Top 5 - Good old strikers

At 38 years-old, his physical conditioning is off the charts. It is pretty rare to find strikers capable of performing at such a high level at his age. In honour of Sebrango, we’ve delved into that unique world to find the Top 5 strikers who, shall we say, continued to perform at an advanced age.


Even though the 1990 World Cup wasn’t the most exciting in its storied history, Cameroonian forward Roger Milla infused a splash of colour. After helping Montpellier get promoted to France’s D1 in 1989, Milla, 37, was taking his retirement in stride. That was, until the president of Cameroon placed a call and asked him to play for his country at the World Cup in Italy. Milla accepted, and after watching his team beat Argentina in the opening match, he scores two times against Romania to guarantee his country a place in the knockout round. Facing Columbia in its next game, Milla scores two goals in extra time helping his country become the first African nation to qualify for the World Cup quarter-finals. His charm opens up a spot on the team for the 1994 World Cup, which did not have the same glorious result for Cameroon. However, that did not stop the old lion from scoring a goal, which, at the age of 42 years and one month, made him the oldest player to ever score in the World Cup.


In 1997, Teddy Sheringham, a stalwart for the English Premier League club Tottenham, eventually moved at 31 years of age to Manchester United. His first season was a tough one and many fans were left wondering if his transfer was a mistake as they thought he looked old playing at Old Trafford, where new, younger and reputable strikers were making names for themselves. In the 1998-99 season, he plays in only half of the team’s games, making most appearances as a substitute, and it was as a substitute that he made his way onto the pitch against German side Bayern Munich in the Champions League. With Man U down 1-0, Sheringham scores a goal and sets up the game winner that came off the boot of teammate Ole Gunnar Solksjaer. He becomes a hero to his team’s fans and revives his career. In 2000-2001, he scores 15 goals as a 35 year-old, earning a call for national team duties. He returned to Tottenham before joining Portsmouth and West Ham, where he became the oldest player to score a Premier League goal at 40 years and 139 days.


Following his best years with PSV Eindhoven and FC Barcelona, Romario, from Souza Faria, returns to play in the Brazilian league in 1995 at age 29. He scores over 20 goals a season for Flamengo and Vasco de Gama until 2001. Sure of his abilities, Romario decides it wasn’t time to hang up his cleats despite his grey hair and on-field struggles for Fluminense and an exile in Qatar. In 2005, he returned to Vasco de Gama, where he scored 24 goals. After making some personal calculations, the Brazilian realizes that he is close to scoring 1000 goals over his career and wants to break that mark. So, in 2006, he joins Miami FC in the United Soccer Leagues, and at age 40, leads the league in scoring. He made two appearances against the Impact, but due to some diligent play by Impact defender Nevio Pizzolitto, he doesn’t score. Following a stint in Australia, Romario returned to Vasco de Gama, where he scored his 1000th career goal. At age 43, Romario played a few minutes in 2009 for America, a D2 club based out of the state league in Rio de Janeiro.


Italian players making a living in England were pretty rare when Gianfranco Zola signed with Chelsea (before its rise to soccer superpower), despite not being guaranteed any playing time. Under the tutelage of Ruud Gullit, he becomes a benchmark for the London team, who had another Italian star in its ranks...Gianluca Vialli. Without tearing it up, Zola scores a reliable 10 goals per season, many of the important variety, like the one in the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1998. His most prolific season came in 2002-2003, when at age 37, he scored 14 times in league play. When the club was bought by billionaire Roman Abramovich, Zola wanted to remain with the club, but had already given his word to Italian side Cagliari from his native Sardinia. He helps the team return to Italy’s Serie A before playing his final season in 2004-2005, scoring 9 goals at the age of 39.


One of my great childhood memories came during the 1990-1991 season: my favourite team growing up, RWD Molenbeek, earned promotion to D1 but were floating near the bottom of the table. To inspire his troops, manager Hugo Broos put a call to three “papys” that he knew very well: defensive midfielder Stan Van de Buys (33), offensive midfielder and semi-finalist of the 1986 World Cup, Franky Vercauteren (34) and forward Willy Wellens (36), champion with Molenbeek… in 1975. Still not completely in game shape, Wellens make his debut at home against CS Burges at half time, with the visitors ahead 3-2. On his first touch of the game, Wellens finds the back of the net to tie it up. On his next touch, he makes a heel pass to a teammate who gets fouled in the box. Penalty...Wellens converts and the game ends 4-3. Wellens will go on to score 13 goals in 26 games that season and, due in part to his play, RWD remained in the first division.

Matthias Van Halst, Impact Média