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From Cristiano Ronaldo to Luka Modric ... is 40 the new 30 in football?

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring a hat trick against Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Manchester United's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates scoring a hat trick against Tottenham Hotspur. Picture: Martin Rickett/PA

Published Mar 26, 2022


Durban - In footballing theory, Karim Benzema, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski should be considering retirement. The reality is different as the trio are still producing better play than most quality players in their prime.

At 33, Lewandowski is the top scorer in the Bundesliga with 31 goals after 27 games.

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That’s right, the Poland international is still averaging more than a goal a game.

Benzema’s brilliance for Real Madrid consigned PSG to yet another Champions League elimination earlier in the month while Ronaldo gave Manchester United fans a blast from the past by scoring a hat-trick in the Red Devils’ 3-2 win over Tottenham.

On paper, this has been one of Ronaldo’s worst seasons in recent times. However, it must be noted that he has been playing for a dispirited United team. He has also been by far the best attacker for the Red Devils this season.

With United set to continue rebuilding next season, it won’t be surprising in the slightest if the Portugal captain opts to cut ties with Old Trafford for a second time. He now cannot afford to be part of a rebuilding project but is still capable of playing for a team that can win trophies.

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The aforementioned trio are not the only players well over 30 still delivering world-class performances. Olivier Giroud and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have been functioning well as a unit this season and are leading AC Milan’s Serie A title charge as the Rossoneri look to win their first Italian top flight title since 2011.

For a forward, it is remarkable that Ibrahimovic is still playing at the highest level. Moreover, he has scored 8 goals from 18 games which is impressive considering the defensive nature of the Serie A.

At 35, Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy remains intelligent and still has a knack for getting himself into good positions.

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Vardy’s decision to end his international career after the 2018 World Cup has been a good one. He has paved the way for the next generation of English talent while also potentially extending his club career by a few years.

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At the age of 36, Luka Modric remains key for Real Madrid and with his contract with Los Blancos expiring at the end of the season, it will be in Madrid’s best interests to get him to sign at least a one-year extension.

While it is not rare for goalkeepers to play beyond the age of 40, Gianluigi Buffon remains the epitome of passion.

Buffon has been ever-present for his boyhood club Parma this season, captaining and serving as first-choice goalkeeper at the age of 44.

He recently signed a two-year contract extension with them which will see him continue playing until at least the age of 46.

The aforementioned players could change the future direction of football. World-class youngsters such as Erling Haaland and Kylian Mbappe may be encouraged and energised to also play well into their late 30 and beyond as a result of their influence.