With the closing of the curtain on the 2021/22 domestic football season came the closing of the curtain on Mark Noble’s playing career, after an 18-year stint with West Ham.
For many outside of the West Ham bubble – pun intended – Noble’s retirement admittedly won’t mean all that much. A dependable midfielder who, at his best, was arguably one of England’s best, despite never gaining full international honours, without ever making much of a fuss.
Noble’s legacy is much more than that, however, to West Ham fans and wider football. With his retirement is the confirmation of another one club footballer – a feat that only continues to become more rare in the modern game.
Some people might consider that controversial as Noble did spend time on loan at Hull and Ipswich at the beginning of 2006, but for a man who joined the Hammers in 2000 as a youth having grown up supporting the club, and has since retired with the most appearances for the club and the nickname ‘Mr. West Ham’, we think an exception can be made regarding the loan spells.
One club players are only going to become more and more rare, certainly at football’s top level, so for Noble to achieve such an accolade with West Ham in recent times is nothing short of incredible.
Even at the end of his career, he has opted to hang up the boots instead of enjoying a year or two abroad or in a lower division, which is often what many will do. That is sincere dedication to the club he loves.
That’s had us scratching our heads at GIVEMESPORT, thinking about the greatest one club players in men’s football. And in honour of Noble’s retirement after such a stellar career, now feels as good a time as ever to take a look at the rare hall of fame he has joined.
Football’s greatest one-club men
Tony Adams – Arsenal
Signing for Arsenal on schoolboy terms in 1980, what would come of Adams is nothing short of iconic. The Englishman would develop into one of the club’s greatest players ever throughout a 19 year career in the first team, notably winning four top flight titles and three FA Cups. Adams also captained the side to three of those titles across three different decades, which is a testament to his longevity.
Rogerio Ceni – Sao Paulo
In a similar vein to Noble, there is an asterisk next to Ceni’s status as a one-club man, considering he started out at Sinop.
That didn’t last long at all, though, and considering he played over 1,200 times for Sao Paulo throughout his incredible career as the goal scoring goalkeeper, we’re letting him slip through the net. Better yet, he now manages the club.
Jamie Carragher – Liverpool
Liverpool’s second-longest serving player of all time, Carragher’s story from local boy to legend is immense. The defender debuted for the Reds in 1996 and would enjoy a storied career with the club all the way through to 2013, becoming an England international, sweeping up silverware and forging a legacy as one of the game’s finest leaders.
Manolo Sanchis – Real Madrid
Not only a one-club man at arguably the biggest club side in the world, Sanchis was a second generation footballer for Real Madrid, with his dad also turning out for Los Blancos. Sanchis, a throwback sweeper, racked up over 700 appearances for Real between 1983 and 2001, proving pivotal in a time before the Galacticos truly took over.
Carles Puyol – Barcelona
When we talk about serial winners, they don’t make them like Puyol anymore. Winning 18 major club titles with La Blaugrana, he would play just about anywhere he needed to for Barcelona during an exceptional 15 years in the first team, 10 years of which saw him serve as maybe the greatest captain ever.
Ryan Giggs – Manchester United
Breaking into the Manchester United senior setup slightly before his class of ’92 colleagues, Giggs was first called upon by Sir Alex Ferguson in 1990 and would go on to become United’s record appearance holder. One of football’s most decorated players ever, the Welshman would also serve the club as a coach and interim manager.
Franco Baresi – AC Milan
It’s a good thing we aren’t trying to craft a starting XI, because this team would be far too defensive with the talent available at the back. 20 years as AC Milan’s rock at the back, and 15 as captain, Baresi’s legacy is hard to top. A World Cup winner, Baresi won six Scudetti with Milan and even stuck with them as they won Serie B twice, ultimately being voted their player of the century in 1999, two years after retiring.
Paolo Maldini – AC Milan
After Baresi, there was Maldini, which is frankly absurd. A second generation footballer for Milan, Paolo followed in the footsteps of father Cesare in becoming a club legend. He won 25 trophies from 25 seasons with the Rossoneri, playing anywhere needed along the back line and captaining the side. He now serves as a club director and was pivotal in helping them win the 2021/22 Serie A title.
Paul Scholes – Manchester United
Despite social media trying to tell us otherwise these days, it is undeniable that Scholes is one of the game’s greatest midfielders. He forged a 20 year career as United’s midfield maestro, winning just about everything he could as a devoted man to the club. Inter reportedly tried to sign him in 2000, but after he rebuffed that, it was clear he only ever had eyes for United.
Ricardo Bochini – Independiente
A World Cup winner with Argentina, Bochini had immense talent, but spent his entire career in his native with Independiente. An exciting attacking midfielder, ‘El Bocha’ won 13 titles with the club from 1972-1991 and can be regarded as one of the best to never play in Europe.
Gary Neville – Manchester United
To spend an entire career playing for United under their greatest manager ever is no easy task, which is testament to how important Neville was. Another one of Fergie’s fledglings, the right back assumed the role of club captain after Roy Keane in 2005 and retired as one of the most decorated footballers ever.
Francesco Totti – Roma
Football’s golden boy, the world was Totti’s oyster considering his ability as a playmaker, but he chose to stick with Roma his entire career. Unwavering loyalty. Totti remains Roma’s top scorer and tops their appearances list, having enjoyed 25 years in the first team from 1992 to 2017. That one Serie A win in 2000/01 will forever feel incredible to him.
Giuseppe Bergomi – Inter
Bergomi is regarded as one of Italy’s greatest ever defenders and plied his trade on the blue side of Milan with Inter, over a glistening 20 year career from 1979 to 1999. Achieving domestic and European success with the Nerazzurri, ‘Lo Zio’ remains second in their all time appearances list, even today.