Football at the elite level is a tough business. No matter how talented a player might be, very few manage to forge an entire career at the absolute top-tier of the game.
Inevitably, there comes a time for every professional where they start to think about winding down their playing days. Typically, this will eventually lead to a move down the footballing pyramid.
In modern times, veterans of Europe’s top leagues have a whole host of well-travelled routes open to them. Whether it’s a move to a lower division in their country where they currently ply their trade or a switch to a foreign competition such as the A-League or MLS, it’s not uncommon to see established names see out the final stages of the careers in these surroundings.
However, over the years, several famous faces have opted to make some truly bizarre moves to destinations that still have us scratching our heads. Here is a look at eight well-known players who had spells at the most random of clubs.
Capped 53 times for England between 1997 and 2010, the former Liverpool, Aston Villa and West Ham shot-stopper made a surprising detour to Icelandic football in 2013. At the request of pal Herman Hermann Hreidarsson, James joined IBV in a player/coach role.
He might have been 42 at the time, but James’ arrival was welcomed by the club as attendances rose significantly. His time with IBV lasted only a few months, though, with James making another remarkable career decision when he accepted an offer to become player/manager of Indian Super League side Kerala Blasters. He hung up his gloves for good after his reign came to an end after just 11 games.
Winner of the 1999 Ballon d’Or, Rivaldo was an exceptional talent at his peak. Part of the Brazil side that lifted the 2002 World Cup, the attacking midfielder represented both AC Milan and Barcelona during his prime years, snagging plenty of silverware in the process.
Towards the end of his 20-year career, though, the bright lights of the world’s top leagues grew ever dimmer for him. A two-season stint in Uzbekistan with Bunyodkor and a spell at Kabuscorp in Angola at just two of the far-flung locations that the superstar travelled to before retirement.
Following the lead of his former international and club colleague, Ronaldinho also traded the likes of the Camp Nou and the San Siro for less attractive propositions as his career drew to a close. Most notably, the 2005 Ballon d’Or winner ended up signing a deal with Mexican outfit Queretaro in 2014, staying for 29 games and scoring 8 goals.
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Now revered as one of the greatest coaches on the planet, current Manchester City boss Guardiola was an integral part of the side that helped Barcelona claim their first-ever European Cup in 1992. A deep-lying playmaker, Guardiola spent 11 years at the Blaugrana as a player, before departing in 2001.
Post-Barca, Pep endured a frustrating few years, never able to recapture the form he had displayed at the Camp Nou. His final spell before moving into management came in Mexico where he played 10 games for little-known side Dorados de Sinoloa.
A two-time Golden Shoe winner, Forlan was a frightening prospect for opposition defenders to face in La Liga between 2004 and 2011, as he scored hatfuls of goals for both Villarreal and, later, Atletico Madrid. The Uruguayan’s final career bow, though, took place on the unlikely stage of the Hong Kong Premier League, where he turned out for Kitchee. Naturally, despite being almost 40 at the time, Forlan still managed to chip in with six goals from his 14 appearances for the club.
Alessandro Del Piero
The Juventus legend clocked up over 500 career appearances in Turin – and is considered one of the greatest players to ever represent the club. Del Piero’s 10-game spell in the Indian Super League for Delhi Dynamo’s at the very end of his career – where he managed just a single goal – is probably one that even the player himself would like to forget.
The biggest name signed by Russian billionaire Suleyman Kerimov during the crazy period between 2011 and 2013 where he spent with reckless abandon to try and turn Anzhi Makhachkala into a footballing superpower.
Eto’o was reportedly handsomely rewarded for agreeing to trade Inter Milan for Anzhi in August 2011. €20m-per-year after tax was enough to persuade the Cameroonian striker to make the switch. For that substantial investment, Eto’o returned 26 goals in 73 games – before departing in 2013 when the Anzhi bubble burst.
It’s easy to understand why he made the move, but that doesn’t make it any less random.
Carving out a superstar reputation during the 90s and early 2000s while representing the likes of Ajax, Juventus and Barcelona, as well as both Milan clubs, it was a pretty major surprise when former Dutch international Edgar Davids rocked up at League Two Barnet in 2012 as player/manager.
He stuck it out for a while too, even after the side where relegated to the Conference Premier in his first season at the club. After departing in 2014, though, Davids never played again – nor was there a clamour for his managerial services either.
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