Many used to think that once a player turns 30, the curtains start to draw in. Being over 30 isn’t what it once was though. Despite the game becoming faster, sharper and the distance covered by players constantly on the rise, players have adjusted their attitudes accordingly. With the help of advancements in GPS tracking, dietary and let us not forget yoga, the ever-lasting Ryan Giggs played on until 40 and dedicated the longevity of his career largely to yoga. It is an ancient art offering psychological and physical development that strengthens muscles and reduces injury risks that ultimately allow players to play at a higher level for longer. With all the ingredients necessary to adapt and still stay at the top of your game way beyond 30, who are this season’s golden oldies?
(I will only include players over 31 to avoid including those who have either just turned 30 or their name is Agüero)
David Silva – Manchester City (33)
A player that would frustrate you with his inconsistency in his early days in the Premier League, the Spanish magician is as good as ever. Now one of the leagues most consistent performers, he has been the catalyst in every Manchester City’s team through it’s most successful period of history. A true maestro, he never breaks a stride when on the pitch, playing the game at ease even against physical and towering midfielders, dominating with his intelligence and vision. With Guardiola in charge, we have seen Silva operate in a deeper no.8 role, this has allowed him more time on the ball between the lines when splitting defences with killer through balls. Silva also swears by yoga and so it may be quite a few more years before we see that last of City’s artistic no.21.
Ashley Young – Manchester United (33)
Young has had a very strange career in a positional sense, but also that time he ate bird s*#t, anyway, lets move on. Starting out as a flashy winger or as no.10, these days you’re more likely to see Young diving into challenges or chasing opposition wingers near the corner flags, not as fun but just as effective. At 33, he’s had a resurgence in form and offered a level of consistency since last season that earned him a spot at the 2018 World Cup. Being a former winger, he’s confident taking players on and still possess his strongest asset, crossing. Physically he’s as fit as any other fullback, and with Ole in charge, he’s had more opportunities to reminisce on his younger days by being offered the chance to play higher up the pitch. He might not play for England again, but having recently signed a contract extension at Old Trafford, let’s hope he can continue this form for at least one more season.
James Milner – Liverpool (33)
Milner seems to have been around forever, and he kind of has. Making his debut as a 16-year-old back in 2002, the same year Liverpool debutant Ki-Jana Hoever was born. More than a decade and a half later, he’s still going strong and has been an important player in Liverpool’s title challenge this year. He’s a symbol for younger players, both in the way he plays and carries himself. Hardworking players are often neglected but Milner also offers quality, having the 7th highest assists in Premier League history and most Champions League assists (8) in the 17/18 campaign. His endless running and movement can be overlooked but it creates spaces for others to exploit. Looking back on Milner’s career so far, a recent stat showed he’d played everywhere on the pitch expect Centre Back and Goalkeeper, truly remarkable, an epitome of a utility player. Milner’s personality and versatility on the pitch showcase talent that would’ve allowed him to play in any era. This combustion engine isn’t finished yet.
João Moutinho – Wolverhampton Wanderers (32)
An underappreciated midfielder of his generation, Moutinho is Portugal’s third most capped player and a European Champion. Moutinho has offered Wolves a level of quality not often seen in a promoted team. He ranks first at Wolves for passing accuracy, forward passes, defensive duels and tackles per 90, displaying both an accuracy and tenaciousness in his play. He can can also be an effective dribbler, beating three Man Utd players for Wolves first goal on Saturday as they knocked Utd out of the FA Cup, Moutinho again, was instrumental. His experience has helped Wolves through difficult periods in games, maintainng their compact shape through controlling the game at his tempo whilst his decision making is first class. Over 30, foreign, never tested in the Premier League, diminutive, newly promoted club, on paper, the probability of success for this transfer must’ve been low but Moutinho had other ideas.
Jamie Vardy – Leicester City (32)
Let’s face it, at 32 most strikers are unlikely to run the channels or chase down defenders let alone terrorize them with blistering pace. But Vardy sees it differently. In an interview in 2016, Vardy stated: “The last time I lifted a weight was probably that can of Red Bull the other day.” It just doesn’t make sense, to everyone but Vardy. He sets the tone for Leicester’s attacking line with his dynamism and work ethic, while he’s still prolific in front of goal. Having scored 12 or more in four of his five seasons in the Premier League, Vardy plays a central role in the project at the King Power Stadium. Like Milner, his international retirement could be a blessing in disguise as he depends on his natural fitness much more than other players. The Jamie Vardy party is not over just yet, so get your Red Bulls out!
Okay let’s focus. The 5 yards older players tend to lose with physical depreciation, they make up in intelligence and experience as they begin to understand their limitations. With a growing number of Premier League teams now only offering 1-year extensions to over 30s, this has led to a smaller sample of them but a higher quality of the ones that do remain as they’ve proven their worth. What we can be sure of is that older players now have a better chance than ever before to continue to be an integral part of the team well into their 30s. This is if they exploit the opportunities around focused diets, general fitness programs through technology, and a bit of luck. But to be an elite athlete, it seems like yoga could be the key, just ask Giggs, Silva, Ronaldo, and Messi. These guys are divided by teams but united by yoga.