Loyalty is one of the most difficult qualities to find in the modern-day footballer. The bright lights that accompany top-level football along with the glitz, glamour and money that’s now available make it easy for a player’s head to be turned these days. However, that wasn’t always the case in the past and there was a time when one-club legends weren’t as rare as they are now.
Here, we have a look at a few whose loyalty could not be bought, resulting in them spending their entire career at one club through all the highs and lows.
While Athletic Club are widely renowned for upholding principles and values in Spain’s Basque region, one player from their local rivals Real Sociedad who really stands out for his loyalty is Xabi Prieto. The Sociedad legend joined the club aged 12. After making his debut in 2003, the Spanish midfielder went on to play for the club for 16 years. He took over the captaincy in 2012 and led with a passion for the next six years before calling time on his career, partly due to injuries.
A brave midfielder with the ball at his feet and an expert penalty taker, Prieto retired with a successful strike rate of more than 90 percent from the spot in La Liga – a better record than both Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi.
Second only to Ryan Giggs when it comes to most Premier League winners’ medals, Paul Scholes’ 11 top-flight successes in England won’t be matched by many in the years to come. Regarded as one of the greatest midfielders of his generation by the likes of Xavi and Andrea Pirlo, there aren’t many midfielders today who are blessed with the passing range and vision on the ball that Scholes had. Besides his Premier League medals, Scholes also won three FA Cups, two League Cups, two Champions Leagues and a FIFA Club World Cup with Manchester United.
Interestingly, Scholes hung up his boots after the 2010-11 Premier League season only to come out of retirement the following campaign and help United to their last league triumph in 2013.
Jamie Carragher spent all 17 years of his professional career with Liverpool. A backbone and a leader in defence for the Merseyside outfit for almost two decades, Carragher was always a firm fan-favourite because of his unbridled passion and love for the club. He was a mainstay in their backline for most of his career and wasn’t afraid of getting stuck into his opponents when required. He won many trophies with the Reds, including three League Cups, two FA Cups, one UEFA Cup and one UEFA Champions League trophy.
One of Arsenal’s most successful captains and a man with his own statue outside the Gunners’ stadium, Tony Adams was a rock at the heart of their defence for two decades. A born leader and a threat from set-pieces, Adams almost won it all with the north London outfit. He won two First Division titles, two Premier Leagues, two League Cups, three FA Cups and a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup with his beloved Arsenal.
An inspiration for some off the field as well, the former Arsenal skipper is also a role model to many for having overcome his battle with alcoholism during his playing days.
When he made his debut for Milan, Paolo Maldini was following in his father Cesare Maldini’s footsteps by playing for the club before going on to captain it. Considered one of the greatest defenders to have ever played the game, Italian and AC Milan legend Paolo was a part of perhaps the most successful era in the history of the club. He won 25 trophies with the Rossoneri, including seven Serie A titles and five UEFA Champions League crowns.
Maldini spent 25 years with the first team before retiring in 2009 and when he did call it a day, such is his legendary stature that the club also decided to retire his No. 3 jersey.
The most decorated player in the history of English football, Giggs holds the record for the most appearances for Manchester United. He almost spent a quarter of a century with the United senior team and was pivotal to their dominance of English football during the nineties. Now the head coach of Wales, Giggs made 963 appearances for the Red Devils and won 13 Premier League, four FA Cups, three League Cups, two Champions Leagues and a FIFA Club World Cup during his time with the club.
He currently holds the record for most assists in the Premier League and was also elected into the PFA Team of the Century in 2007.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Filippo Monteforte