Football Features

Football icons you (probably) didn’t realise are still playing

By Chris Smith

Published: 14:26, 11 May 2019

After passing their prime years, some players simply call it a day and allow their image within the game to remain untarnished.

However, others choose to keep the flame alive. Whether it be for a final payday or a chance to just carry on playing the game they love, some veterans will travel to any far-flung destination just to have the chance to walk across the white line and keep kicking a ball about.

And right now, there is quite a long list of iconic players – Champions League winners, serial goalscorers and cult heroes alike – still plying their trade across the globe.

At Squawka, we’ve listed eight of the best.

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1. Lucio

Age: 41

Current club: Brasiliense-DF

Lucio has had a trophy-laden career in which he’s won Bundesliga titles, Serie A crowns and the 2010 Champions League, as well as a World Cup with Brazil, and many of you will be shocked to know he’s still going.

In April 2018, the Brazilian ended a four-month break from the game to join Brasiliense-DF in his homeland’s fourth tier and has stated his ‘love of the game’ is too strong to allow him to stay away.

“What motivates me to keep playing is my love for football, the joy that I can keep training, the motivation of waking up every day in good health,” he explained just before his short spell out. “Obviously, I have played for big clubs and won big titles but, for me, the day-to-day is important. The moment is important. And passing on my experience to the other players – from the time I spent at big clubs abroad and with the Seleção is fundamental.”

2. David Villa

Age: 37

Current club: Vissel Kobe

After spending years as one of Spain and Europe’s most feared strikers with Valencia, Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, many thought David Villa’s move to MLS side New York City FC (NYCFC) would simply see him fade into obscurity.

Far from it. With Champions League and La Liga titles already under his belt, as well as a tonne of individual honours, Villa bagged 82 goals in 130 games in America’s top flight, winning MLS’ 2016 MVP award.

The now 37-year-old left NYCFC at the end of last season to join Japanese side, Vissel Kobe. Playing alongside fellow Spaniards Andres Iniesta and Sergi Samper, as well as German Lukas Podolski, Villa has four goals in eight games so far. Not bad for an old timer.

3. Samuel Eto’o

Age: 38

Current club: Qatar SC

Samuel Eto’o won a host of league titles and Champions League crowns with Barcelona and Inter Milan back in the day and truly was an icon of the game. An absolute force to be reckoned with.

However, since leaving Inter in 2013, the ex-Cameroon international has been the ultimate nomad, taking in Anzhi, Chelsea, Everton, Sampdoria, Antalyaspor, Konyaspor and, now, Qatar SC.

Eto’o has six goals in 18 games in the Middle East so far but even at 38-years-old remains a wildly unpredictable character. There’s no telling where he’ll end up next.

4. Carlos Tevez

Age: 35

Current club: Boca Juniors

Carlos Tevez has some absolute giants of the game on his CV, including Manchester United, Manchester City and Juventus, mopping up league titles, cups and a Champions League along the way.

However, none may resonate more with the striker than Boca Juniors in his native Argentina, a club at which he is now at his third spell.

Tevez has 10 goals in 36 games so far in his current stint at Boca and played a key role in them reaching last season’s Copa Libertadores final. Tevez was on the losing side after the second leg of the final was delayed and moved to Madrid following horrendous crowd trouble in Buenos Aires, with River Plate fans attacking the Boca Juniors bus.

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5. Michael Essien

Age: 36

Current club: Sabail

Remember when Michael Essien used to stomp around the Chelsea midfield, making tackles and scoring screamers? Of course, you do.

It might seem like an age ago now but Essien is still going, just. Following spells with AC Milan, Panathinaikos and Persib Bandung in Indonesia, the Ghanaian is now plying his trade with Sabail in Azerbaijan, although he hasn’t been pulling up too many trees.

Essien recently returned to Chelsea to train and build up his fitness, even getting involved with the club’s women’s team in rondo drills.

“He was not holding back one bit,” said striker Erin Cuthbert. “We were doing rondos, where you have one or two players in the middle of a circle trying to intercept the ball, and he was flying around the place and doing nutmegs and all sorts.”

6. Massimo Maccarone

Age: 39

Current club: Carrarese

Big Mac: League Cup winner and Uefa Cup runner-up with Middlesbrough and an ultimate cult hero in the northeast.

After his beloved time with Boro came to an end in 2007, Maccarone went on a pit-stop tour around Italy, turning out for the likes of Siena, Palermo and Sampdoria, with varying degrees of success.

The striker had a short spell with Brisbane Roar in Australia before signing for Italian Serie C side, Carrarese in 2018 but regardless of his adventures, it’s obvious Maccarone still has a soft spot for Middlesbrough.

When Maccarone does finally hang up his boots, he plans to head back to Middlesbrough.

“For me, every year I say I want to go back to Middlesbrough, I’ve never been back since I left,” he told Teesside Live last year.

“I always speak to Italian families from Middlesbrough who I am friends with, they’ve invited me many times.

“I always say, ‘next year, next year’ and I’ve never come. Maybe next year when I retire. I would like to go back one day and, I don’t know, maybe go out onto the pitch in front of the fans.”

7. Tim Howard

Age: 40

Current club: Colorado Rapids

Tim Howard currently sits joint-seventh alongside Edwin van der Sar and compatriot Brad Friedel in the Premier League’s all-time clean sheets list with 132, while we all remember his ridiculous performance against Belgium in the 2014 World Cup where he made a tournament record 15 saves in a single match.

Since leaving Everton in 2016, Howard has been turning out for MLS side Colorado Rapids. Although the club has had plenty of struggles on the pitch during that time, 40-year-old Howard remains the club’s first-choice stopper. The former Manchester United ‘keeper looks set to finally call it a day when the MLS season finishes at the end of 2019.

8. Asamoah Gyan

Age: 33

Current club: Kayserispor

Despite things never quite taking off during his time in England with Sunderland, Asamoah Gyan is still regarded as an icon in his native Ghana.

The 33-year-old is his nation’s record goalscorer, netting 51 times, and is still going strong with the Black Stars, even preparing for this summer’s African Cup of Nations. If he were to net there, that would take him to an incredible record of scoring in 10 separate international tournaments.

At domestic level, Gyan now turns out for Turkish side, Kayserispor, who finished ninth in last season’s Super Lig.