They say there’s no substitute for experience. With 48 year old former Japan striker Kazuyoshi Miura extending his record as the oldest scorer in Japanese football last week, we assess a few forwards who are well into their thirties that prove that although they might have lost a yard of pace, penalty box poise doesn’t desert them.
Name: Aritz Aduriz
Club: Athletic Bilbao
Aduriz made his debut for Bilbao back in 2002, before leading a somewhat nomadic existence in Spain, representing Burgos, Valladolid, Mallorca and Valencia as well as having returned to Bilbao between 2005 and 2008. Now in his third spell with the Basque club, he is in the form of his life, getting a career high 26 goals last season, before adding a further 15 in 20 appearances so far this term. These goals, including a hat trick in the Spanish Supercup against FC Barcelona, have prompted calls from the Spanish media for a recall to the national team. So far coach Vicente del Bosque has resisted, instead looking to focus on the future with younger players such as Paco Alcacer. Aduriz will continue scoring goals with Bilbao, and with Diego Costa struggling at Chelsea, it could be enough to see him add to his solitary international cap earned in 2010.
Name: Samuel Eto’o
Samuel Eto’o is widely considered to be one of the best African players of all time, having won the African player of the year four times, including in three consecutive years from 2003-2005. He is also Cameroon’s record cap holder and goalscorer, with 56 goals in 118 games. Eto’o has amassed over 300 goals in his trophy laden time in Europe, and is the only man to win back to back European continental trebles, achieving this with FC Barcelona and Inter Milan. Eto’o has also represented Real Madrid and Chelsea, and is enjoying life on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast having endured tough spells at Everton and Sampdoria. He will be happy to be back among the goals, finding the net nine times in his 11 appearances for his new club so far.
Name: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Ibrahimovic has won league titles with Ajax, Juventus, Inter Milan, AC Milan, FC Barcelona and current side PSG, and is Sweden’s all time leading goalscorer with 62 international goals. Despite this, he shows no signs of letting up and seems to be getting better with age. Since moving to Paris aged 30, Ibra has plundered 115 goals in just 140 games, becoming PSG’s all time scorer in the process, and added three Ligue 1 titles to his trophy cabinet. He will also be at next summer’s European Championships, having scored three times (including a sensational free kick) over two play-off legs against near neighbours Denmark to secure his nation’s progress.
Name: Didier Drogba
Club: Montreal Impact
Drogba, who is the Ivory Coast’s record goalscorer with 65 international goals, moved to the MLS in July after his second spell at Chelsea, where he mostly featured from the bench. Many observers felt he was there to wind down his career with one final payday, but since arriving in Canada Drogba has unleashed the inner beast that once terrorised Premier League defences. On his day he is the ultimate number 9, with power, pace, aerial ability and an eye for goal; and his record of 12 in 12 for the Impact suggests that he can continue to inspire his team in what will be his first full season in the MLS next term.
Name: Luca Toni
Club: Hellas Verona
Veteran journeyman Luca Toni played for seven Italian sides before his fine form at Sicilian side Palermo earned him his beak break at Fiorentina. In his first season at la Viola he notched 31 Serie A goals, subsequently winning the European Golden Shoe. After another decent season in Florence, Toni moved to Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, where the goals continued to flow, before a falling out with coach Louis van Gaal, now at Manchester United. He returned to Italy, but failed to hit his previous heights and spells at Roma, Genoa, Juventus, Dubai based Al Nasr, and old club Fiorentina didn’t work out well for the big Italian. Aged 36, he joined current club Verona, where he has rediscovered his scoring touch, scoring 46 times in 80 appearances. He jointly won the Serie A Golden Boot, or Capocannoniere, with Inter’s Mauro Icardi, after grabbing 22 goals last season.
Name: Robbie Keane
Club: LA Galaxy
Robbie Keane joined the Galaxy in 2011, aged 31, after his time in the Premier League seemed to peter out with an unsuccessful loan spell at West Ham United. The Dubliner immediately took to his new glamorous surroundings, scoring four goals in his first nine games in the US. A brief loan move to Aston Villa showed Keane could still do it in England, scoring three times in six games for a struggling Villa side during the MLS off season. In total he has rippled the net 94 times in 141 games for LA Galaxy, including 25 last season, and has also won the MLS Cup in 2011, 2012 and 2014. He was MLS MVP in 2014, and an MLS All star in 2015. Keane is the Republic of Ireland’s highest ever goalscorer and most capped player, with 67 goals in 143 caps for his country. He is also the highest active goalscorer in international football, currently five clear of his nearest rival Ibrahimovic. Keane’s experience both on and off the field will play a pivotal role in his country’s chances at next summer’s European Championships in France.
Name: Tim Cahill
Club: Shanghai Shenhua
Originally an orthodox midfielder, Cahill has transformed into an attacking option; he is often utilised as a second striker or even the attacking focal point, largely due to his ability in the air. Cahill, who has previously represented Millwall, Everton and New York Red Bulls, notched 12 goals in 30 appearances in his debut season in China for new club Shanghai Shenhua. He is Australia’s leading international goalscorer with 45 goals in 88 caps, three of which came in a recent World Cup Qualifier away to Bangladesh. Cahill has also scored at three World Cup finals, something that is unlikely to be matched by an Australian for quite some time.
Honourable mentions must also go out to Francesco Totti (39), Antonio Di Natale (38) and Miroslav Klose (37), who were all in fine form in Serie A last season, but have been hampered by the expected knocks and niggles so far this campaign.
It goes to show that players needn’t necessarily be disposed of by their clubs once they reach their third decade, and that nous, know how and anticipation can make up for a deterioration in physical attributes. As many a pundit has declared, the first yard really is in the head.