Classic One Club Men
They stuck with a single club for their entire career, often resulting in cult or legendary status amongst their fans.
They are the one club men.
However, with many modern footballers now getting the opportunity to have bumper, career-ending contracts in China, the Middle-East, and America, the likelihood is that we'll see fewer and fewer one club men as the years go on.
So here's a celebration of forty of our favourite one club men, in no particular order...
No.3 Ryan Giggs Manchester United 1990-2014
No.5 Rogério Ceni São Paulo 1992-2015
When it comes to one club men, Ceni is the daddy.
He made his debut for São Paulo on the 25th June, 1993. 22 years, and 1297 appearances later, he finally retired, on the 6th December 2015. A world record 1297 appearances for the same club is one thing, but scoring 131 goals when you're a goalkeeper is just ridiculous! Yes, you read that correctly. Ceni became famous not only for his career longevity, but also for his goals from the penalty spot or free-kicks. Indeed, such were his goal-scoring stats for São Paulo that it's only fair that Ceni is quite rightly ranked as one of football's greatest free-kick specialists, an incredible label for a goalkeeper. It's hard to imagine this, or his record number of appearances for a single club, being challenged in the near future.
No.6 Franco Baresi Milan 1977-97
20 years with the Rossoneri from 1977-97, and more than 500 games.
No wonder Milan retired the no.6 shirt in his honour.
No.7 Sepp Maier Bayern Munich 1962-80
No.8 Billy Wright Wolves 1939-59
A great centre-half, he made his debut for Wolves aged 15 in 1939 and played until 1959, missing only 31 matches in the 1950s!
No.9 Francesco Totti Roma 1992-2017
Francesco Totti could well be one of the last of the truly great one-club-men.
His first match for the Giallorossi was as a 16 year old in March 1993.
And Totti's final match for Roma was as a 40 year old in May 2017!
When it comes to footballers' nicknames most players are lucky if they get just one in their honour, but Totti's time in Rome spawned a whole host of them, so as well as a few standard ones such as "Er Bimbo de Oro" (the Golden Boy), and "Il Capitano" (the Captain), he also had a few relating to The Eternal City itself: "L'Ottavo Re di Roma" (the Eighth King of Rome), and "Il Gladiatore" (the Gladiator).
No.10 Aleksandre Chivadze Dinamo Tbilisi 1974-87
Iconic, moustache-owning defender from the 1970s and 80s. Chivadze had a great career with Dinamo Tbilisi, winning the Soviet league title, the Soviet cup, the European UEFA Cup Winners Cup and the Soviet Player of the Year award during his thirteen years at the Dinamo Stadium.
No.11 Nílton Santos Botafogo 1948-64
One of the world's first great attacking full-backs, Santos made more than 700 appearances in the shirt of "the Lone Star".
No.12 Nené Benfica 1968-86
The Portuguese striker had a phenomenal 18 year career with Benfica, resulting in ten league titles, seven cups, and more than 350 goals, from 1968 to 1986.
No.13 Paolo Maldini Milan 1984-2009
An all-time great. 25 seasons with the Rossoneri (1985-09). 902 apps. 647 in Serie A. The number 3 shirt retired in his honour.
When people speak about one club men, Paolo Maldini is always one of the first players to spring to mind.
No.14 Lev Yashin Dynamo Moscow 1950-70
Between the sticks from 1950 to 1970, the Russian legend even played in goals for Dynamo's ice hockey team.
No.15 Nat Lofthouse Bolton Wanderers 1946-60
Classic English centre-forward, scoring 255 goals for the Trotters in his 14 years at Burnden Park, from 1946 to 1960.
No.16 Carles Puyol Barcelona 1999-2014
Classic rugged central defender. Fifteen years at Barcelona, nine of them as captain. 593 appearances, twenty major titles, including three Champions League and six La Liga winners medals. Not a bad career!
Saying that, considering how good Barcelona were during this period, would Puyol have actually wanted to play anywhere else? Being a one club man at the Camp Nou in the 1990s and 2000s is about as good as it gets, playing anywhere else would have been a step down.
No.17 Antonio Rattín Boca Juniors 1956-70
Boyhood Boca fan who lived the dream, playing in the blue and gold from 1956 to 1970 and winning 4 league titles along the way. A defensive midfielder, Rattín's tremendous physical presence and great leadership qualities made him a huge idol amongst the Boca fan base, who saw him as one of their own, and a player who epitomised the soul of Boca.
No.20 Matt Le Tissier Southampton 1986-2002
The attacking midfielder happily stuck with the Saints from 1986-02. A classic example for English one club men - remaining with a provincial club rather than moving to one of the big-money teams.
After finishing as a pro with Southampton he then played for non-league Eastleigh, but we won't count that.
No.22 Willie Miller Aberdeen 1971-90
Fantastic central defender who made a club record 560 league appearances for Aberdeen between 1973 and 1990. He was an integral part of the great Aberdeen side created by Sir Alex Ferguson from 1978 to 1986, breaking the stranglehold of the two Glasgow giants to become Scottish football league winners three times in six seasons. Ferguson described Miller as "the best penalty box defender in the world", and he formed an incredible 22 year defensive partnership with Alex McLeish.
No.24 Gianpiero Combi Juventus 1920-34
No.25 Fredy Bickel Grasshopper Club Zürich 1935-56
Prolific forward for Grasshopper Club Zürich from 1935 to 1956, Bickel's goals helped the club to become Swiss football league winners seven times and Swiss Cup winners nine times during his 21 year spell there.
Bickel played 71 times for the Swiss national team and is one of only two players to participate in World Cup tournaments before and after World War II, the other being Erik Nilsson of Sweden.
No.26 Claude Papi Bastia 1967-82
Not just an icon for Bastia, but a legend of Corsica, the Mediterranean island on which he was born and spent his entire career. A gifted playmaker with tremendous technique and vision, Papi went on to play nearly 500 matches for Bastia from the late 1960s and through their glory days of the 1970s, le SCB's greatest period, as Papi was joined by other fine players such as Dragan Dzajic, Jacques Zimako, Johnny Rep and Merry Krimau.
Sadly, Papi died in 1983, aged only 33, suffering a brain aneurysm whilst playing tennis, less than a year after he'd had to hang up his boots following a serious ankle ligament injury.
No.27 Paul Scholes Manchester United 1993-2013
A really talented midfielder, whilst the likes of Beckham and Giggs would often grab the headlines, it was Scholes who made Manchester United tick. An Oldham lad, Scholes first started training with United's academy as a fourteen year old and would stay at the club until he retired as a 38 year old in 2013! He did actually announce his retirement in 2011 and joined the coaching staff, but reversed his decision in 2012 following an injury crisis at the club. he played on until the end of the 2012-13 season, eventually making his final league appearance, his 499th, against West Bromwich Albion in May 2013.
No.28 Klaus Augenthaler Bayern Munich 1976-1991
Some would say it's easy to be a one-club man when you've joined Germany's biggest club as a seventeen year old and then gone on to become a star of the club. But that just shows how good Klaus Augenthaler was, that he could play in the first team of such a huge club for fifteen years and be named captain for half of those. You need to be that good to stay at such a big club without them moving you on and replacing you with another player. Klaus Augenthaler may sometimes go under the radar when great German players are discussed, but he was a true 1. FC Köln great, and was quite rightly named in the club's All-time XI.
Also worth digging out is the fantastic goal he scored in August 1989 against Eintracht Frankfurt - a strike that would win him the Goal of the Decade award in Germany.
No.29 Flórián Albert Ferencváros 1958-74
Whilst some of the other legends of 1950s/60s Hungarian football, such as Ferenc Puskás, Sándor Kocsis and Zoltán Czibor, would end up showcasing their talents in the Spanish league, Flórián Albert stayed loyal to Ferencváros for his entire career, joining their youth system as a twelve year old in 1952 and remaining at the Budapest club until he retired in 1974.
As well as four Hungarian titles and the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, Albert would also claim the Golden Boot at the 1962 World Cup. Such was his status at Ferencváros that, in 2007, the club's stadium was renamed Stadion Albert Flórián in honour of him.
No.30 Tony Adams Arsenal 1983-2002
A real leader for the Gunners who would captain a title-winning team in three different decades during his nineteen years as a senior-pro. He would reach nearly 700 hundred appearances for the club and score 49 goals.
No.31 Reinaldo Merlo River Plate 1969-84.
Nicknamed Mostaza (Mustard), because of his hair colour, Reinaldo Merlo played more than 500 matches for River Plate between 1969 and 1984. A midfielder, he formed a strong midfield partnership with the likes of Juan José López and Beto Alonso that would help Los Millonarios dominate the Argentine football league in the late 1970s. Whilst Alonso would provide the creative spark, Merlo did the defensive work, and he made a great spine of the team along with goalkeeper Ubaldo Fillol and legendary defender Daniel Passarella.
No.32 Giuseppe Bergomi Inter 1979-99
An Italian footballing legend, and an icon of Inter, Bergomi had twenty years at the San Siro, holding the record for most Serie A appearances with the club, 519, until Javier Zanetti broke it in 2011.
Bergomi was primarily a right-back, but such was his ability that he could play anywhere along the back line, including left back, centre-back, or even as a sweeper. In total he would play over 750 matches in all competitions for the Nerazzurri, from 1979 to 1999.
No.33 Jack Charlton Leeds United 1952-73
Whilst Jack Charlton would go on to become famous across the world for his part in England's 1966 World Cup triumph, and then twenty years later as the boss of the Republic of Ireland, it was Leeds United that Jack Charlton would be synonymous with throughout the 1950s and 1960s. From his first appearance in the old Second Division in the 1952-53 season, through to his final appearance, the FA Cup semi-final against Wolves, the big centre-back amassed an astonishing 762 appearances for the Elland Road club.
No.34 Sjaak Swart Ajax 1956-73
With his record of 596 appearances over the course of seventeen seasons with the Dutch giants, it's no wonder that the winger was nicknamed Mr Ajax. An incredible career saw him win seven Eredivisie titles, three European Cup trophies, and an Intercontinental Cup. His number of appearances for Ajax is a club record that still stands, and is unlikely to be broken.
No.35 Anthimos Kapsis Panathinaikos 1969-84
A fine Libero, Kapsis played with Panathinaikos for 15 years, from 1969 until 1984. The start of his career saw him play a big part in a golden era for the club that not only saw them regularly become Greek football league winners, but also reach the final of the 1971 European Cup final, something that no other Greek club team had done before, or since.
No.36 Jamie Carragher Liverpool 1988-96
Despite seventeen years with the senior team at Anfield, Jamie Carragher was unfortunate to be playing in the club's barren period when it came to league titles, missing out on the seven titles that had been won in the 1980s, and then first title for thirty years won by Jürgen Klopp. Still, he did win a host of other medals, including the Champions League in 2005.
No.37 Tore Nordtvedt SK Brann 1963-79
The Norwegian left-back played a club record 557 games for SK Brann from 1963 to 1979. He won a winner's medal in Norway's 1. Divisjon at the end of his debut season, but unfortunately couldn't add to it. He retired in the 1979 season, as Brann got relegated, the start of the most incredible run of relegations and promotions for any of football's yo-yo clubs.
No.38 Max Morlock 1. FC Nürnberg 1940-64
A real legend of German football, and especially the Bavarian club 1. FC Nürnberg, of which he spent his entire career. The records show that Morlock played over 900 matches for the club, with an incredible scoring record that saw him knock in nearly 600 goals for Der Club.
No.39 Ian Cooke Wimbledon 1963-77
A legendary figure at the original Wimbledon. His goals (nearly 200 of them) helped the Dons become a real powerhouse in non-league football, claiming the Southern League title three times in a row from 1974 to 1977. This would see Wimbledon elected to the Football League in place of Workington for the 1977-78 season. Unfortunately for Cooke, he retired in 1977, so just missed out. However, he was captain for one of the classic FA Cup 3rd round matches, as non-league Wimbledon shocked top-tier Burnley with a one-nil victory in 1975. Cooke would also play an important role in the rise of the phoenix club, AFC Wimbledon, becoming a director of the the club founded by supporters in 2002 after the original Wimbledon had been relocated to Milton Keynes and turned into MK Dons.
No.40 Pepe Santos 1954-69
Ask a football fan to name a Santos player from the 1950s or 1960s, and it's almost inevitable that they will say Pelé. But there was another attacking legend at the club during the same period, a player with a fantastic left foot who spent his entire career with the club - Pepe. Playing as either a left winger, second striker, or a conventional forward, Pepe scored more than 400 goals in less than 800 matches during his fifteen years with the club.
No.41 Luis Arconada Real Sociedad 1974-89
One of the greatest Spanish keepers of all-time, and one of the world's finest in the late 1970s and early 1980s, Arconada played for his hometown club for fifteen years. He's still a legend in San Sebastián and the txuriurdin faithful still fondly recall what they used to say when Arconada played for them - "No pasa nada, tenemos a Arconada", translating as "Nothing will happen, we have Arconada".