Loyalty is not such a common thing in modern-day football and that is why you see players moving from club to club during every transfer window. However, there are some exceptional cases of football players who never took advantage of the transfer window to secure a move to another club. These are players who stuck to just one club throughout their careers. Hence, it is imperative to try to know the best one club football players of all time.
1. Ryan Giggs – Manchester United (England)
This Welsh midfielder is one of the greatest one-club players of his generation. He spent 23 years playing for the Manchester United first team after making his professional debut with the organisation in 1991. After the 2013–14 season, he announced his retirement from the game, setting a club record with 963 competitive appearances. He managed to rack up a total of 114 goals for the senior Manchester United team in his career.
He won more Premier League championship medals than any other player in history during his time at United, with 13 total. He also won four FA Cups, three League Cups, two UEFA Champions League medals, a FIFA Club World Cup medal, an Intercontinental Cup medal, a UEFA Super Cup medal, and nine FA Community Shield medals. He is one of only 44 players to have made over 1,000 career appearances.
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2. Paolo Maldini – AC Milan (Italy)
Playing primarily as a left-back and centre-back for AC Milan, Paolo Maldini spent all 25 seasons of his playing career with the club, before retiring at the age of 41 in 2009. This defender successfully racked up 26 trophies with the club including the European Cup/UEFA Champions League five times, seven Serie A titles, one Coppa Italia, five Supercoppa Italiana titles, five European/UEFA Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups and one FIFA Club World Cup.
After making his Italy debut in 1988, Maldini played for 14 years until retiring in 2002 with 126 caps, 7 goals, and an appearance record that has since been exceeded by Gianluigi Buffon and Fabio Cannavaro.
Pele’s FIFA 100 ranking of the best active players in the world includes his name. With 902 appearances in all competitions and 29 goals with the senior squad, he holds the Milan appearance record. Among the select few players, he has made more than 1,000 appearances in his career. He was admitted to the Italian Football Hall of Fame in December 2012.
3. Francesco Totti – Roma (Italy)
Dominating the front as an attacking midfielder or as a second striker, lone striker, or winger, Roma’s Francesco Totti holds a Serie A title, two Coppa Italia titles, and two Supercoppa Italiana titles with the club. He has 619 appearances for Roma, scoring 250 goals between 1993 and 2017.
He has racked up several records in the Italian league as the second-highest scorer of all time in Italian league history with 250 goals, and the sixth-highest scoring Italian in all competitions with 316 goals.
With Roma, he stands as the player with the most goals and the most capped player in Roma’s history. Other records include the youngest club captain in Serie A history and the most goals scored in the league while playing for a single team. At 38 years and 59 days, Totti increased his record as the oldest goal scorer in UEFA Champions League history in November 2014.
In addition to being named to the All-Star squad for both the 2006 FIFA World Cup and the UEFA Euro 2000 final with Italy, Totti also competed for his nation in the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004. Totti declared his retirement from international competition in 2007 to concentrate only on his club career with Roma because of recurrent health issues.
Football legend, Pele in 2004, named him in the FIFA 100’s list of the world’s greatest living players, as part of FIFA’s centenary celebrations.
There is no doubt that Totti is one of the best one club players ever in footbal.
4. Jamie Carragher – Liverpool (England)
Starting his career at the Liverpool Academy, this defender, Jamie Carragher was Liverpool’s vice-captain for 10 of his 17 years with the club, also as the club’s second-longest-ever serving player. For the club at the senior level, he racked up 503 games with the Reds, scoring just 3 goals.
He also holds the record for the most appearances in European competition for Liverpool with 149 games under his belt. Two FA Cups, three League Cups, two Community Shields, one Champions League, one UEFA Cup, and two Super Cups are among his many silverware with Liverpool.
For England, Carragher made his senior debut in 1999 and held the record for the most caps at the under-21 level nationwide. Before declaring his retirement from playing football for England in 2007, he represented his country in the UEFA Euro 2004 and the FIFA World Cup 2006. Nonetheless, he briefly came out of retirement to play for England in the FIFA World Cup of 2010, and after winning 38 senior caps for his country, he retired once more.
5. Tony Adams – Arsenal (England)
Tony Adams played centre defence at Arsenal for his whole 19-year playing career, totalling 672 games and four English league championships. He was able to bag 504 games for Arsenal scoring just 32 goals from 1983 to 2002.
He won four championships in the top-level division with Arsenal, including three FA Cups, two Football League Cups, a UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, and two FA Community Shields. Notably, he captained a winning club in three separate decades.
In addition to being listed in the Football League 100 Legends, he is regarded as one of Arsenal’s all-time finest players. On December 9, 2011, a statue of Adams was inaugurated at Emirates Stadium with sculptures of Herbert Chapman and Thierry Henry. Between 1987 and 2000, he competed in four major tournaments and gained 66 caps for England, scoring 5 goals for the Three Lions.
6. Mahmoud Ibrahim Ibrahim El Khatib – Al Ahly (Egypt)
Bibo, as he is commonly nicknamed, is the current president of Al Ahly and is regarded by many as the greatest Egyptian and African football player of all time.
The forward spent his whole playing career at Al Ahly, where he won three African Cup Winners’ Cups, two African Cup of Champions, five Egypt Cups, and ten Egyptian Premier Leagues. He racked up 164 appearances, scoring 164 goals from 1972 to 1988.
He also helped Egypt win the 1986 Africa Cup of Nations; scoring 24 goals in 52 appearances for the Pharaohs between 1974 and 1986.
7. Ricardo Bochini – Club Atletico Independiente (Spain)
Ricardo Bochini, often known by his nickname El Bocha, played for Argentine Club Independiente for nearly twenty years, growing into one of the most iconic players and the club’s biggest idols.
Debuting for the club in 1972, he had to hang his boots for the club in 1991 after making 634 appearances for the club and scoring 97 goals as an attacking midfielder. Despite his lack of scoring prowess, he was regarded as one of the finest playmakers of the 1980s because of his precise passing and good vision, which frequently set up teammates for goals.
Apart from being the Argentina national team’s 1986 FIFA World Cup champion, Bochini won 13 titles with Independiente, including four Primera División crowns and nine foreign events.
Known as an avid Maradonna fan, the legend once spoke of him saying, “Watching him play drove me crazy with delight.”
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8. Carles Puyol – Barcelona (Spain)
Dominating the Barcelona defence either as a centre-back, full-back or right-back, Carlos Puyol is a leader at the back and in general, the team. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders of all time in the world of football.
“El Tiburónes” or “The Shark” as he is called by fans, Puyol bagged 593 competitive matches for Barcelona in his career. He won 18 major club titles, including six La Liga trophies and three Champions Leagues, from 1996 to his retirement in 2014. He is best friend to former Barcelona teammate, Xavier Hernández and used to be a goalkeeper, but became a defender after struggling with injuries to his shoulder.
Puyol was in the teams that won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2008, and he has 100 caps for Spain. He scored the game’s lone goal against Germany in the 2010 World Cup semifinal.
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9. Steve Cherundolo – Hannover 96 (Germany)
This man is special as one of the few men who spent all their club careers as a foreigner in the club. This American right-back racked up a total of 370 appearances for Hannover 96, scoring 7 goals between 1999 to 2014.
He has a Bundesliga record for being one of the longest-serving players in the league. He had to retire in 2014, due to his failure to recover from a long-term knee injury.
Cherundolo is popularly known to Hannover 96 fans as “Dolo” or the “Mayor of Hannover.
He also saw action in the USA senior team, playing 87 games and scoring two goals, earning him a CONCACAF Gold Cup medal in 2095 and runners-up medals in 2009 and 2011.
Steve Cherundolo is currently the head coach of Major League Soccer side Los Angeles FC.
When talking about one club players, Steve Cherundolo should be remembered for good.
10. Segun Odegbami – Shooting Stars FC (Nigeria)
Known by his nickname “Mathematical,” the Nigerian forward was well-known for his agility with the ball and the accuracy of his crosses from the right flank. Between 1970 and 1984, he was a player with the IICC Shooting Stars of Ibadan throughout his career.
He racked up 3 Nigerian Premier League titles, 2 Nigerian FA Cup titles, and one African Winners’ Cup title with Shooting Stars.
The 1984 African Champions Cup final match against Egypt’s Zamalek was his final game with the club after spending 14 years playing for them. The term “Mathematical” first appeared because Segun Odegbami studied engineering at The Polytechnic, Ibadan, the top technical university in Nigeria, from which he graduated.
On the international scene, Odegbami made 47 appearances for the Super Eagles of Nigeria, scoring 22 goals in 5 years. Coincidentally, his other brother, Wole Odegbami, is also a former national team player, spending 11 years on the Nigerian national team. For Nigeria, he won silver at the 1978 All-African Games and helped win the Africa Cup of Nations in 1980.
11. Vyacheslav Malafeev – Zenit St Petersburg (Russia)
Malafeev is one the best one club players to represent a Russian club. The safehands, Vyacheslav Malafeev, was one of the most admired players in Russian League giants Zenit St Petersburg.
With a career spanning 19 years (1997-2016), with no goals but 376 appearances under his belt, this shot-stopper made a name through denying goals instead of scoring them.
For the club, he racked several silverware including 4 Russian Premier League titles, 2 Russian Cup titles, 1 Russian Premier League Cup title, 2 Russian Super Cup titles, 1 UEFA Cup: title and 1 UEFA Super Cup title.
He also had 33 caps for the Russian national team, coming as a bronze medalist in the UEFA European Championship in 2008.
12. Tony Hibbert – Everton (England)
Everton’s right-back legend, Tony Hibert, made 328 appearances for the club in all competitions, racking up not one single goal for the club. After retiring from professional football in 2016, he went to play amateur football in France for ES Louzy in 2021.
Unfortunately, he never won any major silverware for Everton in his senior career, only coming up as a runner-up in the English FA Cup in the 1997/98 season.
He also wasn’t lucky with the English national team as in October 2002, he was called up to the England under-21 squad for matches against Macedonia and Slovakia; however, he was unable to participate in either match because of a hamstring injury.
In Everton, he is fondly remembered and loved by a cult following of fans because of his down-to-earth demeanour.
13. Christian Chukwu – Enugu Rangers (Nigeria)
Christian Chukwu, a defender throughout his playing career, rose to the position of captain for both the Nigerian national team and Enugu Rangers in the late 1970s.
He is acknowledged as one of the best defenders to have ever represented Nigeria. Chukwu’s leadership skills earned him the moniker “Chairman” from his comrades. His Club won the Challenge Cup four times under his leadership: in 1975, 1976, 1981, and 1983. He is recognised as the most accomplished captain in Nigerian history and the only person to have won the prestigious Challenge Cup four times. Under his captaincy, his club won the 1977 Africa Cup Winner’s Cup.
After Nigeria defeated Algeria 3–0 in the 1980 tournament final, he became the first captain from Nigeria to raise the African Nations Cup trophy. In the African Nations Cup, Christian Chukwu led the Nigerian national team to its inaugural victory.
14. Jack Charlton – Leeds United (England)
From 1950 to 1973, this legendary English centre-back played for Leeds United his entire playing career. He helped the team win the Second Division (1963–64), First Division (1968–69), FA Cup (1972), League Cup (1968), Charity Shield (1969), and Inter-Cities Fairs Cup (1968 and 1971).
He was also instrumental to the team’s one other promotion from the Second Division (1955–56), five second-place finishes in the First Division, two FA Cup final losses, and one Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final defeat. Club records are tied by his 629 league and 762 overall competitive appearances.
With the English national team, he found success, winning two World Cups and one European Championship appearance.
Success in football didn’t end in his family with him as his club and country teammate, former Manchester United forward, Bobby Charlton, was his older brother. Charlton was elected into the Leeds United Greatest XI in 2006 by the club’s supporters.
15. Paul Scholes – Manchester United (England)
With 150 goals in more than 718 appearances between 1993 and 2013, current co-owner of Salford City and former Manchester United Midfielder, Paul Scholes is regarded by football die-hards as one of the best midfielders of his generation and one of the greatest Manchester United players of all time.
As one of the Ferguson boys, Scholes worked his way from the club’s academy to the senior team, retiring as the player with the third-highest number of appearances by any player for the club.
He won 25 trophies with Manchester United, including two UEFA Champions League crowns and 11 Premier League titles—more than any other English player.
From 1997 until 2004, Scholes played for the England national team, earning 66 caps and competing in the UEFA European Championships in 2000 and 2004 as well as the FIFA World Cups in 1998 and 2002.
16. Lev Yashin – Dynamo Moscow (Russia)
Many in the world of football consider Russian professional football player Lev Ivanovich Yashin to be the best custodian in the history of the game. His agility, placement, commanding presence in goal, and incredible reaction saves were well-known attributes.
He has got a rap sheet of successes internationally, and as the only goalkeeper on this list, deserves so much more. From 1958 to 1970, Yashin participated in four World Cups. In 2002, he was selected for the FIFA Dream Team of World Cup history. He was selected for the FIFA World Cup All-Time Team in 1994 and the World Team of the 20th Century in 1998.
Yashin stopped more penalty kicks than any other goalie in professional football, according to FIFA, with over 150 saves. Throughout his career, he also maintained over 270 clean sheets and took home gold in the 1956 Olympic football competition and the 1960 European Championship.
Yashin was the only goalie to win the Ballon d’Or since it was first given out in 1963. In addition, he was selected posthumously for the 2020 Ballon d’Or Dream Team, a greatest all-time XI, and the IFFHS deemed him the greatest custodian of the 20th century. He was chosen as the Golden Player of Russia by the Russian Football Union as their most exceptional player of the last 50 years in November 2003 to commemorate UEFA’s Jubilee.
There is no doubt that Yashin is one of the best one club players ever in football history.
17. Franco Baresi – AC Milan (Italy)
With a club career spanning 20 years as a defender, this former AC Milan defender started his youth career at the club and ended his senior career there. In his time, he racked up 532 appearances between 1982 and 1994; scoring 16 goals for the club.
He also played internationally for Italy, making 81 appearances and scoring 1 goal. On World Soccer magazine’s selection of the 100 best players of the 20th century, he came in at number 19. He won six Serie A crowns, four Supercoppa Italiana titles, two European Super Cups, two Intercontinental Cups, and three UEFA Champions League titles with Milan.
Baresi was in the 1982 FIFA World Cup-winning Italian side as a member of the national team.
Football legend Pelé listed him among the 125 Greatest Living Footballers during the FIFA Centenary Awards in 2004. In 2013, Baresi received his induction into the Italian Football Hall of Fame and no wonder he is generally considered one of the best one club football players ever.
18. Thomas Muller – Bayern Munich (Germany)
Still playing for Bundesliga giants, Bayern Munich after spending 16 years with the club; this German forward alternates as a forward and an attacking midfielder. He has racked up 490 appearances for the club, scoring 161 goals in the process.
The 34-year-old continues to show his worth to the German club side with more than 12 Bundesliga titles under his belt, the most recent of them in the 2022/23 season. He also has two UEFA Champions League to his name and one FIFA World Cup title (2014) in his 126 appearances for the German senior national team; scoring 45 goals for them.
Many believe that even though Muller is still in action, his heart will remain with the club until he retires from football. Still he can be considered one of the best one club players in football.
19. Max Morlock – 1 FC Nurnberg (Germany)
Spending 24 years and racking up a whopping 472 appearances, Max Morlock is a German football player who played professionally for West Germany during the separation of the country. He racked up 26 caps and scored 21 goals for the national team.
At his time at 1 FC Nurnberg, this forward scored an astounding 294 goals in all competitions and he was spectacular at both attack and defence. As a youth, he honed his football skills at local clubside, Eintracht Nürnberg before debuting for 1 FC Nurnberg in 1941. He left the club in 1964 and died in 1994 at the age of 69.
20. Itumeleng Khune – Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa)
Keeping score for both the South African national team and Kaizer Chiefs of the Premier Soccer League, this goalkeeper nicknamed “Spiderman” became well-known around South Africa when he stopped three penalties from Peter Ndlovu and Esrom Nyandoro against Mamelodi Sundowns in the Telkom Knockout final on December 1, 2007. With over 281 appearances for the Kaizer Chiefs, this shot-stopper is still active for his club.
He gained world fame a day before turning 22 on June 20, 2009, he is also well-known for stopping a David Villa penalty for South Africa and then making two saves in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup group stage match against Spain.
His popularity and fame didn’t stop there, in a league victory over Mpumalanga Black Aces on October 28, 2015, he is also well-known for pulling off a René Higuita scorpion kick save that went viral in England. Recalling his fast reactions and distribution, Khune has been called “the best you will see anywhere” by former Liverpool custodian Sander Westerveld.
Khune became the second custodian to be sent off in FIFA World Cup history on June 16, 2010, against Uruguay. He has 94 caps for South Africa internationally.
In reality, Khune will be remembered as one of the best one club football players not just in Africa but world at large.