
- Álvaro Negredo (37 years)
- Radamel Falcao (36 years)
- Edinson Cavani (35 years)
- Anzdres Iniesta (38 years)
- Dimitri Payet (35 years)
- Giorgio Chiellini (38 years)
- Ashley Young (37 years)
- James Milner (36 years).
As a seasoned sports enthusiast with a deep understanding of soccer and its intricacies, I bring a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the discussion. My extensive experience in following the sport, coupled with a keen interest in the advancements of sports science, nutrition, and training methodologies, allows me to analyze and appreciate the nuances of soccer players' careers, especially as they age.
Now, delving into the concepts presented in the article about soccer players over 35 who are still actively playing, it's evident that the narrative centers around the evolving dynamics of player longevity in football. Let's break down the key concepts:
Peak Performance and Aging in Soccer: The introduction rightly points out that soccer players typically reach their peak in their mid-20s and start declining in their early 30s. However, advancements in sports science, nutrition, and training have contributed to players extending their careers.
Top 10 Soccer Players Over 35: The main focus of the article is on showcasing exceptional soccer players who are over 35 but continue to excel on the field. The list includes iconic players such as Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modrić, Thiago Silva, Manuel Neuer, Zlatan Ibrahimović, David Silva, Karim Benzema, Luis Suárez, and Olivier Giroud.
Individual Achievements: The article highlights individual achievements of these players, such as Messi winning a record 7 Ballon d'Or awards, Ronaldo's numerous accolades, Modrić's UEFA Men’s Player of the Year Award, and Neuer's recognition as one of the greatest goalkeepers in history.
Late Bloomers and Career Prolongation: Noteworthy mentions include players like Olivier Giroud, who started playing top-flight football at 24 and became France's all-time top goalscorer. This emphasizes that players can have successful careers even if they enter the elite level later than their peers.
Club Transfers and Achievements: The article details the clubs these players have been associated with, underscoring the global nature of football. Transfers like Ronaldo joining Al-Nassr and Ibrahimović winning the Serie A title with AC Milan at the age of 41 are highlighted.
International Success: Several players mentioned, such as Messi, Modrić, and Giroud, have achieved success on the international stage, winning major tournaments like the FIFA World Cup and UEFA European Championship.
Speculations and Retirement Rumors: The article briefly touches upon rumors of players like David Silva potentially retiring in 2023, adding an element of uncertainty and anticipation for fans.
Honorable Mentions: The inclusion of honorable mentions showcases that there are several other notable players over 35 who continue to make significant contributions to the sport.
In conclusion, the article paints a vivid picture of how modern soccer players are defying traditional age-related expectations, with many continuing to perform at the highest level well into their 30s and beyond. The achievements and stories of these players serve as a testament to the evolving landscape of professional soccer.