Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs turned 40 on Friday, ushering in a number of tributes for the legendary Welshman as his playing career winds down. But does it have to? Giggs isn't quite the oldest outfield player in the Premier League right now (that's Crystal Palace striker Kevin Phillips, who turned 40 in July). He's also years away from several other professional footballers who have proven that advancing age isn't always detrimental to one's playing career.
Here's a sampling that should make Giggs feel like a kid again...
John Burridge, Manchester City
Though it's not uncommon for goalkeepers to play into their 40s, Burridge holds the record as the oldest player of the Premier League era. The last of his four appearances for City came on May 14, 1995 when he was 43 years and 162 days old — a number 42-year-old Spurs goalkeeper Brad Friedel is closing in on. Burridge finally retired in 1997 after a stint as player-manager with Blyth Spartans. In total, he played for 15 Football League clubs, which is also still a record.
Kazu Miura, Yokohama FC
At 46 years old, "King Kazu" broke his own record as the oldest player to score in the Japanese second division earlier this month. He retired from international football in 2000 (with 55 goals in 89 appearances over a decade), but with his club career still chugging along, Miura decided to play for Japan in the 2012 Futsal World Cup. "Age is not a problem for me," he said recently, according to FIFA.com. "I never mind it. I want to continue to play for a very long period."
Stanley Matthews, Stoke City/Blackpool
If Sir Stanley Matthews was still alive today, he would surely scoff at the fuss being made over Giggs turning 40. His playing career began in 1932 with Stoke and didn't end until 1965 with the same club, when he was a lean, mean 50 years old. Matthews is the oldest man ever to play in England's top flight. When Matthews joined Blackpool in 1947, then manager Joe Smith said to him, "You're 32, do you think you can make it for another couple of years?" I think the answer to that was a "yes."
Boyko Borisov, Vitosha Bistritsa
Proving that it's never to late to live your dreams, Borisov became Bulgaria's oldest professional footballer earlier this year at the age of 54. His path to this record was a bit unusual, though. Borisov was Bulgaria's Prime Minister until he was forced to resign in disgrace and it just so happened that around this time the amateur third-division club he played for was promoted to the professional second division. So with little else on his once full plate, Borisov was free to set the record.
And when you think about it, going from corrupt government leader to out of shape professional footballer at 54 years old is much more impressive than playing for the reigning Premier League champions at 40. Clearly Giggs has some work left to do.
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