The 34th birthday of a footballer was once perceived as a landmark moment in an individual career.
Players would be considered long past their best, seasoned veterans with little left to give, expendable, devoid of value and already with one foot on the path to punditry or coaching.
But the rise in sports science combined with an unrelenting commitment to athleticism and success, an attitude championed by Cristiano Ronaldo, has changed the game.
Players like Ronaldo have rewritten the rules of what’s possible, and he is joined by a multitude of players who continue to thrive in Europe’s top five leagues despite their relatively old age.
With that in mind, GIVEMESPORT have ranked 18 of the best players from those leagues aged 34 and above and listed them in ascending order below.
Take a look at who makes the cut…
18. Joao Moutinho
Joao Moutinho’s importance to Nuno Espirito Santo has diminished this season but the diminutive playmaker continues to operate with prowess when called upon.
17. Goran Pandev
Goran Pandev will be fondly remembered by Inter Milan fans for his role in their treble-winning 2009/10 campaign, but his latest achievement immortalised his name in the Macedonian history books.
The 37-year-old made his 114th appearance for the national side in a qualifier against Georgia for a place at Euro 2021, and the experienced veteran used all his years of experience to calmly poke the ball beyond Giorgi Loria in the second-half.
Macedonia held on for a 1-0 win and secured their place at a major tournament for the first time in their history as Pandev acquired demi-god status in his home country.
16. Aleksandar Kolarov
Aleksandar Kolarov has enjoyed a fantastic career with Manchester City, AS Roma and now Inter Milan.
Capable of playing at left-back or centre-back, and with a ferociously powerful long-range strike in his locker, the Serbia international remains a valuable asset at 35 years of age.
15. Raul Albiol
Villarreal’s decision to sign Raul Albiol for a measly £4.5m fee has proven to be something of a masterstroke.
The former Real Madrid man’s fine form in La Liga serves to strengthen widely accepted notions about the longevity of central defenders.
14. Jose Fonte
Just like Albiol, Jose Fonte is another centre-back who is proving that players in his position often age like a fine wine.
With a Whoscored rating of 7.02 in Ligue 1 this season, and 7.28 in the Europa League, Fonte has been a huge asset to Lille both domestically and in Europe.
13. Laurent Koscielny
Laurent Koscielny is still doing the business at 35 years of age.
A regular in Bordeaux’s backline, the Frenchman has a Whoscored rating of 7.2, and has completed 1.1 tackles, 2.7 interceptions and 5.8 clearances this season.
At 39 years old Joaquin is the oldest player on the list.
A veteran in the purest sense of the word, the Real Betis winger has made more La Liga appearances (564) than any outfield player in the history of the competition.
11. Fabio Quagliarella
Fabio Quagliarella is still finding the net on a regular basis at 37 years of age.
Serie A seems to be a hotspot for the best veterans in world football, and Quagliarella, who scored 26 goals in 37 games during the 2018/19 season, is certainly in that bracket.
Will this be his final campaign at the summit of Italian football? The pattern of the current campaign would suggest he’s got another in him.
10. James Milner
One of the last remaining relics of a bygone era, James Milner is a true stalwart of the English game.
Milner is not the iron-lunged athlete he once was, but he’s an incredibly reliable squad player for Liverpool and his versatility has been a huge asset for Jurgen Klopp during his side’s injury hit season.
9. Burak Yilmaz
Burak Yilmaz has completed a seamless transition to life in French football.
The goal hungry winger has already notched six goals in 15 Ligue 1 games in 2020/21, building on his return of 13 from 25 Turkish Super Lig games last season.
A grand total of 187 goals in 323 appearances in Turkey’s top flight underlines his prolificacy in front of goal.
8. Olivier Giroud
Will Oliver Giroud be destined to go down as the most underrated striker of all time?
The Chelsea outcast spearheaded France’s successful 2018 World Cup campaign and has enjoyed fruitful spells with Arsenal and Montpellier, starring in the latter’s unlikely 2011/12 title win.
Fairly undermined for his lack of pace and struggle to beat his opposite number, his harshest critics have waged a myopic campaign against a supremely talented and successful footballer.
7. Edin Dzeko
Edin Dzeko is in a similar bracket to Giroud – physically imposing, lacking a touch of pace and underrated by many.
But Dzeko’s seemingly languid approach, which has sometimes been misinterpreted as laziness, has deceived many defenders who have come up against him down the years.
With the ability to score goals of every type, from thumping headers to long-range stunners, Dzeko has long tormented defenders in the Bundesliga, Premier League and Serie A.
He scored a number of crucial goals during his time at Man City – particularly in the absence of Sergio Aguero during their 2013/14 title win.
Though his influence is slowly diminishing with age, the Bosnian still boasts an impressive strike rate at Roma with five goals in ten league games this season.
6. Thiago Silva
There looks to be plenty of life left in Thiago Silva.
The 36-year-old was firmly in the twilight phase of his career when he arrived at Chelsea in the summer, but a series of outstanding performances have vindicated Frank Lampard’s decision to bring him to west London.
With 89 Brazil caps and a total of seven Ligue 1 titles to his name, Silva is one of the best veterans in the business.
One of the last remaining figures of Man City’s old guard is another Brazilian with plenty of staying power.
Pep Guardiola once said “If a team had three Fernandinhos, they would be champions.”
The versatile holding midfielder, who has also filled in at centre-back and full-back during his time at City, has earned such high acclaim from the Catalonian due to his telepathic ability to intercept danger before it unfolds, to pinch the ball from his opponent just at the moment in which they’d plotted a route to goal.
Blending that quality with a steadfast commitment to Guardiola’s free-flowing principles, playing the ball forward into City’s array of creative wizards whenever possible, Fernandinho has been one of the best signings of the Sheikh Mansour era.
Despite being 35 years old, he still has a key role to play this season both on and off the field.
4. David Silva
David Silva, El Mago, the magician.
One of the protagonists of the revolution at Man City struggled to reach his astronomically high standards as his time at the Etihad Stadium drew to a close, but he’s been in excellent form since joining Real Sociedad.
With his 35th birthday looming on the horizon, Silva is one of the last of a dying breed of enigmatic number tens.
3. Sergio Ramos
Sergio Ramos has firmly cemented his legendary status at Real Madrid following a career spanning more than 15 years.
His incredible propensity for goal scoring and receiving red cards have added two incredibly niche dynamics to an extraordinary career, and it’s unlikely we’ll see a player like Ramos for quite some time.
With his contract due to expire in June 2021, though, there are lingering doubts about where his future lies.
2. Zlatan Ibrahimovic
Zlatan Ibrahimovic has defied all expectation this season by scoring at a remarkable rate for AC Milan.
The Swede has managed to come back from his move to the MLS – which typically signals the end of a player’s time at the elite level – as an even more devastating prospect than the one who spent two years at Milan between 2010 and 2012.
Whatever you think of his brash media persona and unadulterated levels of arrogance, it’s hard to argue that his attitude is anything other than a reflection on his talent.
1. Cristiano Ronaldo
Part human, part robot, part extraterrestrial.
Cristiano Ronaldo has almost single-handedly rewritten the rules on what is possible in football, serving as a role model for the next generation and a tale of athletic success.
Perhaps he’s not as gifted as Lionel Messi, but the Juventus star is arguably the most determined and dedicated player in the game.
His commitment to elitism has propelled him onto a platform with a player in Messi whose talent merits an uncontested place at the apex of world football.
The Portugal international comfortably claims first place in this list, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him perched in top spot in this same ranking two years down the line.