Success in football is defined by the number and significance of the accolades somebody has won. It works both on the collective and individual levels. Clubs play to win trophies and so do the players. But who were the most successful players of them all: those who can lift their feet up after they call an end to their careers in the knowledge that they've done enough? Let's find that out.
Here are the most decorated footballers in history:
10. Paul Scholes – 25 trophies
The Ferguson United of the 90s and 2000s was undoubtedly one of the most successful clubs in football history. But if Roy Keane was the face of ferocious determination and Ryan Giggs of longevity, then Scholes must be the face of United’s technique.
The ginger maestro was the passing captain for United for many years, racking up 25 trophies in his long and illustrious career.
9. Xavi – 25
Some 2000 miles south of Mamucium (Roman Manchester), about 200 mustangs ran freely under the scorching heat. Some 2000 years later, Xavi reigned supreme in Barcelona’s midfield. Barcelona’s domination of European football ended with Xavi’s departure, such was his influence. He won 25 trophies while playing in Catalonia, six of them in a single year.
8. Andres Iniesta – 26
Another pass maestro from Barcelona and the other ‘half’ of the heart of midfield in the six-druple winning side. Iniesta was the understudy of Xavi, but provided his own unique touch to things, and is a tad younger. All in all, he has won 26 trophies so far in his career, but there is always the danger of adding two-three more to this every year. Watch this space.
7. Paolo Maldini – 26
Many a striker froze in mid-air under Maldini’s icy gaze. If they didn’t, they would find themselves on the ground or running without a ball. Maldini, like fine wine, played top level football until he was 41. No modern football bullshit. One club: one career. 26 trophies for Milan and Italy.
6. Lionel Messi – 28
Messi would not have been the footballer he was today if Barcelona hadn’t taken up the medical treatment of his ‘growth hormone’ problems. By that I mean, Messi physical growth stopped abruptly when he was 11, and without any treatment he would have been even shorter today.
Luckily for Barcelona, his height is just good enough to sail them to 28 trophies.
5. Pele – 28
Back in 1950s when men were men – I’m sure feminists would love that statement - Pele was opening new ‘holes’ in defenders’ backsides daily in Brazil. His ability to dribble past people was a magnet for success wherever he played. 28 trophies: not too shabby.
4. Zlatan Ibrahimovic – 31
Zlatan would often look at a pink house situated just outside his ghetto neighbourhood in Malmo, and would often wonder what kind of people could afford to live there. Years later he bought that house. The amount of perseverance and self-belief to do that is astonishing. That same engine drove him to 31 trophies in total – practically winning wherever he went. Now, at 35, he’s still struggling to find space for the silverware in his pink house.
3. Kenny Dalglish – 31
Let’s do some mathematics. £400,000 – That’s how Dalglish cost Liverpool in 1977. Helping to 31 trophies. Minus the inflation, that’s £13,000 a trophy – the price of a relatively luxurious car. Manchester City will take that every hour of the day of every year, over their average £200million plus per trophy. No wonder Dalglish is a Liverpool legend. He was at the heart of Liverpool’s 70s domination – one of the finest sides the world has ever seen.
2. Vitor Baia -31
Porto’s long-serving goalkeeper was the pillar of the club’s success in the 90s and early 2000s. Many shed a tear seeing their shots deflected as if from an invisible wall. Baia laughed all along the way, racking up an astonishing 31 career trophies.
1. Ryan Giggs – 34 trophies won
Football's most decorated man. Number one. The epitome of Manchester Untied. Mr. Red himself. Ryan Giggs.
He played over 700 games at Old Trafford. People will remember him as a central figure to United’s most successful period in history. He won 34 trophies during his time as a player, many of which he put his own personal touch to.