Who are the greatest one-club men of all time?

Suraj Radia
Suraj Radia Updated: 3 May 2022 14:06 BST 5 min read
Thomas Muller, Bayern Munich

In an era of astronomical transfer fees, contracts and constant media speculation, even the most loyal of footballers would have their commitment put to the test.

Not Thomas Muller, who on Tuesday just signed a new Bayern Munich contract to keep him at the club he has been at since the age of 10 until 2024.

Not many players can say they’ve spent almost their entire lives with one club but the ones that do will undoubtedly go down in history.

So just who are some of the greatest ‘one-club men’ of all-time?

Lev Yashin (Dynamo Moscow)

Often referred to as ‘the Black Spider’, the ‘Black Panther’ or just the best goalkeeper of all time, Lev Yashin was the true definition of an elite goalkeeper.

Yashin earned his legendary reputation playing in four World Cups for the Soviet Union across his 20-year career as well as winning the 1960 European Championship.

His imposing presence in goal, his spectacular acrobatic saves and exceptional sweeping ability also saw him win the Ballon d’Or in 1963 – the only goalkeeper to ever have won it.

Franco Baresi (Milan)

Franco Baresi

Widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders ever, Franco Baresi spent his entire 20-year career with Milan at the heart of one of the most feared backlines in football history.

Baresi’s leadership ability saw him appointed as Milan’s captain at age 22 and he won six league titles during his career – including three in a row – as well as three European titles.

The Italian’s ability to read the game as well as distribute the ball was considered revolutionary and saw Baresi finish as runner-up in the 1989 Ballon d’Or voting.

Paolo Maldini (Milan)

Another Milan legend, Paolo Maldini finished his career as the all-time Serie A appearance maker, with 126 caps for Italy and as one of the best defenders across three decades.

Maldini initially was part of the defence alongside Baresi however he is best known for his spell as Milan’s captain where he won 25 trophies.

He also captained the national team and saw his iconic number 3 shirt retired after he ended his career at the age of 41, having joined Milan as a ten-year-old in 1978.

Tony Adams (Arsenal)

Tony Adams’ career at Arsenal was commemorated with a statue outside the Emirates Stadium, highlighting just how highly regarded his career with the Gunners was.

Adams made more than 500 appearances at the centre of Arsenal’s defence, winning four league titles in a career which spanned over two decades.

Having also been capped 66 times for England, Adams also boasts spots in the English Hall of Fame as well as the PFA Team of the Century.

Francesco Totti (Roma)

Francesco Totti, Cska Moscow v Roma, 2014

Renowned for his grace and technical ability, Francesco Totti established himself as a legend of Italian football during his 25-year career at Roma.

With more than 600 league appearances, Totti is Roma’s all-time appearance maker as well as the second top scorer in Italian league history having scored 250 times.

The talismanic forward also won the 2006 World Cup with Italy and helped Roma win their third and most recent Serie A title in 2001.

Rogerio Ceni (Sao Paulo)

Okay, technically this is cheating because Rogerio Ceni started his senior career at Brazillian fourth division side Sinop but it’s hard to ignore his 25-year affiliation with Sao Paulo.

Whilst Ceni was considered an excellent shot stopper, he will go down in history as the highest scoring goalkeeper of all-time, with an incredible 131 goals scored.

A dead-ball specialist, Ceni scored all but one of his goals from free-kicks and penalties, leading his club to 20 major titles along the way.

Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)

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In truth, Manchester United’s ‘Class of 93’ could have multiple entries in this list, with Gary Neville and Paul Scholes also spending the entirety of their careers at Old Trafford.

However, having made a record 963 competitive appearances for United as well as winning more Premier League titles than any other player, Ryan Giggs gets the nod.

The Welshman’s 162 assists is also the highest in Premier League history and, with more than 30 trophies won, Giggs goes down as one of the most decorated players of all-time.

Carles Puyol (Barcelona)

Be it his intelligence as a defender or his wild, shaggy hair, Carles Puyol is one of football’s most iconic players having spent just under two decades with Barcelona.

Puyol captained Barca during a period where they won 18 trophies including six league titles and three Champions Leagues.

He also won 100 caps for Spain as well as lifting the the 2014 World Cup and the European Championships in 2008.

Jamie Carragher (Liverpool)

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Perhaps now known more for his punditry, Jamie Carragher joined Liverpool as a child and went onto make more than 500 appearances for the club across nearly 20 years.

The defender was inspirational during his side’s 2005 Champions League win and, despite his limited technical ability, gained a reputation for being one of the most intelligent defenders in the game.

Carragher was also capped 38 times for England and holds the record for the most appearances in European competitions for Liverpool.

Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich)

Muller’s record at Bayern Munich is unparalleled, having won nearly 30 trophies since making his debut for the club as a teenager in 2008. He originally joined as a 10-year-old.

Despite his achievements, the 32-year-old has rarely demanded the spotlight and has established himself as one of the most versatile and selfless players in world football.

Muller has also excelled internationally, being capped 112 times by Germany and winning the 2014 World Cup as well as the Golden Boot in the 2010 tournament.