Francesco Totti and 10 Other Great 21st Century One-club Men

With the recent retirement of the King of Rome, I decided to compile a list of some of the 21st century’s best one-club men.

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Francesco Totti

Date of Birth: September 27, 1976 (40)
Born in: Rome (ITA)
Position: Second Striker/Attacking Midfielder
Club: AS Roma (1992-2017) – 785 games, 306 goals, 123 assists
National Team: Italy (1998-2016) – 56 caps, 9 goals, 11 assists

Affectionately known as Il Re di Roma (The King of Rome), Francesco Totti has truly lived up to that moniker. Throughout 25 memorable years, Totti kept the same enthusiasm and love for his boyhood club that he had when he first debuted. Whatever coach was in charge, Totti was always tactically versatile to adapt to a various number of attacking roles. He has played everywhere from a classic number 10, to an inverted winger, to a false 9, to a lone striker. No matter what position he was employed in, Totti’s masterful technical ability was always on display every time he took the field. His recent retirement and the overwhelming emotions that came with it are evidence of Totti’s status as a living legend.

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Jamie Carragher

Date of Birth: January 28, 1978 (39)
Born in: Bootle, Merseyside (ENG)
Position: Centre Back
Club: Liverpool (1996-2013) – 717 games, 4 goals, 10 assists
National Team: England (1999-2010) – 38 caps, 1 assist

Despite being raised as an Everton fan, Jamie Carragher went on to become a Liverpool legend. A smart and tough-tackling defender, Carragher embodied that ‘never say die’ attitude which characterized Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League win. Though sometimes used as a full back, he was much better in the centre of defense. There he was able to use his organizational and leadership skills to inspire his team.

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Rogério Ceni

Date of Birth: January 22, 1973 (44)
Born in: Pato Branco, Paraná (BRA)
Position: Goalkeeper
Club: São Paulo (1992-2015) – 1238 games, 132 goals
National Team: Brazil (1997-2006) – 18 caps

A goal-scoring goalkeeper. This does not sound right but it is exactly what Rogério Ceni was. A São Paulo club icon, Ceni has scored the most goals for a goalkeeper in the history of football. He spent 23 years between the sticks for the Tricolor and was the first choice penalty taker for most of those years. Additionally, Ceni was part of the 2002 World Cup-winning side for Brazil.

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Daniele De Rossi

Date of Birth: July 24, 1983 (33)
Born in: Rome (ITA)
Position: Defensive Midfielder
Club: AS Roma (2001-present) – 561 games, 59 goals, 51 assists
National Team: Italy (2004-present) – 112 caps, 20 goals, 5 assists

If Francesco Totti is the favorite son of Rome, surely Daniele De Rossi is the second. Like Totti, De Rossi has spent his entire career with his hometown club. Now 33, De Rossi still manages to cover every blade of grass on the pitch. One of the best box-to-box midfielders of the 21st century, the Italian is equally adept at breaking up the play as he is supporting the attack and scoring screamers. He loves himself a tackle, as is evidenced by the audacious tattoo on his right leg.

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Ryan Giggs

Date of Birth: November 29, 1973 (43)
Born in: Canton, Cardiff (WAL)
Position: Winger/Central Midfielder
Club: Manchester United (1990-2014) – 893 games, 155 goals, 158 assists
National Team: Wales (1991-2007) – 67 caps, 12 goals

Part of the famous Man United class of ’92, Ryan Giggs spent all his 24 professional years at his boyhood club. Known for his longevity, Giggs employed all types of training and eating regimes to make sure his body adapted to the yearly grind. Furthermore, the Welshman modified his game on the field. Giggs started his career as a flying winger and through the years took up a more central position where he was still able to create goals.

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Andrés Iniesta

Date of Birth: May 11, 1984 (33)
Born in: Fuentealbilla, Albacete (SPA)
Position: Central Midfielder/Winger
Club: Barcelona (2002-present) – 624 games, 54 goals, 134 assists
National Team: Spain (2006-present) – 118 caps, 12 goals, 24 assists

An influential figure in the golden era of Spanish football, Don Andrés is like a magician with the ball at his feet. Whether playing in a central position or out wide, Iniesta seems to always possess an innate sense of awareness. Due to that, he seems to pick out the right pass all the time. His close control allows him to maintain possession of the ball in close quarters despite his small stature. Along with fellow Blaugrana Xavi as well as players such as Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso and Cesc Fabregas, Iniesta formed arguably the best midfield of the 21st century.

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Paolo Maldini

Date of Birth: June 26, 1968 (48)
Born in: Milan (ITA)
Position: Centre Back/Left Back
Club: AC Milan (1985-2009) – 904 games, 36 goals, 8 assists
National Team: Italy (1988-2002) – 126 caps, 7 goals

One of the most complete defenders to ever play the game, Paolo Maldini could do it all. Maldini’s ambidexterity and versatility allowed him to play anywhere across the backline. Il Capitano was technically proficient and athletic enough to pose an attacking threat as a fullback early on. However, later on in his career, he was played more as a central defender where his reading of the game and his exceptional timing allowed him to excel.

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Lionel Messi

Date of Birth: June 24, 1987 (29)
Born in: Rosario, Santa Fe (ARG)
Position: Forward/Winger
Club: Barcelona (2004-present) – 585 games, 510 goals, 231 assists
National Team: Argentina (2005-present) – 115 caps, 58 goals, 42 assists

One of the numerous Argentinian attackers to have been given the “New Maradona” tag, Lionel Messi has truly stepped out into a light of his own. A player of many superlatives, Messi’s prolific goal scoring numbers are only matched by a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. The diminutive Argentinian terrorizes defenders every time he steps onto the pitch with his combination of speed, skill and deadly finishing. Though criticized for his lack of trophies with the national team, there is no doubt Messi has stamped his claim as one of the best to ever play the game.

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Carles Puyol

Date of Birth: April 13, 1978 (39)
Born in: La Pobla de Segur, Catalonia (ESP)
Position: Centre Back
Club: Barcelona (1999-2014) – 589 games, 19 goals, 9 assists
National Team: Spain (2000-2013) – 100 caps, 3 goals, 3 assists

The latest Blaugrana to make this list, Carles Puyol was Barcelona captain for 10 years. Like Iniesta, Puyol was also part of the Spanish golden generation that won the Euros in 2008 and 2012 and the World Cup in 2010. Despite his unimposing stature, Puyol was excellent in the air and possessed a commitment to win the ball that made him remarkable. Puyol always led by example and that made him a valuable player for Barça and the Spanish national team.

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Paul Scholes

Date of Birth: November 16, 1874 (42)
Born in: Salford, Greater Manchester (ENG)
Position: Central Midfielder
Club: Manchester United (1993-2011, 2012-2013) – 702 games, 149 goals, 49 assists
National Team: England (1997-2004) – 66 caps, 14 goals, 9 assists

Like the aforementioned Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes was a member of the famed Manchester United Class of ’92. Despite his small stature, Paul Scholes was never one to back down from a fight and often got booked because of that. Scholes was also notable for his important goals, with his spectacular screamer against Barcelona the first to come to mind. Furthermore, Scholes’ passing accuracy and his technical ability garnered praise from his peers.

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John Terry

Date of Birth: December 7, 1980 (36)
Born in: Barking, London (ENG)
Position: Centre Back
Club: Chelsea (1998-2017) – 689 games, 65 goals, 29 assists
National Team: England (2003-2012) – 78 caps, 6 goals, 3 assists

Though JT may very well leave Chelsea for another club this summer, he qualifies as a one-club player for the time being. A central part of Chelsea’s domestic and European success in the last decade or so, Terry established himself as one of the best defenders of his generation. Despite his numerous off-field issues, Terry managed to remain a leader on the field where his aerial ability and reading of the game allowed him to excel as a commanding centre half.

Thanks for reading. ‘Til next time!

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