With Gigi Buffon rested for Juventus’ Coppa Italia fixture with Inter in midweek, the Old Lady surrendered a three-goal first leg advantage before eventually progressing to the final on penalties. The Juve and Italy captain – now at the ripe old age of 38 – has started every game in Serie A this season and shown no sign of letting his standards slip, keeping his eighth consecutive league clean sheet against the Nerazzurri last time out.
The legendary Italian shot stopper is proof that age is but a number with the correct application, though it is of course easier for goalkeepers to prolong their careers. So what of the outfielders that continue to defy the odds when it comes to performing consistently despite their increasing years? Here WhoScored.com reveal their five highest-rated players aged 32 or over in Europe’s top five leagues this season.
5) Jeremy Toulalan (Monaco) – 7.29 rating
The fact that former France international Toulalan is still only 32 seems remarkable given he has looked that age for the last ten years. Still, the longevity he has shown has been commendable in such a demanding position, understandably now relying on his expert reading of the game more than his strength in the tackle.
Indeed, the Monaco midfielder is averaging more interceptions per game (2.8) than tackles (2.4) for the first time in five years. Meanwhile, he continues to make things tick for the Ligue 1 outfit, averaging more passes per game (59.4) than any teammate to rank third for Leonardo Jardim’s side in terms of WhoScored.com rating.
4. Alexander Meier (Eintracht Frankfurt) – 7.32 rating
Proving that age needn’t be an object when it comes to a striker’s predatory instinct to pick up the Bundesliga Golden Boot award last season (19 goals), target man Meier continues to find the net with impressive regularity. Now 33, the German marksman has scored 12 goals in 19 league appearances this time around, accounting for 44% of his side’s total tally.
Having made more appearances and averaged more shots per game last season (3.1 has dropped to 2.6), Meier’s conversion rate has actually slightly improved this time out (24.5%). However, with Frankfurt currently occupying the relegation play-off spot in Germany’s top flight they may yet need their captain to match his haul of last season in order to beat the drop.
3. Christophe Jallet (Lyon) – 7.33 rating
Sacrificed at PSG in order to sign expensive young talent, Christophe Jallet has actually gone on to improve his reputation since a move to Lyon. The 32-year old right-back was superb in his debut season for the club last time around, with a rating of 7.50 enough to take a place in WhoScored.com’s European team of the season for 2014/15.
This time out his score has dropped a little but he still continues to have a positive impact, keeping summer signing Rafael from Manchester United on the sidelines. Indeed, before receiving his marching orders at Lille last month, Jallet was in fine form, scoring once and registering four assists since the turn of the year, while an average of 4.1 tackles per game is bettered by one three players in Ligue 1.
2. Aritz Aduriz (Athletic Club) – 7.46 rating
A timely inclusion having netted a hat-trick against Deportivo in midweek, Aduriz is among a rare batch of players who just seem to improve with age. The Spaniard is now 35 but refuses to let that number count for anything; he is well on course to beat his record of 18 league goals in a season set last year.
Currently on 17 from 26 league outings in 2015/16, Aduriz has proven to be an inspired signing to cover for the loss of Fernando Llorente at San Mames. In four league seasons the veteran striker has scored 64 goals for the club, making his solitary cap in 2010 for a Spain side lacking in the centre-forward department since then all the more bizarre, prompting many to suggest he should be in La Roja’s squad for Euro 2016.
1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (PSG) – 8.16 rating
One ageing forward that will certainly be in the limelight in France this summer is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and we are all luckier for it. At 34 the iconic Swede can still do things that few others could imagine, with his form for PSG in an admittedly weak Ligue 1 campaign still nothing short of remarkable.
Ibrahimovic has not only scored more goals (23) than he has played games (22) in France’s top tier this season, but he also leads the league with 10 assists – level with teammate Angel Di Maria. The well-travelled striker is also on course to record his highest-ever goal tally in a league season despite what has been a sensational career, with his rating of 8.16 third only to Lionel Messi and Neymar in Europe’s top five leagues this season.