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Five players we hope to see at the over-35s World Cup

Veterans football, at the very highest level. You love to see it. A new over-35s World Cup competition is heading to England this summer where some of the game’s greatest names will dust off their boots in search of success.

The tournament is reportedly set to feature the eight nations who have been crowned world champions, with rumours whirling around who could take part.

We’ve listed five footballers we hope to see in action at the over-35s World Cup.

Ronaldinho – Brazil

For football fans of a certain vintage, Ronaldinho was the player who made them fall in love with the beautiful game. Few players have ever played at the highest level with such care-free attitude, with the South American superstar epitomising the jogo bonito style made famous in Brazil.

The two-time FIFA World Player of the Year did things others could not, boasting a repertoire of feints, flicks and audacious moments of dexterity and control.

Ronaldinho formed part of Brazil’s victorious World Cup squad in 2002, as he united with Ronaldo Nazario and Rivaldo in the famous ‘Three Rs’ forward line in Japan and South Korea.

Has there ever been a more fun footballer to watch? We’d argue not.

Iconic Performances: The night Ronaldinho received a standing ovation at the Bernabeu

Thierry Henry – France

Often acknowledged as the GOAT of the Premier League era, Thierry Henry haunted defenders during his peak at Arsenal.

A record four-time winner of the Premier League’s Golden Boot, he was the defining footballer of the early noughties on English shores and one of the world’s best.

The Frenchman scored a club record 228 goals in 377 games for the North London side and won the World Cup and European Championship with France, achieving all of that with signature swagger and glorious goals.

Five of the best: Thierry Henry goals

Francesco Totti – Italy

From one cool customer to another.

The Eighth King of Rome was how Francesco Totti was often referred to, becoming the most celebrated footballer in the history of his beloved AS Roma.

An incredible one-club career saw Totti turn down the advances of Europe’s elite to remain at the Stadio Olimpico, where he became Roma’s record goalscorer.

The Italian icon scored 307 goals in a Roma shirt and was twice named Serie A’s finest footballer, leading the capital club to the Scudetto in 2000/01. On the international stage, he formed part of Italy’s World Cup winning squad in 2006, scoring a stoppage time winner as the Azzurri edged past Australia in the last 16.

David Villa – Spain

Spain’s unprecedented dominance of international football saw La Roja win three consecutive major tournaments between 2008 and 2012.

A collection of magical midfielders saw the Spanish suffocate opponents of the ball as tiki-taka reigned supreme, though it was David Villa’s cutting edge that ensured the Spanish had potency to match their possession.

He top-scored as Spain won the 2008 European Championship and a first major tournament in 44 years, before a decisive contribution to their maiden World Cup triumph two years later. Villa scored or assisted 75% of Spain’s goals in 2010, a record for a World Cup winning team, beating Diego Maradona’s 71% for Argentina in 1986.

Still, somehow, he remains under-appreciated.

Juan Roman Riquelme – Argentina

A hero of football hipsters everywhere, Juan Roman Riquelme’s languid brilliance saw him delight and frustrate in equal measure.

The Argentine was a number ten in its traditional sense, floating around the opposition lines without urgency, but capable of unlocking any defence at any given moment. He might just be the perfect player for this masters-style tournament, with hard-running never an attribute that defined his game.

A magic maverick who toyed with opposition midfields at his best, his silk touch and unerring technique are unlikely to have diminished post-playing.

Read – Midfield Magicians – Juan Román Riquelme, a flawed diamond

See more – Noughties Nines: The irrepressible, David ‘El Guaje’ Villa

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