Lionel Messi: Ranking the Best 6 Footballers Who Are Aged Over 35

Lionel Messi: Ranking the Best 6 Footballers Who Are Aged Over 35

Isaac Darko
updated at June 24, 2024 at 11:47 AM
In this article:
Cristiano Ronaldo logo
C. Ronaldo
Al Nassr FC logoFPortugal logo
Lionel Messi logo
Inter Miami CF logoFArgentina logo
Luka Modrić logo
L. Modrić
Real Madrid logoMCroatia logo
Karim Benzema logo
Al-Ittihad Club logoFFrance logo
L. Suarez
-GArgentina logo
Thiago Silva logo
T. Silva
Fluminense RJ logoDBrazil logo
  • Birthday boy, Lionel Messi, and Cristiano Ronaldo have defied age barriers in their late 30s, continuing to excel
  • It is well known that many footballers struggle to compete beyond their mid-30s, but numerous players are active
  • With that in mind, Sports Brief has highlighted some of the best global footballers who are 35 years old or older

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Footballers often peak in their mid-20s and experience a decline in their early 30s, with goalkeepers usually having longer careers.

However, advancements in sports science, nutrition, and training have enabled many players to extend their careers.

Lionel Messi, happy birthday, Best 6 Footballers Who Are Aged Over 35, Cristiano Ronaldo, Luka Modric.
Lionel Messi, Luka Modric, and Cristiano Ronaldo have defied age barriers in their late 30s, continuing to perform at a high level. Photos by James Baylis/Joris Verwijst/Omar Vega.
Source: Getty Images

Some even improve with age, leveraging their experience to outshine younger competitors.

Sports Brief takes a look at the top six stars over 35 who are still performing at an elite level.

6 top football stars excelling beyond 35

1. Lionel Messi (37 years old)

Universally acclaimed as the greatest player in history, Messi has secured a record eight Ballon d’Or awards. He achieved his latest triumph by leading Argentina to victory in the 2022 FIFA World Cup at 35, per FIFA.

During the tournament, the veteran earned the Golden Ball for the second time and set a new record for the most FIFA World Cup appearances with 26 matches.

Holding the most individual awards in football, he is on track to become the most decorated player ever. Currently playing for Inter Miami in MLS, Messi continues to shine as one of the league's top performers.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo (39 years old)

Recognised as one of the greatest players of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo has won five Ballon d’Or awards and four European Golden Shoes, the most by any European player, per GOAL.

Throughout his illustrious career, he has amassed 32 trophies, including seven league titles, five UEFA Champions Leagues, the UEFA European Championship, and the UEFA Nations League.

After successful stints with Manchester United, Real Madrid, and Juventus, Ronaldo joined Al-Nassr in Saudi Arabia at 37, becoming the highest-paid footballer globally. He concluded 2023 as the world's top scorer with 54 goals, underscoring his enduring prowess.

CR7 ended 2023 as the top scorer in the world with 54 goals, marking an impressive achievement in his career.

3. Manuel Neuer (37 years old)

Manuel Neuer is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers in soccer history. Renowned for his 'sweeper-keeper' style, he excels at rushing off his line to anticipate and intercept opponents outside the penalty box.

Named the best goalkeeper of the decade (2011-2020) by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics (IFFHS), he joined Bayern Munich in 2011 and has since won 28 trophies, including 10 Bundesliga titles and two UEFA Champions League titles in 2013 and 2020, both as part of trebles.

He led Germany to victory in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, earning the Golden Glove award for the tournament's best goalkeeper and finishing third in the Ballon d'Or race.

At 37, Neuer continues to captain both Bayern Munich and the German national team, maintaining his status as one of the top goalkeepers in the Bundesliga.

4. Luka Modrić (38 years old)

Luka Modrić, hailed as the greatest Croatian footballer and one of the finest midfielders ever, has won 21 major trophies with Real Madrid, including six UEFA Champions League titles, four La Liga titles, one Copa del Rey, and four FIFA Club World Cup titles.

In 2018, the veteran became the first Croatian to win the UEFA Men's Player of the Year Award after leading his nation to the FIFA World Cup final. He also won the FIFA Best Player and Ballon d'Or awards that year, breaking the decade-long dominance of Messi and Ronaldo.

At 38, Modrić continues to perform at the highest level, remaining one of the world's best midfielders.

4. Thiago Silva (39 years old)

Renowned as one of the best defenders of his generation, Thiago Silva is celebrated for his defensive skill, discipline, and leadership.

When he joined Chelsea on a free transfer in 2020 at 36, many doubted his ability to adapt to the Premier League.

However, Silva proved his critics wrong by helping Chelsea win the UEFA Champions League in his debut season.

At 39, the Brazilian has signed for his boyhood club, Fluminense.

5. Karim Benzema (36 years old)

Real Madrid's second-highest all-time goal-scorer and top assist provider has won 23 trophies with the club, including four La Liga titles, two Copa del Rey trophies, and five UEFA Champions League titles.

His stellar performances in the 2021/22 season earned him the UEFA Player of the Year and the Ballon d'Or.

At 36 years and 302 days old, Benzema became the second-oldest player to win the coveted Golden Ball, following Stanley Matthews.

6. Luis Suarez (36 years old)

Regarded as one of the greatest strikers of his generation, Luis Suarez has won numerous accolades, including two European Golden Shoes, an Eredivisie Golden Boot, a Premier League Golden Boot, and a La Liga Golden Boot.

At 36, Suarez currently plays for the Brazilian side, Gremio, solidifying his legacy as one of the greatest Uruguayan soccer players and one of the best finishers in history.

Davies delighted with Messi swap

Sports Brief also reported that Alphonso Davies had a Messi moment and said it was special to always swap jerseys with arguably the greatest footballer in history.

The Bayern Munich star led Canada at the 2024 Copa America opener against the reigning world champions, with the North Americans suffering a two-goal defeat.

Isaac Darko photo
Isaac Darko
Isaac Darko is a La Liga, Ligue 1 and Bundesliga editor at Sports Brief with a Degree in Journalism and Communications from Ghana Institute of Journalism (2010)