Football’s One Club Players
Here is a top eleven of the best One-Club players in football history. The team will be arranged in a 442 formation, with each player corresponding to the position they played for their club.
Due to some recent transfers, some players just missed out on making this team. John Terry and Steven Gerrard would have been one club players, but left for Aston Villa and the MLS at the end of their careers, respectively.
The greatest player of all time, Lionel Messi, could have stayed at Barcelona his entire career. Sadly, the Argentine maestro left the club for PSG in 2021 – otherwise, he’d be first in this squad.
Pele also came close, playing the bulk of his career with Santos. However, a late-career move to the New York Cosmos in the US ended his chance of appearing in this side.
Starting with the goalkeeper, here at the best one club players in football history, arranged into a starting eleven.
Goalkeeper: Lev Yashin – Dynamo Moscow (356 Appearances)
While Sau Paulo’s Rogerio Ceni could be argued as the best ever one-club keeper (due to playing over 1000 games for the Brazilian side), he is just pipped to the post by the incredible talent of Russia’s own Lev Yashin.
He has one of the lowest amounts of appearances on this list, but that doesn’t tell the full story.
The 6 foot 2 goal keeper had a troubled upbringing in Russia, being forced to work in a factory during World War 2 at the age of 12. He worked in a military factory until he was 18, where he was discovered and signed to the Dynamo Moscow football team.
Yashin stayed in the Soviet league for his entire career. He was with Dynamo Moscow from 1950 to 1970, where he was incredibly successful.
The side won the Soviet League five times and the Soviet cup 3 times, leading the side with some revolutionary goalkeeping performances.He was an acrobatic keeper, with his incredibly agility and size helping him to make some incredible saves in his career.
“Yashin revolutionised the role of goalkeeper like no other before him, by always being ready to act as an extra defender” and by “starting dangerous counter-attacks with his positioning and quick throws”.France Football
He also helped the Soviet Union to finish fourth in the 1966 World Cup finals, held in England. His side made it the semi-finals where they lost to Germany, before falling to Portugal in the third-place play off.
However, Yashin’s performances were praised. He played in three world cups for his country, in 1958, 1962 and 1966, picking up 78 caps in total.
Lev Yashin won the Ballon d’Or in 1963. The Black Spider is still the only keeper to win the award, and with the focus heavily on goalscorers in the modern game, it seems unlikely that another will any time soon.
For that fact alone, he should be considered one of the all-time greatest one-club men in the history of football.
Right Back: Gary Neville – Manchester United (602 Appearances)
While many have played down Gary Neville’s ability in football in recent years, his years as a one club man for Manchester United speak for themselves.
The English right back spent his entire career under Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, winning all there was to win during a dominant period in the Premier League.
Forming incredible partnerships with David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo on the right-hand side, Gary Neville won eight Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues in 19 incredible years at Old Trafford.
The Englishman played 602 matches for his club, putting him on the shortlist for the most capped for Manchester United. He also impressed for England, notching up 85 caps for his country – the most of any right back in history.
Centre Half: Franco Baresi- AC Milan(719 Appearances)
It’s rare for a club to retire two shirt numbers, but for AC Milan it was something they couldn’t avoid. Especially with two legends like Paulo Maldini and Franco Beresi.
Franco Baresi is a former Italian footballer who is widely considered one of the greatest defenders of all time. He is best known for his career with AC Milan, where he played for 20 seasons and won numerous domestic and international titles.
Baresi was born in Travagliato, Italy, in 1960 and joined AC Milan’s youth academy at the age of 15. He made his first-team debut in 1977 and quickly established himself as a key player for the club. Baresi was known for his exceptional reading of the game, his intelligent positioning, and his ability to read the opposition’s moves before they happened.
During his time at AC Milan, Baresi won an impressive six Serie A titles, three European Cups, and two Intercontinental Cups. He was also part of the Italian national team that won the 1982 World Cup.
Baresi was a versatile defender who could play in both the center-back and sweeper positions. He was known for his calmness under pressure, his excellent ball control and passing ability, and his leadership on the pitch. He was a vocal and commanding presence who inspired his teammates to play their best.
Off the pitch, Baresi was known for his humility and professionalism. He was a true ambassador for AC Milan and for Italian football, and he was widely respected by fans, teammates, and opponents alike.
In 1997, Baresi announced his retirement from professional football. Due to his incredible impact on the club and the city, AC Milan retired his number 6 shirt forever, as the ultimate mark of respect.
Centre Half: Carles Puyol – Barcelona (683 Appearances)
Barcelona’s captain during the greatest period in their history has to feature at the heart of defence in this team of the one club eleven players.
Carlos Puyol is a former Spanish footballer who is best known for his time as a central defender for FC Barcelona. Puyol was born in La Pobla de Segur, Spain, in 1978 and joined FC Barcelona’s youth academy, La Masia, at the age of 17.
Puyol made his first-team debut for Barcelona in 1999 and quickly established himself as a key player for the club. He was known for his tough tackling, aerial ability, and leadership skills. Puyol was also known for his commitment and dedication to the team, often playing through injury.
During his time at Barcelona, Puyol won numerous titles, including six La Liga titles, three Champions League titles, and two Copa del Rey titles. He was also part of the Spanish national team that won the 2010 World Cup and the 2008 and 2012 European Championships.
Puyol was the captain of Barcelona from 2004 until his retirement in 2014. He was a vocal and inspiring leader who led by example, often playing through pain and sacrificing his own body for the good of the team. His leadership on the pitch and his commitment to the club made him a fan favorite at Barcelona.
Off the pitch, Puyol was known for his humility and respect for his opponents. He was a true sportsman who always played the game with fairness and integrity. Puyol was also known for his charitable work, including his involvement with the Puyol Foundation, which focuses on improving the lives of children and young people.
In 2014, Puyol announced his retirement from professional football, bringing an end to a truly remarkable career. He remains one of the most beloved and respected players in the history of FC Barcelona and Spanish football, and his legacy as one of the greatest defenders of all time is secure.
Left Back: Paulo Maldini – AC Milan(902 Appearances)
While he could have gone in at centre back, we’ve decided to put the second one club man from AC Milan in this team at left back.
Paulo Maldini is widely regarded as one of the greatest defenders in the history of football, and his career at AC Milan is nothing short of legendary. Maldini was born in Milan, Italy, in 1968, and joined the AC Milan youth academy at the age of 10.
Maldini made his debut for AC Milan in 1985 at the age of 16, and quickly established himself as a regular in the first team. Over the course of his career, Maldini played for AC Milan for an incredible 25 seasons, making over 900 appearances in all competitions.
During his time at AC Milan, Maldini won an astonishing 26 trophies, including seven Serie A titles, five Champions League titles, and one Coppa Italia. Maldini was also part of the Italian national team that won the World Cup in 2006.
Being an elite defender at both full back and centre back, he was as versatile as he was talented. He prided himself in his positioning and the mental aspect of his game, rather than his tackling ability.
If I have to make a tackle then I have already made a mistake.Paulo Maldin
In 2009, at the age of 41, Maldini announced his retirement from professional football. The club retired his number 3 shirt upon his retirement, with the condition that one of his sons could take over the mantle if they played for AC Milan.
Right Winger: Matt Le Tissier – Southampton
Whilst traditionally a creative midfielder, Le Tissier did spend some time out wide for Southampton, and there’s no way you can make a list without including this Premier League legend!
Matt Le Tissier was the ultimate one-club man. Born in Guernsey, he signed for the Saints at age 17 and became a club regular the following season.
His incredible skill was constantly on show, wowing fans by scoring goals that nobody thought possible. Flicks and tricks to dink the ball over the defender’s head, or outrageous long-shots that had no right to go in – he could do them all.
Matt Le Tissier spent his entire professional career at Southampton, dropping down the leagues once retired to play semi-professionally. He played over 500 games for Southampton, scoring over 200 goals and created vastly more memories for the fans in his 16 year stay at the club.
Central Midfielder: Paul Scholes – Manchester United (718)
Often regarded as the greatest midfielder of his generations, dozens of players have sung the praises of The Ginger Prince since his retirement from football.
Paul Scholes played for Manchester United for his entire career, and for good reason. He possessed an incredible vision for the game and a remarkable passing ability that helped him dictate any game.
He has been called by many players, includign Xavi and Zidane, as the best midfielder they ever played against, and is constantly in the reckoning for the greatest Premier League midfielder of all time
Paul Scholes didn’t do great things for England, but shone in his 718 appearances under Sir Alex Ferguson. He won 11 Premier League titles and a host of other trophies, including two Champions League final victories (against Bayern Munich and Chelsea).
Central Midfielder: Sergio Busquets – Barcelona (737+)
Sergio Busquets is a Spanish footballer who starred for over a decade as a defensive midfielder for Barcelona and the Spanish national team.
He is widely regarded as one of the best defensive midfielders of all time, joining the incredible midfield trio of Barcelona and Spain, alongside Xavi and Iniesta.
During his time at Barcelona, Busquets has won an impressive 9 La Liga titles, 7 Copa del Rey titles, and 3 Champions League titles.
He is known for his exceptional defensive abilities, including his tackling, interception, and positioning skills. He is also a skilled passer, and is capable of launching attacks from deep within his own half.
Brought through to the Barcelona side as a younger by Pep Guardiola, he soon repaid his managers’ faith in him. He won every trophy under the son for Barcelona, including multiple Champions League and La Liga titles.
He also played a key part for Spain in their 2010 World Cup victory, and two years later when they triumphed as champions of Euro 2012.
Left Wing: Ryan Giggs – Manchester United (963 Appearances)
Nobody in Premier League history can claim the success and longevity as Ryan Giggs.
The Manchester United legend spent his entire career with the Red Devils, starting out in the First Division before the Premier League had even been conceived.
He broke into the Manchester United team at age 17, and stayed there until he was 41 and made the interim manager, following the sacking of David Moyes.
In those 24 years, he locked down the left wing before transitioning into central midfield. During this time, he won an astonishing 13 Premier League titles, a number that will likely never, ever be equalled.
He also lifted the Champions League trophy twice – once in 1999 and again in 2008. He assisted Teddy Sheringham’s equaliser in the 1999 final, and broke Bobby Charlton’s United appearance record in the 2008 final.
While recent times have not done well for Giggs’ reputation, it would be dishonest to look at his incredible record for Manchester United and claim he is not one of the greatest one club players of all time.
Striker: Francesco Totti – Roma (Appearances 786)
The eternal man in the eternal city, Francesco Totti was the Emporer of Rome during his incredible spell with his hometown club.
He spent his entire career with AS Roma, playing in Serie A for over two decades.. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest players in the history of Italian football, and is particularly revered by Roma fans for his loyalty and commitment to the club.
Totti was born in Rome, Italy, in 1976 and joined the AS Roma youth academy at the age of 12. He made his first-team debut in 1992 at the age of 16, and quickly established himself as a star player. Over the course of his career, Totti played for Roma for an incredible 25 seasons, making over 600 appearances in all competitions.
During his time at Roma, Totti won numerous titles, including one Serie A title, two Coppa Italia titles, and one Supercoppa Italiana. He was also part of the Italian national team that won the 2006 World Cup.
Totti was known for his incredible skill on the ball, his creativity, and his ability to score spectacular goals.
He was a versatile player who could play as a striker, an attacking midfielder, or a winger, and was equally comfortable with both feet. Totti was also known for his leadership on the pitch, and was the captain of Roma for 19 seasons.
He retired in 2017 at the age of 41, still a key part of the squad that regularly challenged for domestic honours. The crowd during Totti’s final game in Rome is still something to behold to this day.
Striker: Nat Lofthouse – Bolton Wanderers (452 Appearances)
While there was much competition for the striker position, it had to go to Bolton Wanderers legend Nat Lofthouse.
The striker played over 400 games for his hometown club, becoming a legend in the town of Bolton. He scored 255 goals for the side, giving him a goal-to-game ratio of over 1 goal every 2 games.
However, it was his England record that was the envy of the football world. To this day, no England player a better goal-to-game ration for their country than Nat Lofthouse.
The one club man fired in 30 goals in 33 astonishing appearances for the Three Lions. Even more shocking is that he retired at 33 due to injury.
Given that contemporaries like Stanley Matthews played into their 50s, who knows what Lofthouse could have achieved if he had a few more years left to play.
What do you think of our One Club Player Eleven? Let us know down in the comments and tell us your favourite one club players who might have missed out on this team!