You think football is just for the youth? The players on this list will prove otherwise to you. Here are 10 of the oldest players to have played professional football. Some of them are now retired, while some are still active. Let’s get straight to it!
Oldest Footballers to play professionally
Rivaldo is not only one of the greatest players to have ever played football, he is also one of the oldest players to have ever played professionally.
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He had a very illustrious career playing for clubs across Europe and in Brazil. He won the World Cup, UEFA Champions League, and the Ballon d’Or, so you can pretty much say the man did it all in football.
He finally retired in 2015 at the age of 43 after a very successful career which spanned 24 years.
9. Roger Milla
If you are old enough, you will surely remember this man and his epic goal celebration at the 1990 World Cup. Even if you weren’t alive then, that iconic celebration has been used in ads and commercials over the years including a Coca-Cola ad for the 2010 World Cup, so you must have seen it.
He was 38 in that 1990 World Cup where he scored 4 goals and set a record as the oldest goalscorer in World Cup history. He featured in the next World Cup at the age of 42, scored, and broke his own record. Till date, he remains the oldest goal scorer in the tournament’s history.
The Cameroonian went on to play for 2 more years after that, retiring at the age of 44 after a 29-year-long career.
8. Gianluigi Buffon
Of course, you knew this guy had to feature. This man was in PS 1 and has made it all the way to PS 5. What a legend!
Buffon is currently 44 and is still going strong at the top level. He finally went full circle in 2021 when he went back to Parma, his boyhood club. But prior to that, Gigi had done it all in football. Okay, except the Champions League. But this man won the World Cup, 10 league titles, 12 Goalkeeper of the Year awards, listen, the list is endless.
Till today, the 44-year-old still stands as the only goalkeeper to have won the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year and the first ever goalkeeper to win the Golden Foot award.
Basically, Buffon is not only one of the oldest active players, he is one of the most successful active players. With about 30 trophies and a series of individual awards in over 1,100 games played, this elder statesman is really a legend of the game.
But do you know that Buffon is not even the oldest Italian goalkeeper to have played professional football? There’s a man called Andrea Pierobon.
7. Andrea Pierobon
Andrea did not have anything close to the career Buffon had, but he played till he was 46 years old. His 28-year-long career saw him move to different clubs in Italy including SPAL and Venezia.
Till today, Andrea still stands as not only the oldest goalkeeper, but the oldest professional player in Italian football history.
But well, with Buffon having clocked 44 in January, can he go on to break Pierobon’s record and become the oldest ever footballer in Italian history? He will have to play professionally for 2 more years if he is to achieve that. Do you think he can do that?
But we cannot speak of elderly goalkeepers without mentioning the Egyptian legend…
6. Essam El Hadary
El Hadary is currently the oldest player to have ever played in the World Cup. He featured in the 2018 edition in Russia at the age of 45. In addition to that, he is also the oldest player to have debuted at the World Cup.
The Egyptian’s gloves from his match against Saudi Arabia currently sit in the FIFA World Football Museum both for being the oldest player in the history of the competition and for being the first African goalkeeper to save a penalty at the World Cup.
He retired from international football after that World Cup as the player with the most AFCON titles. He, however, went on to play until 2020 for his club. And that meant that El Hadary played professionally until he was 47 years old.
5. Francesco Flachi
This Italian forward started playing senior team football in 1993 and is still playing. So, that means he has had a 29-year-long career, right?
In 2006, some amount of cocaine was found in his system, and that earned him a 2-year suspension.
He came back to active football in 2009, and in 2010, he tested positive for cocaine again. This time, it earned him a 12-year ban. He was about 35 then, so we all thought that was it for Flachi and his footballing career.
But he shocked us when he made a return to football in February 2022 at almost 47 years of age.
The determination to still come back to playing at that age after 12 years out is simply astonishing.
The late Brazilian legend played professional football at the age of 50. Yes, 50! He played club football in Brazil, Italy, and England and scored 125 goals in more than 300 appearances.
He never really won anything playing for the Brazilian senior team but he made it to the country’s Football Hall of Fame. So, surely a legend.
But you know what’s funny about this man’s story? He had initially retired in 1989 at the age of 35. But 15 years later, Socrates sprung up from nowhere and signed with Garforth Town in England playing a game for them at the age of 50.
3. Stanley Matthews
Here, we have the first player to win the Ballon d’Or. Matthews, just like Socrates, played till he was 50. And that made him the oldest player to have ever played in the English top flight.
Sir Stanley Matthews was the first ever footballer to be knighted and is still the only player to have been knighted while still actively playing football.
On top of that, till date, he still stands as the oldest player to have ever been awarded the Ballon d’Or, after receiving the inaugural award at the age of 41. So, that is to say that Matthews did not just play till he was old, he played excellently.
Will Cristiano or Messi be able to break his record and become the oldest player to win the Ballon d’Or? Ronaldo will have to win the award in 2027, while Messi will have to win it in 2029 to be able to break that record. Hm. That does not seem very achievable, but we just cannot write those 2 off, can we?
2. Kazuyoshi Miura
Now, we get to the oldest active footballer. Kazuyoshi Miura is currently 54 years old and is still playing for Suzuka Point Getters, a football club in the Japan Football League, on loan from Yokohama FC.
Miura is currently 55 and has been playing professionally for 36 years now. Yes, he has been playing senior team football since before Lionel Messi was born. How phenomenal!
Of course, you expect a player like this to hold numerous records. And he definitely does. He is the oldest goalscorer in the Japanese League, he is the only footballer to have played in 5 different decades, and he is also the player with the longest ever football career in the history of the sport.
And no, he is not a goalkeeper, he is not even a defender. Kazuyoshi Miura is a forward and has scored about 200 goals in his very long career.
So, if this man is the oldest active footballer, who then makes our number 1?
Well, before we get to that, here are some honorable mentions:
- Ryan Giggs – played for Manchester United till he was 40.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic – still playing for AC Milan at 40 years old and is currently the oldest outfield player in Serie A.
- Lee Grant – currently the oldest player in the Premier League at 39.
- Thiago Silva – currently the oldest outfield player in the Premier League and also the oldest goalscorer in the PL this season at 37.
1. Eez Eldin Badher
This Egyptian grandfather is the current Guinness World Record holder for the oldest player in the history of football.
From when he was just a kid, Eez had always wanted to play football, but he just never went pro. He played recreationally when he was a kid, but then he never pursued football as a career.
However, after he had gone to school, got a job as a civil engineer, started a family, and even had grandkids, Badher’s football dream came alive again, and this time, he was determined to go all the way.
He was in his 70s, but he was not going to let age stop him. He trained for months, and applied to football clubs until he was finally chosen by an Egyptian tier-3 side named October 6.
Now, bear in mind that for him to get the record of being the oldest player in the history of football, he had to have completed 2 90-minute games. And well, in his first full match in early 2020, he scored a very vital goal to secure a draw for his side.
Later that year, the Egyptian went on to complete his second full game and was honored with his record at 75 years of age. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a man with a dream.
If you have a dream, make sure to pursue it till you achieve your goal. And no, you’re never too old for whatever you want to do if you really put your mind to it.