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The 13 greatest one-club players in football history as Mark Noble leaves West Ham

Give Me Sport logo Give Me Sport 25/05/2022 Mitch Wilks

With the closing of the curtain on the 2021/22 domestic football season came the closing of the curtain on Mark Noble’s playing career, after an 18-year stint with West Ham.

For many outside of the West Ham bubble – pun intended – Noble’s retirement admittedly won’t mean all that much. A dependable midfielder who, at his best, was arguably one of England’s best, despite never gaining full international honours, without ever making much of a fuss.

Noble’s legacy is much more than that, however, to West Ham fans and wider football. With his retirement is the confirmation of another one club footballer – a feat that only continues to become more rare in the modern game.

Some people might consider that controversial as Noble did spend time on loan at Hull and Ipswich at the beginning of 2006, but for a man who joined the Hammers in 2000 as a youth having grown up supporting the club, and has since retired with the most appearances for the club and the nickname ‘Mr. West Ham’, we think an exception can be made regarding the loan spells.

One club players are only going to become more and more rare, certainly at football’s top level, so for Noble to achieve such an accolade with West Ham in recent times is nothing short of incredible.

Even at the end of his career, he has opted to hang up the boots instead of enjoying a year or two abroad or in a lower division, which is often what many will do. That is sincere dedication to the club he loves.

LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 15: Mark Noble of West Ham United interacts with the crowd after playing their final Home Game for West Ham United following the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on May 15, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 15: Mark Noble of West Ham United interacts with the crowd after playing their final Home Game for West Ham United following the Premier League match between West Ham United and Manchester City at London Stadium on May 15, 2022 in London, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

That’s had us scratching our heads at GIVEMESPORT, thinking about the greatest one club players in men’s football. And in honour of Noble’s retirement after such a stellar career, now feels as good a time as ever to take a look at the rare hall of fame he has joined.

Football’s greatest one-club men

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Tony Adams – Arsenal

Signing for Arsenal on schoolboy terms in 1980, what would come of Adams is nothing short of iconic. The Englishman would develop into one of the club’s greatest players ever throughout a 19 year career in the first team, notably winning four top flight titles and three FA Cups. Adams also captained the side to three of those titles across three different decades, which is a testament to his longevity.

LONDON – MAY 13: Tony Adams of Arsenal in action during The Tony Adams Testimonial match between Arsenal and Celtic played at Highbury, in London on May 13, 2002. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. DIGITAL IMAGE. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport LONDON – MAY 13: Tony Adams of Arsenal in action during The Tony Adams Testimonial match between Arsenal and Celtic played at Highbury, in London on May 13, 2002. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. DIGITAL IMAGE. (Photo by Ben Radford/Getty Images)

Rogerio Ceni – Sao Paulo

In a similar vein to Noble, there is an asterisk next to Ceni’s status as a one-club man, considering he started out at Sinop.

That didn’t last long at all, though, and considering he played over 1,200 times for Sao Paulo throughout his incredible career as the goal scoring goalkeeper, we’re letting him slip through the net. Better yet, he now manages the club.

PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 04: Goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni of Sao Paulo celebrates the team’s first goal during the match Gremio v Sao Paulo as part of Brasileirao Series A 2014, at Arena do Gremio on October 04, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport PORTO ALEGRE, BRAZIL – OCTOBER 04: Goalkeeper Rogerio Ceni of Sao Paulo celebrates the team’s first goal during the match Gremio v Sao Paulo as part of Brasileirao Series A 2014, at Arena do Gremio on October 04, 2014 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. (Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images)

Jamie Carragher – Liverpool

Liverpool’s second-longest serving player of all time, Carragher’s story from local boy to legend is immense. The defender debuted for the Reds in 1996 and would enjoy a storied career with the club all the way through to 2013, becoming an England international, sweeping up silverware and forging a legacy as one of the game’s finest leaders.

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – APRIL 21: Jamie Carragher of Liverpool celebrates the equalising goal scored by Luis Suarez during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 21, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND – APRIL 21: Jamie Carragher of Liverpool celebrates the equalising goal scored by Luis Suarez during the Barclays Premier League match between Liverpool and Chelsea at Anfield on April 21, 2013 in Liverpool, England. (Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Manolo Sanchis – Real Madrid

Not only a one-club man at arguably the biggest club side in the world, Sanchis was a second generation footballer for Real Madrid, with his dad also turning out for Los Blancos. Sanchis, a throwback sweeper, racked up over 700 appearances for Real between 1983 and 2001, proving pivotal in a time before the Galacticos truly took over.

19 Sep 1998: Manuel Sanchis of Real Madrid in action during a match against Barcelona in Madrid, Spain. The game ended in a draw 2-2. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Mason /Allsport © Provided by Give Me Sport 19 Sep 1998: Manuel Sanchis of Real Madrid in action during a match against Barcelona in Madrid, Spain. The game ended in a draw 2-2. \ Mandatory Credit: Clive Mason /Allsport

Carles Puyol – Barcelona

When we talk about serial winners, they don’t make them like Puyol anymore. Winning 18 major club titles with La Blaugrana, he would play just about anywhere he needed to for Barcelona during an exceptional 15 years in the first team, 10 years of which saw him serve as maybe the greatest captain ever.

BARCELONA, SPAIN – MAY 05: Carles Puyol of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on May 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport BARCELONA, SPAIN – MAY 05: Carles Puyol of FC Barcelona looks on during the La Liga match between FC Barcelona and RCD Espanyol at Camp Nou on May 5, 2012 in Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

Ryan Giggs – Manchester United

Breaking into the Manchester United senior setup slightly before his class of ’92 colleagues, Giggs was first called upon by Sir Alex Ferguson in 1990 and would go on to become United’s record appearance holder. One of football’s most decorated players ever, the Welshman would also serve the club as a coach and interim manager.

MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 14: Manchester United player Ryan Giggs in action during a Division One match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on March 14, 1993 in Manchester, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM – MARCH 14: Manchester United player Ryan Giggs in action during a Division One match between Manchester United and Aston Villa at Old Trafford on March 14, 1993 in Manchester, England. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

Franco Baresi – AC Milan

It’s a good thing we aren’t trying to craft a starting XI, because this team would be far too defensive with the talent available at the back. 20 years as AC Milan’s rock at the back, and 15 as captain, Baresi’s legacy is hard to top. A World Cup winner, Baresi won six Scudetti with Milan and even stuck with them as they won Serie B twice, ultimately being voted their player of the century in 1999, two years after retiring.

1 Apr 1995: Robertio Baggio (left) of Juventus takes on Franco Baresi (right) of AC Milan during a Serie A match at the San Siro Stadium in Milan, Italy. Juventus won the match 2-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport © Provided by Give Me Sport 1 Apr 1995: Robertio Baggio (left) of Juventus takes on Franco Baresi (right) of AC Milan during a Serie A match at the San Siro Stadium in Milan, Italy. Juventus won the match 2-0. \ Mandatory Credit: Allsport UK /Allsport

Paolo Maldini – AC Milan

After Baresi, there was Maldini, which is frankly absurd. A second generation footballer for Milan, Paolo followed in the footsteps of father Cesare in becoming a club legend. He won 25 trophies from 25 seasons with the Rossoneri, playing anywhere needed along the back line and captaining the side. He now serves as a club director and was pivotal in helping them win the 2021/22 Serie A title.

MILAN – DECEMBER 7: Paolo Maldini of AC Milan in action during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Roma, played at the ‘Giuseppe Meazza’ San Siro Stadium, Milan, Italy on December 7, 2002. (Photo by Grazia Neri/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport MILAN – DECEMBER 7: Paolo Maldini of AC Milan in action during the Serie A match between AC Milan and Roma, played at the ‘Giuseppe Meazza’ San Siro Stadium, Milan, Italy on December 7, 2002. (Photo by Grazia Neri/Getty Images)

Paul Scholes – Manchester United

Despite social media trying to tell us otherwise these days, it is undeniable that Scholes is one of the game’s greatest midfielders. He forged a 20 year career as United’s midfield maestro, winning just about everything he could as a devoted man to the club. Inter reportedly tried to sign him in 2000, but after he rebuffed that, it was clear he only ever had eyes for United.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 05: Paul Scholes of Manchester United looks on during his Testimonial Match between Manchester United and New York Cosmos at Old Trafford on August 5, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – AUGUST 05: Paul Scholes of Manchester United looks on during his Testimonial Match between Manchester United and New York Cosmos at Old Trafford on August 5, 2011 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Chris Brunskill/Getty Images)

Ricardo Bochini – Independiente

A World Cup winner with Argentina, Bochini had immense talent, but spent his entire career in his native with Independiente. An exciting attacking midfielder, ‘El Bocha’ won 13 titles with the club from 1972-1991 and can be regarded as one of the best to never play in Europe.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – FEBRUARY 22: Former player of Independiente Ricardo Bochini looks at the camera before a match between Independiente and Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata as part of Superliga 2019/20 at Estadio Libertadores de America on February 22, 2020 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – FEBRUARY 22: Former player of Independiente Ricardo Bochini looks at the camera before a match between Independiente and Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata as part of Superliga 2019/20 at Estadio Libertadores de America on February 22, 2020 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. (Photo by Marcelo Endelli/Getty Images)

Gary Neville – Manchester United

To spend an entire career playing for United under their greatest manager ever is no easy task, which is testament to how important Neville was. Another one of Fergie’s fledglings, the right back assumed the role of club captain after Roy Keane in 2005 and retired as one of the most decorated footballers ever.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – APRIL 17: Gary Neville of Manchester United celebrates at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the City of Manchester Stadium on April 17, 2010 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport MANCHESTER, ENGLAND – APRIL 17: Gary Neville of Manchester United celebrates at the end of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Manchester United at the City of Manchester Stadium on April 17, 2010 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Francesco Totti – Roma

Football’s golden boy, the world was Totti’s oyster considering his ability as a playmaker, but he chose to stick with Roma his entire career. Unwavering loyalty. Totti remains Roma’s top scorer and tops their appearances list, having enjoyed 25 years in the first team from 1992 to 2017. That one Serie A win in 2000/01 will forever feel incredible to him.

VERONA, ITALY – FEBRUARY 28: Francesco Totti of Roma celebrates his goal during the match between Chievo and Roma at the Stadio Marc Antonio Bentegodi on February 28, 2007 in Verona, Italy. (Photo by NewPress/Getty Images) © Provided by Give Me Sport VERONA, ITALY – FEBRUARY 28: Francesco Totti of Roma celebrates his goal during the match between Chievo and Roma at the Stadio Marc Antonio Bentegodi on February 28, 2007 in Verona, Italy. (Photo by NewPress/Getty Images)

Giuseppe Bergomi – Inter

Bergomi is regarded as one of Italy’s greatest ever defenders and plied his trade on the blue side of Milan with Inter, over a glistening 20 year career from 1979 to 1999. Achieving domestic and European success with the Nerazzurri, ‘Lo Zio’ remains second in their all time appearances list, even today.

17 Mar 1999: Giuseppe Bergomi of Inter Milan is chased by Andy Cole of Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg match at the San Siro in Milan, Italy. United went through 3-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw on the night. \ Mandatory Credit: Stu Forster /Allsport © Provided by Give Me Sport 17 Mar 1999: Giuseppe Bergomi of Inter Milan is chased by Andy Cole of Manchester United in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg match at the San Siro in Milan, Italy. United went through 3-1 on aggregate after a 1-1 draw on the night. \ Mandatory Credit: Stu Forster /Allsport

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