Football is a physically demanding game. With intensive training schedules, strict dietary requirements and career-ending injury risks, it’s easy to see why the average footballer’s retirement age is just 35. We all know plenty of one-season wonders, players that left too soon, and one-club heroes that battled it out for as long as possible. On the other side, we have the journeyman. Those footballers that make you turn your head and ask “is he still playing?” Veterans of the game that still managed to contend with the best in the world, even if they had to slug it out past their prime. We decided to take a look at the footballers with the most appearances in their careers ever.
Gianluigi Buffon – 1,116 (Still active)
Widely believed to be one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time, Gianluigi Buffon has (so far) managed to rack up 1,116 appearances over his playing career.
Spending the entirety of his footballing career
in Serie A, barring a very bried stint at PSG, Buffon has helped himself to an incredible array of awards and personal accolades including the most time without conceding a goal in Italian top-flight Football (974 minutes), most clean sheets, 10 division trophies and throw in a World Cup while you’re at it.
He is also one of the only players to make the list that is still active, so expect to see him rise in the ranks over the coming years, provided he stays between the sticks.
Ray Clemence – 1,117
From still active to long-time retired, next on the list of most football players with the most appearances of all time is Ray Clemence. With a career spanning 23 years, the former England goalkeeper spent his playing days with Liverpool and Tottenham, as well as having a relatively short stint at Scunthorpe back in 1965.
A legend to those that know their goalkeeping history, Clemence retired with 1,117 appearances under his belt some 32 years ago.
Iker Casillas – 1,119
San Iker… or Saint Iker for us non-Spanish speakers, named after his penchant for otherworldly saves in high-pressure situations.
One of the most decorated goalkeepers of all time, Iker Casillas has played a whopping 1,119 games across his career for Porto, Real Madrid and Spain. The Spaniard has won 1 World Cup, 1 Fifa Club World Cup, 5 La Liga titles and 3 Champions League trophies to name just a few in his cabinet.
It’s safe to say if you make it on to the Real Madrid bench at the age of 16, you’re almost certainly destined for greatness.
Roberto Carlos – 1,127
We all familiar with that freekick – the ball rocketing past Fabien Barthez after taking the most unnatural swinging right curve in 1997.
With 1,127 international and domestic games, Brazillian defensive wizard Roberto Carlos is up next on our list.
Carlos has as a fair few clubs under his belt in his 23-year playing career, starting for the likes of Palmeiras, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, Fenerbache and Corinthians – as well as a couple for the Delhi Dynamos in the Indian Super League, but we’re not sure those games are worth making much note of.
Xavi – 1,133
Tiki-taka aficionado and now Al Sadd manager Xavi comes in next, appearing in 1,133 games over his lengthy time at top-flight Football.
Of those matches came 8 La Liga trophies, 3 Copa Del Rays, 4 Champions League trophies and 1 World Cup – although one of his latest achievements may leave you scratching your head slightly.
Rogério Ceni – 1,256
In second place on our list of most football appearances is one-club legend Rogerio Ceni with a whopping 1,234 games.
Loyal to both club and country, Ceni played his entire domestic career at São Paulo before retiring in 2015. He also managed to bag himself a dizzying 131 goals despite being the club’s go-to goalkeeper.
Peter Shilton – 1,390
In poll position and capping our most games played list is none other than England legend Peter Shilton. Starting over 100 games for 5 different clubs, Shilton owns the record for most football appearances of all time with an incredible 1,390 matches in total.
Commonly seen as one of the best goalkeepers to grace the English game, Shilton was at the forefront of Nottingham Forest’s league and European dominance in the late ‘70s, as well as going down in club history for Derby County, Southampton, Stoke City and Leicester.
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