The Premier League Veteran
Time is a precious commodity in the life of a professional football player, especially when that doomed age of 30 comes around, and in a modern age where football players are in peak physical condition, that ubiquitous thought of turning 30 becomes an even more daunting possibility. Having said that, the veteran of modern football is equipped with an abundance of experience and a tactical astuteness that comes only with age. He is the calm amongst the storm and a role model for the new generation. And with our childhood heroes slowly disappearing each season, here are the players in there 30s to look out for and appreciate whilst there still kicking about this season.
This man (or God as he refers to himself) needs no introduction, and probably not even a paragraph. The name Zlatan itself is synonymous with greatness, it comes with its own connotations of success. His goal-scoring prowess has seen him become one of the deadliest and most lethal strikers in the world, and having done the business in Spain, Italy, France, Holland and Sweden, Zlatan now finds himself in the midst of exhilaration with Manchester United in the Premier League. And at the delicate age of 34, the ostentatious Swede is playing the best football of his career with records being broken as the seasons go on. However, despite a disappointing campaign with Sweden in the European Championship, expect an electric season from the only man to score for an unprecedented six different clubs in the Champions League. Drink it in while you can, as this man won’t be around forever (although I’m sure he would disagree).
A player that has sometimes gone under the radar, but for me, should be placed in the upper echelons of the footballing world with the likes of Iniesta. His craft and guile mixed with his exceptional footballing intelligence, makes the man they call Merlin, one of the most entrancing footballers to grace the beautiful game. Stop Silva and you stop City, has been a phrase echoed by many managers and pundits alike, as this is a man who can dictate the game. Those rare traits of pinpoint accuracy and weight put onto passes as well as creating space when the pitch is so condensed, are traits that you can only find with the likes of Pirlo and Iniesta. Well David Silva has those attributes of keen awareness and exceptional passing ability most associated with football’s finest. Very few can place the ball in the corridor of uncertainty like David Silva can, so enjoy this footballing genius whilst you can because he too has reached the age of 30.
A man who made his premier League debut some 16 years ago, is still going strong, despite what appeared to be a move to Toronto FC which could have been the concluding saga to his illustrious career. He never quite managed to become a 20 goal a season striker, but he has been a deadly acquisition for the clubs he has played for. Despite being 33, his eye for goal is still unequivocal as he helped Sunderland strive off relegation last season, with a respectable 15 goals. He will look to replicate that form this season and prevent another relegation dog fight, although after only 2 games, David Moyes has already declared they are in a relegation battle.
It’s hard to imagine Rooney’s infamous goal against Arsenal at 16 years old came in 2002. Bet we all feel really old now. The Liverpudlian sensation has had an exceptional career, with 5 Premier League trophies and 1 Champions League trophy to his name, as well as 1 FA Cup and 2 League Cups. Its been a turbulent few seasons for Rooney and many believe he hasn’t been the same player since Sir Alex Ferguson left the helm at Manchester United, but you can’t deny the brilliance and skill of the man. He’s been an ever-present in a fantastic string of United teams for over a decade and will continue to do so for the next few seasons. The Rooney of old has definitely been missed, especially for England, but if there is one man who can reinvigorate his form, it’s Mourinho. Expect an improved Rooney this season and enjoy this unique talent before he fades away.
It just feels like Huth will always be present in the Premier League. This guy has been around for ages. Making his debut at 17 in 2001, this ruthless German defender has been a brick wall for over 15 years. Deemed surplus to requirements at Stoke City he signed for Leicester City in what proved to be his most significant and successful transfer. Like the rest of the footballing world, when Leicester City lifted the trophy last season, we were all perplexed and baffled by the sheer brilliance of Claudio Ranieri’s team. Huth and Morgan formed the backbone of the team, and their consistency saw them pose a formidable partnership in their journey to the title. His pace may be questionable, but at 32 no one can deny his power, strength and awareness of the game. After successive injuries at Stoke, his career might have been fading away, but a new lease of life at Leicester has seen that flame reignited and we can enjoy this powerful German for the next few seasons.
Another Spaniard with a delicate touch and exceptional passing ability, Cazorla is Arsenal’s answer to Iniesta. Injuries have definitely halted his career for the time being, but make no mistake, when this guy comes back from injury, Arsenal’s performances will make significant improvements. With the likes of Ozil, Ramsey and Sanchez in the line-up, Cazorla has dropped deeper, and the limelight has shone away from him. However the importance of this man’s contribution to Arsenal’s style of play cannot be understated. He has all the attributes to unlock defenses and play that vital pass at the right time. Cazorla now takes the burden of the central midfielder so the more stylistic players can flourish. Another one who will be missed whens his career comes to an end; Arsenal fans are definitely missing him at the moment.
A man of sheer class and quality, Cech has professionalism and discipline in abundance. Rocked by an unfortunate injury, caused by Stephen Hunt at the Medejski Stadium in 2006, Cech is now notoriously known for sporting a rugby style headguard. And despite his now unfortunate attire, his consistency between the sticks has been unquestionable. His reliability for Chelsea has been key to their success over the past decade, especially their triumphant Champions League win in 2012. That infamous Champions League final against Bayern Munich will always be remembered for Drogba's Headed goal and concluding penalty. But for me the hero of the night will always go to the Czech, with his penalty save in extra time and two penalty saves in the shoot-out. The contribution he made on the night must not be understated, and he went on to prove his value and worth as one of the world’s most indispensable keepers. When Cech was dropped for Courtois under the reign of Mourinho, it felt as if something was missing from the Premier League. Order was restored the following season, when the notorious rugby cap returned to our TV screens with the Czech Republican making a move north to Arsenal. Fortunately goalkeepers can endure longer careers, but make the most of this man while you can because soon enough that famous rugby cap will be gone forever.
Perhaps one of the bargains of the decade, Kompany was bought for a mere £6 million. His physical presence can be a daunting prospect for any striker in the world, and I’m looking forward to the battle between him and Ibrahimovic when the two Manchester clubs meet. The resolute Belgian has proved to be indispensable in City’s defense, and Pep Guardiola will be counting down the days when he returns from injury. Distribution and mobility make up the focal points for the modern day defender, and the Belgium has excelled in mastering these traits. Mixed with his aerial dominance and anticipation of the ball, he is considered one of the best all round defenders of his generation. Pep thrives with ball playing defenders at his exposal, so expect Kompany to flourish and form a formidable partnership with Stones this season.