Tuesday 21 November 2017

Best of the best

THIS week my friends, you are in for a treat. I have done some actual research. Leighton Baines sparked this unusual practice.

As news broke that the left-back had committed his future on Monday, it made me admire him for staying loyal to the club that showed faith in him.

And it got me thinking about all the wonderful footballers who have devoted their careers to that one particular club. And just for your reading pleasure, I have compiled my top 20 list, with a heavy favouring towards the modern era.

Surprisingly, Robbie Keane does not make the cut. Had he snuck in, he would surely have been 'delighted to be here' because, after all, it had always been a dream of his. If I ever do a list of the best celebrations ever though Robbie, you'll be right up there.

I posed the question of who the ultimate one-team man was to Twitter late on Monday evening and my ol' Twitter account has not been so alive with activity since I asked was I the only person out there that didn't actually like KFC's chicken (the voting was about 75% in my favour).

But enough about poultry, let's kick things off. In descending order, I'll now list the top ten and then at the end the also-rans, who didn't quite make the grade but definitely deserve an honourable mention. Here goes nothing. For abuse or debate, find me at @DanGorman_ on the Twitter machine.

(The boring bit: to make this list, I took into consideration the amount of success each player had at their club. The more success, the less likely the player will want to leave. The less successful, the more likely they would want to leave so therefore the more commitment they have shown).

10. Packie Bonner (Celtic): Maybe if he wasn't a hero in Ireland, he wouldn't find himself here. But he is an Irish legend and he is here. He is also a Celtic legend, having made nearly 650 appearances between the sticks for the Bhoys. Will always be most famous for upsetting some Romanians in 1990.

9. Franco Baresi (AC Milan): Baresi, at 53, is the same age as Bonner. But their on-field personas are slightly different. Baresi was and is still regarded by many as the greatest defender of all time. 532 outings for AC Milan as a sweeper helped him to win three European Cups and six Serie A titles. Also won a World Cup with Italy.

8. Xavi (Barcelona): Not retired yet, but nobody can deny his status as a one-team man. Recently made his 700th appearance for the Catalans and in that time he has won every trophy imaginable. The 5"7 midfielder still has a few years left in him yet at 34 years of age.

7. Jamie Carragher (Liverpool): Over 500 matches for the club that he so passionately loved is why Carragher is here. Once shot down a reporter who was fishing for a headline by asking "who's bigger than Liverpool", and it is his attitude and dedication, as well as incredible spirit, that have earned him this place.

6. Kieran 'Tarzan' O'Brien (Bray Wanderers): The name of Kieran 'Tarzan' O'Brien' may not be as worldwide known as the rest of this list but the Bray Wanderers legend is their equal on the pitch. Was the Seagulls' top scorer until very recently but in his time at the Carlisle Grounds, he earned himself legend status.

5. Francesco Totti (Roma): Francesco Totti joined Roma as a youth in 1989, the year that yours truly was born. In that time, I've achieved this and that, whereas he has bagged 232 goals in nearly 600 fixtures for Roma. Never contemplated leaving his boyhood heroes and is still running the show today at 37.

4. Ryan Giggs (Manchester United): The 40 year old has enjoyed ridiculous success at Old Trafford. He's found the net over 100 times in his 669 showings for the Red Devils. Now a player-coach, old father time appears to be finally catching up with the Welsh Wizard.

3. Paolo Maldini (AC Milan): Paolo Maldini spent 24 seasons at the San Siro, leading AC Milan to glory at both left back and centre half. The wicked-eyed Italian played until he was 41 and would probably dust down the boots tomorrow if new Milan boss Clarence Seedorf came calling.

2. Steven Gerrard (Liverpool): The Liverpool and England captain has been labelled one of the best midfielders of all time but despite constant interest in yesteryear, time and again he remained at Anfield. He has enjoyed success but the Premier League title still eludes him, despite 100+ goals in 458 matches for the Reds.

1. Matt Le Tissier (Southampton): The greatest player England never had. The outrageously talented Matt Le Tissier flat out refused to ever leave St. Mary's. As a result, he never got to reach the heights that his abilities deserved. Many of his 161 goals were simply mind-boggling.

And the best of the rest: Gary Kelly (Leeds United), Tony Adams (Arsenal), Ron Atkinson (Oxford United), Jack Charlton (Leeds United), Gary Neville (Manchester United), Paul Scholes (Manchester United), Nat Lofthouse (Bolton Wanderers), Trevor Brooking (West Ham), Billy Liddell (Liverpool), Billy Bonds (West Ham).

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