There was once a time when players over the age of 30 were deemed on their way out, the start of a decline in their abilities as the physical prowess of their youth gradually diminished.
Advances in technology and science have ensured that elite footballers are now playing longer than ever before and with age comes experience, with a wealth of wisdom currently being put to good use by some leading names across the continent.
We’ve picked out some of the very finest golden oldies currently starring across European football, here are 10 veteran forwards still performing at the highest level:
Perhaps the shining example of where hard work and application can take a talent, Cristiano Ronaldo’s notorious drive and professionalism has ensured he remains one of the world’s finest footballers despite celebrating his 36th birthday this month.
Ronaldo’s career has been one of almost unparalleled success with the Portuguese superstar counting seven league titles, five Champions League crowns and five Ballon d’Ors amongst his incredible collection of honours.
Despite some contention from statisticians in the Czech Republic, Ronaldo recently celebrated his 760th career goal to become the greatest goalscorer in football history and has shown few signs of slowing down as Juventus’ talisman.
He currently leads the race to finish as Serie A’s leading scorer with 16 goals in 17 appearances, Ronaldo remaining a frightening proposition for even Europe’s best defenders.
If 30 is supposedly the age a player begins to decline, it’s fair to say that no one told Robert Lewandowski with the Bayern Munich goal-getter currently playing the best football of his career.
Lewandowski may be the youngest player on this feature at a sprightly 32-years-old, but it makes his achievements no less impressive with the Poland international continuing to obliterate goalscoring records.
The forward netted 55 goals in all competitions last season as Bayern won a historic treble, whilst he has netted a mind-boggling 24 times in 19 league appearances this season and has Gerd Muller’s all-time single season Bundesliga record of 40 in his sights.
The aforementioned Ronaldo’s departure from Real Madrid left a huge void but it is one that long-time supporting cast member Karim Benzema has filled brilliantly at the Bernabeu.
The Frenchman has scored 21 league goals in each of the past two league seasons and has 11 in 20 appearances this time around, leading his Los Blancos teammates for both goals and assists in the current campaign.
Karim Benzema for Real Madrid in La Liga this season:
◉ Most goals (11)
◉ Most assists (5)
The go-to man scores again. pic.twitter.com/a7WJvYItGA
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 9, 2021
Zinedine Zidane’s side are in a transitional period at present despite being crowned Spanish champions last season but the Real Madrid manager has the perfect spearhead of a new-look side in the form of his evergreen compatriot.
Sports scientists must be scratching their heads at the continued achievements of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a man whose performances of late have baffled pre-conceptions of physical decline.
The Swedish superstar will turn 40 later this year but remains one of the deadliest forwards in Italian football, returning to AC Milan from a stint in MLS to spearhead a resurgent Rossoneri towards a first league title in a decade.
Ibrahimovic has scored an astonishing 14 league goals in just 11 league appearances for the Serie A league leaders, the veteran defying father time with the best years of a storied career undoubtedly coming after his 30th birthday.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has now scored 500 career club goals 🤯 pic.twitter.com/eJwDs4r0V1
— Goal (@goal) February 7, 2021
Jamie Vardy became the oldest-ever winner of the Premier League’s Golden Boot last season, finishing as the division’s leading scorer for the first time to add another iconic moment to an incredible career.
The 34-year-old has fine-tuned his game under Brendan Rodgers but remains as dangerous as ever, operating on the shoulder of the last defender and using bursts of speed and movement to get into goalscoring positions.
Vardy became the 29th player to score a century of Premier League goals last season despite not making his top-flight debut until 27, one of English football’s great late bloomers the key figure in Leicester’s pursuit of Champions League football.
For those unfamiliar with Spanish football Iago Aspas may be little more than a forgettable figure from the Brendan Rodgers era at Liverpool, the forward have endured a miserable Merseyside venture before returning to La Liga.
Regular watchers of Aspas and Celta Vigo will tell you, however, that the veteran forward is the club’s greatest ever talent and arguably the division’s most influential footballer on his side’s fortunes – Lionel Messi aside.
Aspas has scored 111 goals since returning to his boyhood side in 2015 and remains as instrumental as ever to their fortunes, providing 15 goal involvements in 19 league appearances so far this season.
The 33-year-old has finished as the leading Spanish scorer in La Liga in three of the past four campaigns and could achieve the feat once more in 2020/21.
Manchester United’s deadline day signing of Edinson Cavani was labelled a panic move given the circumstances surrounding the deal, but it has proven one of the shrewdest acquisitions of the Premier League season.
Cavani has added experience, quality and a winning mentality to the side whilst his link-up play provides the Red Devils with a focal point they have lacked in recent campaigns.
The Uruguayan has scored six Premier League goals in just seven starting appearances with his goal per 90 minutes ratio second to only Golden Boot-leader Mohamed Salah across the entire division.
El Matador has quickly proven a popular figure and has shown the goalscoring instinct remains as sharp as ever for Paris Saint-Germain’s greatest ever goalscorer.
Barcelona sanctioned the sale of Luis Suarez last summer in the belief the forward’s best days were behind him, the star allowed to depart on the cheap for divisional rivals Atletico Madrid in a move the Catalan’s hierarchy must surely be regretting.
Suarez has proven the inspiration behind a superb start to the season for Diego Simeone’s side, the Uruguay international leading the race to finish as Spain’s leading scorer with 16 goals in just 16 starts.
Luis Suárez has scored 15+ league goals in each of the last nine seasons:
✓ 2012-13: 23
✓ 2013-14: 31
✓ 2014-15: 16
✓ 2015-16: 40 (!)
✓ 2016-17: 29
✓ 2017-18: 25
✓ 2018-19: 21
✓ 2019-20: 16
✓ 2020-21: 15+
Just 17 games needed in an Atleti shirt. 🔥 pic.twitter.com/OrV12uU2Yq
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) February 8, 2021
The 34-year-old’s presence has also brought the best out of forward partner Joao Felix and the two in tandem have given Atletico a comfortable advantage in their pursuit of a first league title since 2014.
It seems an age ago that Edin Dzeko was playing a pivotal part in Manchester City’s run to title success, the Bosnian forward netting 26 goals in all competitions as Manuel Pellegrini’s side were crowned as champions in 2014.
Dzeko proved a favourite at the Etihad but failed to secure his status as a guaranteed starter, moving on to Roma the following year and since enjoying a fruitful spell in the Italian capital.
The 34-year-old scored a career-best 39 goals in 2016/17 and the goals have continued to flow since, including hitting 19 in all competitions last season and seven in 16 appearances this term.
Dzeko may not be the same force of old but he remains a predatory finisher around the penalty area, his goals having helped fire Roma into the top four as they seek a Champions League return.
Olivier Giroud has been written off on more occasions than we care to count, but the veteran Chelsea forward continues to respond and underline the value he can bring to any side.
Giroud was linked with an exit from Stamford Bridge earlier this season before forcing his way back into the side, scoring a remarkable four-goal haul against Sevilla that made him the oldest hat-trick scorer in Champions League history.
The 34-year-old has scored nine goals from just nine starts across all competitions and his link-up play offers a different dynamic for both club and country, Giroud hoping to to prove he remains the right man to spearhead France’s bid to win this summer’s European Championships.
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