The King of Rome - Francesco Totti
Last week saw Francesco Totti celebrate his 40th birthday, and a lot of love pour in from the footballing world. From Lionel Messi to Luis Figo, some of the biggest names in football took it upon themselves to pay tribute to the 'King of Rome' and wish him a happy birthday.
There is a reason Totti is such a beloved figure within football. The former Italian international has spent 24 of those 40 years as a first team player at Roma. He has always stated that he only wanted to wear one shirt, and that is what he has done. Totti has been Roma captain for 18 years, played 764 games and scored 306 goals for the club he supported as a boy.
This puts Totti in the category of 'one-club men', a rare breed of players who spend their entire career at a single club. In the modern game, there are only a handful at the highest level. In years gone by, where the finances of football were less eye-watering, it was rather more common. As a result, there are tens (if not hundreds) of legendary one-club men, meaning some greats don't even make our honourable mentions.
Ryan Giggs is the most decorated player of all-time
Goalkeeper: Lev Yashin (Dynamo Moscow)
There are some fine candidates for the goalkeeping position, arguably more than any other slot in this team. Bayern Munich's Sepp Maier and Celtic's Packie Bonner deserve mentions, but ultimately it has to be Lev Yashin. Widely regarded as the greatest goalkeeper to have ever lived, the 'Back Spider' spent his entire 20 year career with Dynamo Moscow, where he played 326 games and won 8 trophies.
Right-Back: Carles Puyol (Barcelona)
Carles Puyol may not always have been the most popular with supporters of other clubs, but he was hugely important and influential figure at Barcelona. Adding a bit of nastiness to a team better known for the flair and flamboyance of players like Messi and Ronaldinho, Puyol spent 15 years in Barcelona's first team, making 682 appearances and winning 21 trophies.
Centre-Back: Franco Baresi (AC Milan)
Named Milan's Player of the Century in 1999, some reward for a club who have had a number of truly world class players. Baresi's reading of the game was legendary, and allowed him to combine his physical and mental attributes to become a formidable sweeper. He experienced 2 relegations during his 20 year career at AC Milan, but still won 18 trophies, including 6 Serie A titles and 3 Champions Leagues.
Centre-Back: Paolo Maldini (AC Milan)
Paolo Maldini played in every position across the back four over the course of his career. Right footed, he began life as a right back, quickly becoming a left back, before converting himself into a centre-back for the latter stages of his career. The greatest full-back of all time in many people's eyes, Maldini was unerringly consistent. He spent 24 years at Milan, playing 902 games and winning 26 trophies, including 5 European Cup's/Champions League's.
Left-Back: Nilton Santos (Botafogo)
Named in the World Team of the Twentieth Century, Nilton Santos revolutionised the role of the full-back, and with it, the game of football. It is his achievements as a player which force Paolo Maldini to be played as a centre-back in this team. The two-time World Cup winner spent all 16 years of his professional career with Botafogo, playing 723 games for the club and winning 6 trophies.
Right Wing: Sir Tom Finney (Preston North End)
Sir Tom Finney may well be the finest one-club man of all time. His contribution to Preston North End is absolutely monumental. Whilst he never won a trophy with his boyhood club, Finney ensured that they finished in the top 3 of the First Division 3 times and reached an FA Cup final. His influence and importance was nailed home by Preston's relegation the season after his retirement.
Central Midfield: Paul Scholes (Manchester United)
Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes
Only recently retired, it wasn't until towards the tail end of Paul Scholes' career that people really began to take stock of his importance and ability as a player. Arguably the greatest midfielder of the Premier League era and England's most gifted player since Paul Gascoigne, Scholes played 718 games in 21 years at Manchester United, winning 25 trophies.
Holding Midfield: Sait Altinordu (Altınordu S.K.)
Undoubtedly the most obscure name on this list, but one which cannot go ignored, Sait Altinordu may be the least talented player in this XI, but when it comes to the other criteria that make a great one-club man, he tops the bill.
Loyalty, longevity and passion for the club all ran in Altinordu's veins; he even named himself after the club he played for. The versatile Turkish international made his debut for Altinordu at 14, and didn't retire until the age of 41. His total of 27 years at one club is a world record, with 24 years the next longest.
Left Wing: Ryan Giggs (Manchester United)
The second Manchester United man to make this XI, as the most decorated player in the history of the game, it would be an injustice not to include Ryan Giggs. The Welshman spent 24 years at Old Trafford, making 963 appearances for the club and winning an incredible 35 trophies.
Attacking Midfielder: Fritz Walter (FC Kaiserslautern)
Capable of playing as either an inside forward or an attacking midfielder, Fritz Walter was an incredible footballer. Selected by Germany as their Golden Player of the last 50 years in 2003, ahead of the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Gerd Muller, Walter spent 22 years with Kaiserslautern, although that was interrupted by the war, where Walter was a prisoner of war and came close to being sent to a Soviet Gulag. He scored 357 goals in 364 games for Kaiserslautern, winning two league titles.
Centre-Forward: Francesco Totti (Roma)
One is reluctant to include active players in such articles on the grounds that the player could still play for another team, but with Totti aged 40 and having recently agreed to a final one-year extension at Roma, an exception had to be made. Totti holds godlike status in the Italian capital of Rome and is currently in his 25th season with the club, equalling Paolo Maldini's Serie A record.
Tony Adams spent his entire career at Arsenal
There are a plethora of players who could be included here, but we have whittled it down to 20. Firstly, we ought to explain that the criteria for being a 'one-club man' is strictly having only ever played for one club in a competitive match, that excludes players who had loan spells at other clubs or any who went on to play non-league or lower league football following leaving their primary club.
The only exception to this is players who played for their primary clubs youth, reserve or B teams, who are still allowed. For example, Carles Puyol played for Barcelona B, but still qualifies, whilst Uwe Seeler, who would undoubtedly have been included, played once for Cork Celtic in a League of Ireland game at the age of 42, 6 years after initially retiring, thus ruling him out. Ricardo Bochini also played once for a team other than Independiente.
Our honourable mentions include 12 British players who represented Arsenal, Southampton, Portsmouth, Blackpool, Fulham, Liverpool, Wolves, Celtic, Manchester United Leeds United and Tottenham Hotspur. The full list of honourable mentions is below:
Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier
Giacinto Faccchetti (Inter Milan), Sepp Maier (Bayern Munich), Matthew Le Tissier (Southampton), Florian Albert (Ferencvaros), Billy Wright (Wolves), Gary Neville (Manchester United), Wolfgang Overath (FC Koln), Tony Adams (Arsenal), George Cohen (Fulham), Packie Bonner (Celtic), Berti Vogts (Borussia Monchengladbach), Sandro Mazzola (Inter Milan), Bill Nicholson (Tottenham Hotspur), Jimmy Armfied (Blackpool), Klaus Augenthaler (Bayern Munich), Giuseppe Bergomi (Inter Milan), Jack Charlton (Leeds United), Bill Foulkes (Manchester United), Jimmy Dickinson (Portsmouth) and Billy Liddell (Liverpool).