Loyalty is a commodity that has ceased to be a dominant attribute concerning players and their clubs in the modern day. Players, now, have more ways to earn a big wad of cash than they ever did before. Players have to have to weigh a lot of factors when they choose to stay or depart from a club. With the global exposure of football these days, there are is a plethora of opportunities for players to make money. From sponsorship endorsements to boot deals, players are now governed more and more by their agents, who also want a cut from the dough.
Gone are the days when individuals would stay at a club for a very significant period of time. Contracts mean lesser and lesser by the season, as players get to dictate more than they ever could, with incentives such as goal scoring bonuses, and also a stake in t-shirt sales.
One of the most famous examples of players who made full use of their footballing brand is David Beckham. After spells with Manchester United and Real Madrid, the boy from Leytonstone earned in excess of a quarter of a million dollars with LA Galaxy. This is coupled with his exclusive deals over the years with some of the most premium brands in the world such as Armani, Samsung and Diet Coke.
However, in the age of frequent transfers and high-end contracts, there are players who still pledge allegiance to their club and its fans and have remained fiercely loyal throughout the years. Here is a run-down of the Top Ten Most Loyal Players of All-Time.
10. Leon Osman (Everton)
Leon Osman is currently pushing into his 30’s and shows no signs of wavering from his allegiance to the blue club for Merseyside. Osman came into Everton as a youth player in 2004-05 season and has remained a regular stalwart in the center of the Everton midfield. Osman has garnered a passionate fan-following in Goodison Park for his loyalty to the club. He was rewarded for his loyalty with a testimonial against FC Porto.
9. Francesco Totti (Roma)
The world “Legend” is thrown around quite casually these days. But there is no reason to not use it when you’re talking about Francesco Totti. The absolute loyal Roma player was considered one of the most lethal strikers in his youth, he is now in his late 30’s and still manages to defy odds and deliver constantly for his side, and has still remained the skipper for the Italian side. Totti is adored by the fans because he refuses to take a lying down. He won numerous trophies whilst at Roma, including the World Cup.
8. Carles Puyol (Barcelona)
Carles Puyol is yet another figure that inspires faith, respect and adoration at the same time. He is the personification of undeniable faith. His no-nonsense tackling made him a hit at the youth academy, and was subsequently signed by the Catalan giants, Barcelona. His incredible versatility enabled him to adopt numerous positions along the back four, and made him a star at Camp Nou. Puyol is easily one of the most recognizable Barcelona stars in the world, and that is a testament to his undying loyalty to the club, as he cannot be thought of in any other club’s colors other than Barcelona’s.
7. John Terry (Chelsea)
John Terry, for all his controversies outside the pitch, is one of the most polarizing figures in Football. Whether you love him or hate him, it is undeniable that John Terry is an absolute legend, and is one of the most loyal players in recent years. Terry has been part of the Chelsea set up, ever since he showed up on the scene in 1998. He was part of the club’s most successful runs under Jose Mourinho. This included capturing 3 League Titles and 4 Fa Cups.
6. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool)
Steven Gerrard is a name that always pops up in a conversation about Liverpool. For more than a decade, he was a regular on the team-sheet. Steven Gerrard’s masterclass is responsible for the most dramatic moments in the club’s history. This includes the Night in Istanbul where the Liverpool side captained by him, came back from a 3-0 against AC Milan in the Champions League Finals of 2005. The notion of a one club man is sadly lacking today but Gerrard is the true essence of this idea. With more than 400 appearances to his name, Gerrard will no doubt go down in the history books as one of the finest Liverpool players of all time.
5. Paul Scholes (Manchester United)
The pint sized midfielder is one that commandeered the midfield for Manchester United for nearly two decades. His Red Devil roots run deep, as far back as his youth days. At the time, the red headed wizard was part of the same side that featured the likes of David Beckham, Nicky Butt and Ryan Giggs.
Scholes held down the midfield with an iron fist and his pinpoint passing earned him the nickname of “Sat-Nav”. He is the epitome of loyalty, as he came out of a retirement just a few years ago when United found themselves in a bit of a midfield pickle. Whilst under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson, Scholes captured a myriad of trophies. This included the Champions League, FA Cups and several Premier League titles.
4. Javier Zanetti
One of the most integral parts of the Inter Milan squad for nearly 2 decades was Javier Zanetti. Introduced to San Siro back in 1995, Zanetti has achieved legendary status in the club. He is most notable for his versatility, changing positions at the drop of a hat. He was involved in the squad that won the treble in 2010, under Jose Mourinho. At nearly 40 years of age, Zanetti eventually called it a day in the blue and black stripes but has been part of more than 700 games for the club. His legacy includes being one of the all-time record appearance holders for Inter behind Giuseppe Bergomi.
3. Lionel Messi (Barcelona)
Considered one of the best players in the world currently, without doubt. Lionel Messi has played for one club, and one club only, Barcelona, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to change as reportedly, Barcelona and Lionel Messi are in negotiations regarding a “contract for life”. With a following as passionate as Messi’s, he has continued to live up to their expectations, year in and year out. Signed by Barcelona’s youth side in 2003, Messi is now 29 years old and has played only for Barcelona. One of the more loyal loyal players of the current generation, Leo Messi is undoubtedly going to be remembered as a Legend of the game.
2. Paolo Maldini (AC Milan)
Dubbed the “King of the Back Four” by his fellow AC Milan teammates, Paolo Maldini is indeed a figure to be hailed. The former defender spent 24 years at the Italian club. Constantly being voted as one of the all-time greatest players, Maldini’s loyalty never wavered in spite of several big money offers. He appeared for AC Milan on more than 900 separate occasions and is their current record appearance holder. After retiring in 2009, the number three shirt worn by Maldini was retired on a permanent basis as a fitting tribute.
1. Ryann Giggs (Manchester United)
Undoubtedly the most decorated player in the English Premier League, Ryan Giggs is a Football God among Men. Playing under the name of Ryan Wilson, the Welshman, a Welsh boy then, was signed by Alex Ferguson at the tender age of 14. His tricky wing play, technical ability has dazzled many a player over the course of his career. It is extremely rare these days to find an individual who is so committed to one club like Giggs. Not only will he be remembered for his emphatic loyalty but his array of goals. He was responsible for the most dramatic moments in the club’s history, including an absolute stunner of a goal against Arsenal in the 1999 Fa Cup Semi-Final. He broke the record for most appearances when he came out as a substitute in the 2008 Champions League Final. His personal trophy collection includes 13 Premier League titles, 2 Champions Leagues and numerous FA Cups among other silverware.