Who’s the best one-club player?
The likes of Paolo Maldini, Raul, Steven Gerrard and Paul Scholes might be handsomely paid by their clubs, but the fact they have spurned chances to get even richer elsewhere suggests they share at least some of the fans’ devotion to the colours they wear.
Inter Milan’s Patrick Vieira recognised this recently when talking about his former Juventus team mate Alessandro Del Piero.
“What I like about him, and envy a little, is that he has played all his career for the same team and won everything with that team,” Vieira told La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Indeed, Del Piero has a good claim to being the world’s top one-club man.
Five Serie A titles and a Champions League are part of the 34-year-old’s trophy haul at Juventus. He also holds the Turin club’s record for appearances and goals — he netted his 250th for Juve in Saturday’s 4-0 win at Reggina.
AC Milan’s Maldini has more Serie A and Italy appearances than Del Piero, Real Madrid’s Raul has scored more European goals and both have won more Champions Leagues, as have Scholes and his Manchester United team mate Ryan Giggs.
Del Piero probably trumps them all though because he has a World Cup-winner’s medal in his cabinet.
What’s more, Del Piero gets bonus club-loyalty points because he stuck with Juve when they were relegated for match-fixing in 2006, scoring 21 goals to help them to immediate promotion and finding the net as many times last season to fire them to a third-place finish on their return to the top flight.
Sticklers might argue that, strictly speaking, Del Piero is not a one-club man. He also played for Padova in Serie B before joining Juve in 1993, but I think it would be churlish to count a few seasons outside the big time when he was a teenager (if you’re too rigid Raul would fail the one-club test too as he played for Atletico Madrid’s academy before it was closed and he moved across town).
Nevertheless, my vote does not go to Alex but to another 2006 World Cup winner, AS Roma’s Francesco Totti.
Del Piero is a wonderful player but he has a tendency to blow hot and cold, while Totti has consistently been excellent in Serie A when fit.
And, unlike the other footballers I’ve mentioned, Totti did not have the fortune to start his career at a club regularly vying for domestic and European trophies.
He has less honours to his name, but only because he stayed true to Roma rather than succumbing to the courtship of clubs such as Real and Milan. In my book that sacrifice more than makes up for the European club trophy missing from his CV.
And if Roma are now a force to be reckoned with outside Italy, Totti deserves a large slice of the credit.
What do you think? Who would you give the top one-club player award to? Is there anyone I have overlooked altogether who’s more worthy?
PHOTO: Juve’s Alessandro Del Piero celebrates after scoring as AS Roma’s Francesco Totti watches during their Serie A match in Turin Feb. 16, 2008. REUTERS/Max Rossi