After 24 years in professional football, Zlatan Ibrahimovic has finally called time on his incredible playing career as one of the oldest footballers in history.
The legendary striker won a grand total of 34 trophies throughout his career, including the Europa League with Manchester United, the La Liga title with Barcelona, and Serie A titles with both AC Milan and Inter Milan. He also made 122 international appearances for Sweden, scoring 62 goals.
Very few footballers sustain a playing career for as long as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, let alone at the top level. However, some footballers have been known to keep playing even further into old age, as research from betting.com reveals.
Kazuyoshi Miura, 56
Known as ‘King Kazu’, the Japanese footballer is comfortably the oldest professional footballer of all time and is remarkably still playing.
Still showing no signs of slowing down, the 56-year-old was even awarded a man of the match award as recently as May 2023 for 2nd-tier Portuguese side Oliveirense.
As a testament to just how long Kazuyoshi Miura has been playing, the iconic forward made 89 international appearances for Japan, with his most recent one happening a whole 23 years ago in February 2000.
Paul Merson, 51
The popular Sky Sports pundit enjoyed a very successful playing career between 1985 and 2006, being a key player for the likes of Arsenal, Aston Villa, Portsmouth and more.
Since initially hanging up his boots in 2006, the former England international has made several brief comebacks from retirement. His most recent was a stint with London-based non-league side Hanworth Villa in 2020, for which the 51-year-old Paul Merson made two appearances. And he finally exited as one of the oldest footballers of all time.
Sir Stanley Matthews, 50
England great, Sir Stanley Matthews, remains the oldest man to ever appear for the Three Lions. He was aged 42 years and 103 days when he played for England against Denmark in May 1957.
A legend for both Blackpool and Stoke City, Matthews ended his career with the latter in 1965 at the age of 50. On 1 January 1965, he received a knighthood, making him the only footballer to receive the honour whilst still playing at professional level.
Sir Stanley Matthews is also one of very few footballers whose name is synonymous with a final. The famous Stanley Matthews final of 1953 saw the winger score a hattrick to help his Blackpool side lift the FA Cup at the expense of Bolton Wanderers.
Not to be confused with the ancient Greek philosopher, but in many ways just as legendary, former Brazil international Sócrates officially retired from football at the ripe old age of 50.
Aside from a stint with Fiorentina in 1984/85, Sócrates had spent the majority of his career with Brazilian clubs and had initially hung up his boots in 1989 at the age of 35.
However, in 2004, more than a decade after first retiring, the Brazilian legend agreed to a player-coach deal with English non-league club, Garforth Town. He made just one appearance that lasted 20 minutes with the Yorkshire-based side, who were playing in the ninth tier of English football at the time. That cameo role earns him a spot in the list of oldest footballers in history.
Teddy Sheringham, 49
One of England’s most prolific strikers, Teddy Sheringham is most famous for having played for Manchester United’s 1999 treble-winning side, as well as reaching over 200 appearances for both Tottenham Hotspur and Millwall.
Having initially called time on his playing days in 2008 at the age of 42, the former England international came back out of retirement in May 2015 by joining Stevenage. Sheringham was originally appointed by the then League Two side as a manager, but due to a shortage of players, a 49-year-old Sheringham registered himself as a player for the club – one of the oldest footballers the world will always remember.
Sheringham also remains the oldest man to score a goal in the Premier League, having hit the back of the net at the age of 40 years and 268 days while playing for West Ham, in a game against one of his former clubs, Portsmouth, on Boxing Day, 2006.
Peter Shilton, 47
In July 1990, goalkeeper Peter Shilton became the oldest man to ever play a World Cup game for England. He was 40 years and 292 days old when he featured in goal against Italy, and announced his retirement from international football soon after.
However, Shilton’s playing days would continue for seven more years in a bid to reach 1,000 games in professional football – a feat he eventually achieved with Leyton Orient in the 1996/97 season – at 47, now one of the oldest footballers of all time.
Essam El Hadary, 47
The Egyptian goalkeeper made history in 2018 by becoming the oldest man to ever play at the World Cup. He was 45 years and 161 days old when he featured between the sticks for Egypt in their group-stage game against Saudi Arabia. He also became the first African goalkeeper to save a penalty at a World Cup in the same game.
Essam El Hadary finally hung up his gloves in 2020, ending his career at the age of 47 with the Egyptian side, Nogoom.
Regarded by many as one of the greatest Brazilian footballers of all time, Rivaldo’s playing career lasted a whole 34 years between 1991 and 2015.
A serial winner, the forward player picked up a World Cup with Brazil, a Champions League with AC Milan and two La Liga’s with Barcelona, amongst many other trophies. He was also awarded the Ballon d’Or in 1999.
Rivaldo’s playing days ended in far less glamorous conditions, with stints at Angolan side Kabuscorp, plus lower league Brazilian clubs São Caetano and Mogi Mirim, before he officially retired at the age of 43.
Marco Ballotta, 43
Marco Ballotta still holds the record for being the oldest man to play in a Champions League game. The Italian goalkeeper was 43 years and 252 days old when he played for Lazio against Real Madrid in December 2007.
The safe pair of hands would retire later that season, as one of the oldest footballers in history, having made a total of 542 league appearances in Italy between 1982 and 2008.
Roger Milla, 43
Cameroon and general World Cup icon, Roger Milla, is synonymous with playing football at an older age, as he still holds the record for being the oldest man to score a goal at a World Cup. He was 42 years and 39 days old when he found the net at the 1994 World Cup in a group-stage game against Russia, in which his Cameroon team lost 6-1.
Milla kept playing football until he was 43 years old, opting to end his career in Indonesia with stints at Pelita Jaya and Putra Samarinda. Even in his forties, the striker managed to score more goals than he made appearances in the Indonesian league, bagging 51 goals in 45 games.
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