Football, as a competitive sport, is not kind to the passage of time. With the average footballer retiring at around 35 years of age, the options after this point become limited for many players. Many become managers or pundits, whilst others quit the sport altogether. However, some players defy the odds and continue to represent their teams well beyond the average career expectancy. We looked at the biggest football leagues to find the oldest active footballers in the world.
- The oldest active footballers in the world’s biggest leagues are Betis’ Joaqúin, Fluminense’s Fábio, and Boavista’s Rafael Bracali, all at 41 years of age.
- The oldest active footballer in the English Premier League is Southampton’s Willy Caballero, at 40 years of age.
- Brazil’s Série A is the big football league with the highest number of players over the age of 35 – an impressive 26.
- Germany’s Bundesliga is the big football league with the lowest number of players over the age of 35 – only 3.
Seeking to find the oldest footballer that is still active in August of 2022, let us first comprised a seed list of the world’s 10 biggest football leagues (based on value) using transfermarkt, and then sifted through data to determine – who are the world’s oldest active footballers in the big league, and where do they play?
The oldest active footballers in the world
|Rank||Player||Age||Position||National team||Current team||League|
|=1||Rafael Bracali||41||Goalkeeper||Brazil||Boavista||Liga Portugal|
|=4||Willy Caballero||40||Goalkeeper||Argentina||Southampton||Premier League|
|=4||Diego López||40||Goalkeeper||Spain||Rayo Vallecano||LaLiga|
|=4||Zlatan Ibrahimović||40||Striker||Sweden||AC Milan||Serie A|
|=7||Fábio Quagliarella||39||Forward||Italy||Sampdoria||Serie A|
|=7||Franck Ribéry||39||Winger||France||Salernitana||Serie A|
|=7||Felipe Melo||39||Defensive Midfielder||Brazil||Fluminense||Série A|
|=7||Pepe||39||Centre Back||Portugal||Porto||Liga Portugal|
We can reveal that there is a three-way tie between the oldest active footballers throughout the world’s biggest football leagues. Spanish winger and Betis legend Joaquín, along with Fluminense’s Fábio and Boavista’s Rafael Bracali all share the top spot, at 41 years of age.
The only English Premier League player in the top 10 is Southampton’s Argentine goalkeeper Willy Caballero, at 40 years of age. He shares this spot with footballing legend Zlatan Ibrahimović. The Swedish striker is still at the top of his game, and helped lead AC Milan to their 19th Serie A title last season.
Other recognisable names make it onto the top 10, at 39 years of age: players like former Bayern Munich star Franck Ribéry and notoriously hot-headed Portuguese defender Pepe.
Three of the world’s oldest active footballers are Spanish, a nation which was ranked healthiest in the world in 2019. Perhaps it is this that allows their footballers to remain active all the way into their early 40s. Brazil is another nation that features thrice on the table.
The data reveals to us that of the oldest active footballers, the majority are Goalkeepers. There are many possible reasons for this position’s longevity when compared to outfield players – principally, that goalkeepers are the only players on the pitch who don’t require good pace, something that fades naturally with age.
The oldest active footballers in the English Premier League
|Rank||Player||Age||Position||National team||Current team|
|=3||Cristiano Ronaldo||37||Forward||Portugal||Manchester United|
|=3||Thiago Silva||37||Centre Back||Brazil||Chelsea|
|=3||Ashley Young||37||Winger / Full Back||England||Aston Villa|
|=3||Łukasz Fabiański||37||Goalkeeper||Poland||West Ham United|
We can reveal that at 40 years of age, the Saints’ Willy Caballero is the oldest active footballer currently playing in the English Premier League. The Argentine international plays as a backup goalkeeper for Southampton.
In second place is another backup goalkeeper – 38-year-old Andrew Lonergan, who plays for Everton.
One of this generation’s most prolific players follows in the ranking. Manchester United’s frustrated legend Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the club last year, and at 37 years of age, may possibly retire there. He shares this ranking with three other recognizable Premier League faces: Chelsea’s Thiago Silva, Aston Villa’s Ashley Young, and West Ham’s Łukasz Fabiański, all also 37 years old.
How many over 35s play in the world’s biggest football leagues?
|Rank||League||Country||Number of players over 35|
The data shows us that out of the world’s 10 biggest football leagues, it is Brazil’s Série A which has the highest number of older players, with 26 footballers over the average retirement age of 35. For players looking to continue their careers at this stage in life, it might be a good option then to relocate to the South American nation, where América Mineiro, Atlético Mineiro, Avaí, and Flamengo top the rankings as the clubs with the highest amount over 35s in their squads (three each).
The Série A is followed in second by the American MLS, with 16 over 35s. The US league has long been a popular destination for players who are past their competitive prime. Just this year we saw beloved Italian defender Giorgio Chiellini make the move to join Los Angeles FC, which Gareth Bale also chose as his post-European football home.
The German Bundesliga comes in last, with only 3 players over the age of 35 currently active.
Source: This report is conducted by Voetbal Travel. All the views or opinions expressed in this article are their own.