Loyalty is an increasingly dying breed in football, without trying to sound too much like an old Italian mafia boss.
In a world where lucrative wages are rampant and the opportunities for players to move abroad and enjoy a career around the world are more prevalent than ever, it makes the idea of sticking to just one club incredibly difficult.
Not only that, but to have the skill and commitment for one club to accommodate a player for their entire career is just as telling. Here are the top 30 to have achieved the unique accolade.
30. Ronnie Boyce (West Ham)
Nicknamed ‘Ticker’ for being the man providing the heart that allowed West Ham to win an FA Cup and a European Cup Winners’ Cup, Boyce was a one club man and a hero.
Starting as an apprentice in 1959, he represented the Irons until 1973, racking up a fine 282 football league appearances for the club.
29. Paul Madeley (Leeds United)
A utility man and forever safe pair of hands over an 18 year period, Madeley was an integral part of Leeds’ success through the 1960s and 70s.
Over 500 games played, Madeley missed just three games as Leeds won the league in 1974 and was a shoo-in for the side, being able to play in any outfield position necessary.
28. Nat Lofthouse (Bolton Wanderers)
Having one of England’s best goals-per-game ratios wasn’t Lofthouse’s only unique accolade; he was a one club man for Bolton from 1946 to 1960.
A loyal servant when he likely could have moved elsewhere for his England exploits, Lofthouse was key as Bolton won the 1958 FA Cup and Charity Shield.
27. John Greig (Rangers)
A player, a manager and a director, Greig knows Rangers better than anyone.
Greig was a defender by trade and made 755 official appearances for his club, captaining the side to the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1972. Mr. Ibrox.
26. Ronnie Moran (Liverpool)
Similarly to Greig, Moran’s influence around Liverpool was like no other.
Moran signed professional terms with the Reds as an 18-year-old in 1952 and would become an established first team option in the following years. Moran played until 1968 and later served in the backroom staff under Bill Shankly, as well as filling in as a caretaker manager on occasion.
25. Billy Liddell (Liverpool)
Before Moran’s time, Liddell was the household name in Liverpool.
An athletic and powerful winger, Liddell signed in 1938 and became a professional a year later, before the war broke out. He plied his trade with the Reds up until 1961, winning the First Division in 1947.
24. Eddie Gray (Leeds United)
Scotsman Gray signed professional terms with Leeds at the age of just 16 and debuted at 17 in 1966.
That debut would be followed up with hundreds of appearances, European nights and a trophy cabinet that included the league, the FA Cup, the League Cup and the Charity Shield.
23. Dieter Eilts (Werder Bremen)
Not only is he a one club man in the more modern years of the game abroad, but Eilts also built up a positive reputation as one of the game’s fairest.
Sensible, reliable and massively talented for Werder from 1985 to 2002, his 27 year career saw him win two Bundesliga titles and play a key role when Germany won Euro 96.
22. Rogerio Ceni (Sao Paulo)
Okay, truth is that Ceni actually started his career with a side called Sinop. But considering he played over 1,200 games for Sao Paulo, he gets a pass.
Goalkeepers have a longer shelf life, but Ceni was a joke. As well as over 1,200 appearances for Sao Paulo, Ceni has over 100 official goals and 20 major titles. He is a goalkeeper. Joke.
21. Billy McNeill (Celtic)
Poster boy of the ‘Lisbon Lions’ McNeill captained Celtic as they became the first British side to win the European Cup in 1967.
Away from that triumph, McNeill racked up 31 major trophies over an 18 season playing career with Celtic. He captained them through their brightest spells and remains the club’s record appearance holder. Billy McNeill was Celtic.
20. Jack Charlton (Leeds United)
While brother Bobby was a hero for Manchester United, Jack Charlton was an icon in his own right at rivals Leeds.
Away from World Cup winning exploits, Charlton was the man at Leeds. The defender won the First and Second Division, the FA Cup and more throughout his 762 appearances from 1952 to 1973.
19. Fritz Walter (Kaiserslautern)
One of football’s more underrated names, Walter was an icon at national level as he captained West Germany to the 1954 World Cup.
At club level, Walter was the main man at Kaiserslautern from 1937 until 1959, winning two league titles and racking up an obscene goalscoring record. Now in Germany’s lower tiers, Kaiserslautern’s stadium is named after Walter.
18. Bill Foulkes (Manchester United)
One of the survivors from the 1958 Munich Air Disaster, Foulkes’ contribution to rebuilding the fabric of Manchester United cannot be forgotten.
He remains the player with the fourth most appearances for the club and started every single game of the 1957/58 season, taking on the captaincy immediately after the disaster.
17. Giampiero Boniperti (Juventus)
A 15-season stint with Juventus was enough to cement Boniperti into Juventus history as one of their best ever.
Five scudetti and two Coppas Italia was the icing on the cake for the striker at club level, who was also a regular in the Italian national team. After football, Boniperti ended up working in European Parliament.
16. Max Morlock (1. FC Nurnberg)
Doing it way before it was cool, Morlock forged out a fine career in Germany with 1. FC Nurnberg from 1940 to 1964.
A technical player who could link defence to attack, Morlock was a shoo-in in front of goal and won the 1954 World Cup with West Germany. Morlock played in a time before the Bundesliga, but actually plied his trade in the league’s founding season before hanging up the boots.
15. Lev Yashin (Dynamo Moscow)
Despite his 20 year playing career spanning from 1950 to 1970, Yashin is still considered by many to be the greatest goalkeeper in football history.
Goalkeepers always carry longevity, but Yashin remained unbeatable throughout his career and was always on top. He is considered the man to have revolutionised and initially modernised the role of the goalkeeper and is still the only keeper to have won a Ballon d’Or.
14. Jamie Carragher (Liverpool)
Carragher deserves credit not only for being a one club man in the modern game, but doing so at Liverpool despite growing up an Everton fan.
Domestic success was lost on Carragher as he represented the Reds in a struggling period that saw them fail to dominate the Premier League, but the defender was a key fabric of the club and became a Champions League winner, as well as picking up two FA Cups and more.
13. Gary Neville (Manchester United)
Carragher’s favourite television co-host, it feels harsh to put one of England and Europe’s most decorated players in the mid-table, but competition is high.
Neville racked up 602 appearances for United in a glistening career, providing Sir Alex Ferguson with a mainstay option at right back as they dominated England and won two Champions Leagues. He also served as captain for five years.
12. Sepp Maier (Bayern Munich)
Four Bundesliga, three European Cups, a World Cup and a European Championship, Germany and Bayern Munich were incredibly fortunate to have a goalkeeper as reliable as Maier.
Known for his supremely calming influence at the back and charm as a personality, Maier was also lightning quick with razor sharp reflexes and covered his area tremendously through the 60s and 70s.
11. Giuseppe Bergomi (Inter)
Bergomi’s alarmingly barren trophy cabinet is somewhat sad, but by no means tells the full story of his influence at Inter.
A world class defender, Bergomi served the club for 20 years from 1979 to 1999, earning the nickname ‘Lo Zio’ – the uncle – during his time there. Bergomi is thought of as one of Italy’s greatest defenders; some feat considering how many there are.
10. Ricardo Bochini (Independiente)
Nicknamed ‘El Bocha’, it’s almost sad that Bochini didn’t come to grace Europe with his flair and grace at a club level.
But then again, the romance of being a one club man no matter how good you are is equally as appealing. A World Cup winner, the Argentine midfielder is Independiente folklore, winning four leagues and five Copa Libertadores titles.
9. Manolo Sanchis (Real Madrid)
The local boy story extends beyond England; Sanchis is Madrid through and through.
Coming through the youth system, the defender would make over 700 appearances for Los Blancos and serve as a captain for 13 years. The glue before the Galacticos era.
8. Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)
There are no words to do justice to the feat of being the record appearance holder for a club like Manchester United.
963 appearances, 13 Premier Leagues, two Champions Leagues, and that’s just the start. In his prime, Giggs had pace, flair and a wicked left foot. That moulded into a more reserved yet intelligent game in later years, still proving his worth at the top level.
7. Tony Adams (Arsenal)
One for the pub quiz armoury of knowledge; Adams captained a title-winning team in three different decades. Don’t say we do nothing for you.
Away from the trivia, Adams was fierce. A leader above the rest, he captained Arsenal and England through some of each side’s most memorable years. The Gunners would kill for a centre back like him once again.
6. Paul Scholes (Manchester United)
A reminder that despite Twitter trying to convince the world that Scholes is a ‘fraud’, you don’t become a one club man under Sir Alex Ferguson for no reason.
Over 700 appearances and a shed load of accolades, prime Scholes was unbelievable. His loyalty to United was a burden to top clubs interested in him, but also made him that bit more special. Class.
5. Sandro Mazzola (Inter)
Regarded as one of the greatest Italians to play the game full stop, Mazzola was a blessing for Inter from 1960 to 1977.
A creative forward with an eye for goal, Mazzola also had the physical attributes to make him a beast. He swept up four Serie A titles with the Nerazzurri and placed second in the 1971 Ballon d’Or. The winner? Johan Cruyff. Fair.
4. Francesco Totti (Roma)
The list becomes very Italian at the business end of things. Not only are they good with cars and football, but they’re great at making their good things unnecessarily romantic.
Totti embodies that. Roma’s hero, Totti floated between the ten role and striker duties over a 25 year career, becoming their record appearance holder and the second highest scorer in Italian league history. Your dad’s favourite.
3. Franco Baresi (Milan)
Playing for 20 seasons and captaining for 15, Baresi is footballing royalty and immortal in Milan. The red side, anyway.
Baresi was often likened to Franz Beckenbauer for his dominant style as a sweeper and centre back. He hoovered up silverware with the Rossoneri and won a World Cup with Italy. His number six shirt is also retired at Milan.
2. Carles Puyol (Barcelona)
We’ve all seen the Puyol passion compilations. The Spaniard was a menace, and a nightmare for the opposition – his own colleagues, too, sometimes.
Barcelona are no strangers to crafting in-house excellence, but Puyol is one of their finest. A tireless leader, he could cover a pitch like no other and made goal-saving blocks like they were going out of fashion. As you’d imagine, he won a fair bit.
1. Paolo Maldini (Milan)
Milan were operating at another level in the 80s and 90s. When Baresi was winding down, they had an in-house replacement being seamlessly groomed to take over; Paolo Maldini.
Maldini is everything cool about football. Undeniably good, devilishly handsome and unwaveringly loyal to one of the game’s coolest clubs. He won the lot in his 25 season career, and had his number three shirt retired at the end of it.