Historically, the peak of a player’s value has come when they are in their prime, which for most is during their mid-late 20s. However, in today’s current economic climate, it is normal to see teams spend tens of millions of euros on a player because of what they offer for the future, with an example being Chelsea’s latest acquisition of Mykhail Mudryk. The Ukrainian winger, aged only 21, has made the move to the London-based club from Shakhtar Donetsk for a fee of nearly 70 million euros, all because of his incredible potential.
With teams like Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund, and Manchester City all relying on young stars to guide them to future glory, there is a group of forgotten players who don’t seem to get the credit they deserve – the older generation. Unfortunately for these veterans, they are often overlooked in favour of the younger players due to their longevity for future seasons, their age and of course, the media. However, to prove that the older generation is just as vital as the young guys of today’s game, I am here to highlight some of the best footballers right now who may be labelled as being “past their prime.”
The inspiration for making this article is Brazilian central defender Thiago Silva, who is rumoured to have a contract extension at 38 years of age. The ex-Paris Saint Germain defender has proved a lot of people wrong, as many believed his career was coming to an end when he made the switch to Premier League football in the summer of 2020.
Considering Chelsea’s season has been far from their expectations as they are currently sitting 10th in the league, Silva has been one of the few very bright stars in their squad. From the 20 match days so far, Silva has played in 18 and started 17, maintaining the second-highest performance rating for a Chelsea defender behind the newly signed Benoit Badiashile (who has only played twice).
Individually, Silva maintains an average of 1.7 tackles per game (p/g), 0.2 dribbles past p/g, 1.4 interceptions p/g as well as 4.4 clearances a match. He also has a successful disciplinary record too, only receiving 1 yellow in the Premier League and committing 0.4 fouls on average. Compared with Chelsea’s 10.5 fouls p/g and 2.1 yellow cards p/g, Silva is a solid presence to have in that backline.
All those stats are incredible for a Premier League defender looking to play at the top level past the age of 40. While Chelsea may be in poor form and in need of turning the season around, having Silva in defence is a great step in the right direction, especially if they want to make a European push.
You would be forgiven if you thought Luka Modric was just pushing 30 if you watched his performances for both Croatia at the World Cup as well as for Real Madrid this past season. The 37-year-old midfielder is going into his 11th year at Los Blancos after signing from Tottenham back in 2012.
Everyone knows Madrid for their constantly star-studded signings and the successful superpower they are, with their midfield being an excellent example of this. Toni Kroos, Federico Valverde, Eduardo Camavinga and Aurélien Tchouaméni are in competition to start alongside Modric. Yet, the maestro has played in 16 of Madrid’s 17 La Liga match days and also all 4 of their UEFA Champions League group stage matches as well.
While some may say that this has been a slow season for Modric, he has still contributed 5 times in the Spanish league and scored twice during Madrid’s group-stage matches. His passing and creative play is still top-class, and in La Liga, Modric creates 5 big chances p/g, maintaining a 93% passing rate in his own half and 90% passing accuracy in general.
Modric is also coming off of an impressive World Cup campaign where he started all 7 of Croatia’s matches, playing an average of 94 minutes per game. He finished the tournament with an average of 2.3 tackles p/g and 92.6 touches p/g, making himself a constant presence on the pitch. The previous Ballon d’Or winner has still shown he can keep up despite his age, and with Real Madrid in second place in La Liga and still going strong in the UCL, Modric’s end to his career looks to be far from over.
David Silva has been going under the radar since leaving Manchester City in the summer of 2020 to join Real Sociedad. Similarly to Modric, Silva has been a household name in football since his rise in the mid-2000s with Valencia and the Spanish National Team, especially when he made his move to Manchester City in 2010.
David Silva’s return to La Liga was well received, as he contributed 7 goal contributions in the 21 matches he played in during his first season, and contributed another 6 the season after in 31 matches. Although Silva may not be a headlining player and has dealt with some injuries, this season has looked inspiring to say the least.
Already this season, Silva has contributed 6 times in the 20 matches he’s featured in between La Liga, Europa League and the Copa del Rey. Currently, Real Sociedad has had an impressive run in the Spanish league being 3 points off of Real Madrid and 6 off of Barcelona. Even though players like Takefusa Kubo, Mikel Merino and Brais Mendez have been the standout names for Sociedad, Silva has been a reliable player, regardless of whether he is starting or featuring off the bench.
While Silva may not be contending for player of the season for Sociedad, he is still keeping up with the young players in the Sociedad squad. Try not to forget about the mystical Spaniard just yet, because he is still performing with lots of gas left in his tank.
One of the most prolific target men in Europe this season, Bosnia and Herzegovina forward Edin Džeko has proven that his scoring prowess is far from being finished. From all the players on this list, Džeko looks to be my personal favourite and certainly the most surprising.
Inter Milan’s squad currently has 4 forwards with the likes of Romelu Lukaku, Lautaro Martinez and Joaquin Correa, all of whom are under 30 years of age, and Džeko, who is 36. In the 25 matches Džeko has played for Inter this season in the Serie A and the UCL, he has the highest number of goals per 90 minutes (0.59), the least amount of minutes per goal and is tied for the most goals in their squad alongside Martinez.
The 36-year-old striker who has had a vast career in Italy, Germany and England is showing that no matter who he is playing for, goals will come. Being a target man who’s still able to score headers, finish in tight situations along with holding the ball up are all characteristics that one would expect Lukaku to be described with, but to some surprise, Džeko has been the guy filling that role for Inter this season.
As the Serie A is headed into its second half of the season, Inter is tied for third with Roma and Lazio and is a substantial 13 points away from league leaders Napoli. Whether or not Inter and Džeko are able to maintain their Champions League spot looks to be undoubted. It is really up to their defence to hold it together because up top they have the second most goals scored and it’s in part to the veteran Edin Džeko who is leading the line.
Of all the underrated footballers that could be looked at in the last decade, Olivier Giroud has been a player whose trophy cabinet and goal-scoring reputation has been as impressive as his looks. The 36-year-old French striker is coming off of an impressive World Cup campaign with France and currently sits in second place in the Serie A with AC Milan.
The French anchor-man up top has appeared in 25 matches this season with AC Milan and currently has 9 goals and 6 assists across all competitions. In the UCL alone, he has appeared in all 6 matches that Milan have played, and has an average of 1 contribution p/g with 4 goals and 2 assists to his name. Similarly to Dzeko, Giroud has quite a bit of competition going forward with Divock Origi, Ante Rebić, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and youngster Marko Lazetic all in contention for a starting spot.
Even with all those options up front, Giroud has managed to maintain AC Milan’s top scorer with 9 goals and 6 assists in all competitions, tying Rafael Leão for most goals and tied for second in the assist category with Sandro Tonali. Not only is Giroud a good goalscorer but he’s also helping with their attack with plenty of assists. Per game in the Serie A, Giroud averages only 64 minutes but has the highest goals per 90 minutes for Milan (0.53), as well as minutes per goal, with him putting the ball in the net once every 169 minutes.
In AC Milan’s current form, their collective performances have not been ideal as of late but there’s still time to catch Napoli if they get back to their best. For Giroud, he has to keep doing what he’s been doing–scoring goals and winning matches. There’s a reason Didier Deschamps chose Giroud over a plethora of French talent for this last World Cup, and at 36 years old, he continues to prove all of his doubters wrong.