TOP 10 | Players Born to Wear the Shirt
(Posted on 11/09/17)
Over the course of a club history thousands of players come and go through the sides doors, with only a select few players live long in the memory of the supporters.
But those fans favourites, the stars who stick with sides through and through, be it playing for their home town or becoming an honouree citizen, they are the most beloved of all. Here VFS take a look at the top ten players who were quite simply born to wear the shirt.
10- Johan Cruyff
A footballing pioneer and one of the most watchable and loved players wherever he played, Cruyff is idolised at several clubs from across his be it as a player or a manager. He was born in Amsterdam in 1947 and joined his hometown club Ajax in 1957. He rose through the youth ranks before signing his first professional contract in 1964. Over the next nine years he’d cement himself as a legend in Holland gaining caps for the national team and winning six league titles with his club. When you think of that famous red and white Ajax strip, Cruyff’s name isn’t far from your thoughts. He went on to have a silverware laden spell with Barcelona before heading over to the United States. In 1981 he returned to Amsterdam where he won a further two Eredivisie winners medals and managed them side from 1985 to 1988.
9- Tony Adams
The Romford born powerhouse, Tony Adams is a perfect example of a one-club man. Hailing from London’s east-end he signed for Arsenal in 1980 as a youth team players and rose up to the first team in 1983. With the Gunners running through his veins, Adams remained at the club for 19 years as a professional making over 600 appearances in a superb career that saw him clinch four league titles, three FA Cup’s, two League Cup’s and the European Cup Winners’ Cup. He retired in 2002 and went into management, first of all with Wycombe Wanderers followed by Portsmouth. He led Pompey out at Arsenal where the Gunners supporters chanted ‘There’s only one Tony Adams’. His latest spells were in Azerbaijan and with Granada in La Liga.
8- Matt Le Tissier
One of the stranger upbringings, Le Tissier was born on the isle of Guernsey and began life playing youth football with Vale Recreation on the island. Having had a trial with Oxford United he eventually signed YTS forms with Southampton in 1985, beginning a lifetime love affair between Le Tissier and the Saints. In 1986 he made the first of his 443 league appearances at the Hampshire side. An obvious talent, he scored some of the most brilliant goals the Premier League had ever seen, with Saints supporters nicknaming him ‘Le God’. With interest from other clubs high, Le Tissier only had his mind on one club and one shirt, the red and white stripes at the Dell. He could have won silverware and more England caps but he stayed with Southampton until 2002. He went on to play non-league football with nearby Eastleigh, running out 17 times in the league before hanging up his boots. He briefly came out of retirement in 2013 to play a match for his home island side Guernsey.
Born in a region of Barcelona, Xavi is one of the greatest midfielders not only to turn out for Barcelona or Spain, but of all time. The architect of the greatest Barcelona side of all time, the Catalonian joined the club aged 11 in 1991. He turned out over 50 times for the B team before making his full debut at the age of 18 in 1998. He would make 737 appearances for Barcelona winning everything. He took eight La Liga’s, three Copa del Ray’s, six Supercopa de Espana’s, two World Club Cup’s, two UEFA Super Cup’s and of course, a staggering four UEFA Champions League medals. He departed in 2013 for Qatar side Al-Sadd, whilst internationally he retired having won the European Championship in 2008 and 2010 FIFA World Cup.
6- Carles Puyol
Another Catalonian, Puyol bleeds Barcelona since joining the clubs prestigious academy in 1995. He made his debut at club in 1999 having played for the club’s C and B teams, and now progressed through to what would be a magic career. He would go on to win 20 trophies at the Nou Camp, many of which he lifted as captain. With 593 games played he retired in 2013 a legend, one of the clubs greatest captains and loved around the world for his no nonsense style of play, he is the last of his kind as the game evolves season by season.
5- Packie Bonner
Another one club man, Irish goalkeeper Packie Bonner may not have been the first person who springs to mind in world football, but he absolutely deserves to be when it comes to this list. Born in Donegal, Ireland, Bonner signed for Celtic in 1978 and that’s where he remained until 1998. Two decades with the Green and White of one of Scotland’s biggest sides, the shot stopper made over 500 appearances for the Hoops. Irish born like many of the side’s supporters and also a catholic, everything about Bonner fitted in with the club’s background. A true legend that picked up four league titles during a rampant 1980’s, he’s one of the club’s all-time greats.
4- Francesco Totti
When you hear the word Roma, there’s only one man that comes to mind, Francesco Totti. One of the most talented Italians of his generation, Totti is immortal when it comes to AS Roma. Born in the Italian capital, Totti first stepped through the doors of the Stadio Olympico in 1989 as a youth player where he graduated in 1992. From then on he spent 25 years with the Giallorossi cementing himself as perhaps the most loved player at the club of all time. He bowed out in 2017 having scored 250 Serie A goals and making a grand total of 786 appearances for the side. He could have at one time played for any side he fancied, but remained with Roma where he won just the one league title and two Coppa Italia’s. There would be no European honours but he did win the 2006 World Cup with Italy, so not all bad! He now holds the record of most appearances and most goals for any AS Roma player, and now works as a director for the club.
3- Paolo Maldini
Another Italian World Cup winner, this time over in Milan. Maldini is one of the greatest defenders to step on to a football pitch, and it started and ended in the world’s fashion capital. Born in the city, Maldini spent a staggering 24 years with AC Milan’s first team and 31 in total. He signed youth forms in 1978 and made his debut for the senior side in 1985, becoming the youngest player in the clubs history aged 16 years and 208 days. He’d go on to win seven Serie A titles, a Coppa Italia and a historic five UEFA Champions League winners’ medals. He stands as the clubs all-time leading appearance holder with an eye-watering 902 appearances. He holds the record of most Serie A appearances of any player and holds 126 caps for Italy including winning the 2006 World Cup.
2- Gary Neville
Another player you may not expect to be up there with the likes of Cruyff, Maldini and Totti, but if anyone was born to wear the famous shirt of Manchester United it’s Gary Neville. He didn’t have the raw talent of probably anyone on this list, but his hard work, dedication and attitude towards his club is rivalled by few. He hated Liverpool as much as he hated strikers, the Bury born right-back was a member of the legendary ‘Class of 92’ with the likes of David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Nicky Butt, Paul Scholes and his brother Phil Neville, he made his debut in 1992 against Torpedo Moscow in the UEFA Cup. He went on to make 400 Premier League appearances whilst picking up eight league titles, three FA Cup’s, two League Cups, and two Champions League titles. He was known for his aggressive and passionate displays, often heightened in matches against Liverpool which in their hay-day would be violent and heated affairs with Neville often in the thick of it. A true United icon, he gave everything for the shirt, and the shirt gave a lot back. He went on to retire in 2011 having played solely for United and England and would work for Sky Sports. He also worked as assistant manager to Roy Hodgson at England and briefly had an unsuccessful spell as Valencia manager.
1- Steven Gerrard
Liverpool have a number of legendary players, Kenny Dalglish, Kevin Keegan, Ian Rush the list goes on. But nobody is more beloved by their very own scouse hero Steven Gerrard. Born on Merseyside, Gerrard was born to represent the giants that Liverpool are. Joining in 1989 and spending nine years in the academy, Gerrard made his debut in 1998 as a substitute in a Premier League game against Blackburn Rovers. It would begin a fifteen year Anfield career bathed in huge success for Gerrard who impressed from the off. He made 710 appearances before bowing out in 2015 and joining LA Galaxy in the MLS. He skippered the side from 2003 until his departure and lifted the UEFA Champions League wearing the armband is perhaps the greatest final of all time in 2005. Having inspired the side in earlier rounds with a brilliant goal against Olympiakos, he scored a header in the fight back, having gone 3-0 down to AC Milan at half-time. They pulled it back to 3-3 and won on penalties. Gerrard’s honours also include two FA Cup’s, three League Cup’s, a UEFA Super Cup and a UEFA Cup medal. After a brief stint away, he returned to Anfield in 2017 to manage the Under-18 side, and we could see him managing the Reds in the future.
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