In light of notable recent records and milestones for the likes of Ryan Giggs, Xavi Hernández and Malta's Mario Muscat, UEFA.com gives a nod to that rarest of breeds: the one-club player.
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In light of notable recent records and milestones for the likes of Ryan Giggs, Xavi Hernández and Malta's Mario Muscat, UEFA.com gives a nod to that rarest of breeds: the one-club man. Here we scour Europe's 12 leading leagues – based on UEFA's country coefficients – for the footballer in each top flight who has made more appearances for one club than any other player. Strict rules apply: they must still be active in their premier division and never have played a senior game for any other side.
Ryan Giggs (Manchester United FC): 959 appearances
A record 13 English titles; most English top-flight appearances for a single club; most Manchester United appearances; most outings in the UEFA Champions League. The list of the 40-year-old Welshman's achievements goes on and on. Ever since making his league debut in March 1991 as a wiry 17-year-old winger, Giggs has lit up Old Trafford, combining longevity with an outstanding talent appreciated by the world's best. "I have cried twice in my life watching a footballer," said Alessandro Del Piero. "The first was Maradona, the second Ryan Giggs."
Xavi Hernández (FC Barcelona): 706 appearances
Barcelona's record appearance-maker, 34-year-old Xavi said he hoped to "continue being an important presence for Barça into the future" following a recent pre-match tribute honouring his 700 games for the Catalan outfit. He debuted for the Azulgrana aged 18 in 1998 and has gone on to become one of the modern game's most iconic players, winning a club-record 22 trophies. "There have been many years, a lot of memories and many titles," he said. "When you look back, you realise how enjoyable it all was."
Sander Boschker (FC Twente): 696 appearances
Boschker moved to Twente at the age of 16, having started out with amateur side Longa '30. He first turned out for the Twente first team in November 1989 and has never appeared for another club since, despite being under contract to AFC Ajax in 2003/04. Now 43, he is still tied to the Tukkers until the summer, ensuring he will have been a professional for a quarter of a century. He has lifted two Dutch Cups and one Eredivisie championship with the Enschede side. "FC Twente and I know we can count on each other," said Boschker.
Francesco Totti (AS Roma): 695 appearances
"It is the only thing I wanted," said Roma captain Francesco Totti when he signed a new contract in September running until 2016. "It gives me the chance to wear the shirt of the only team I have ever supported for two more years, two years in which I will give my all for the club." Since taking his first-team bow in March 1993 aged 16, Totti has scored 232 Serie A goals and become "the symbol of Roma" according to fellow Giallorossi great Paulo Roberto Falcão, himself nicknamed 'The eighth King of Rome' in the 1980s.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (FC Bayern München): 455 appearances
Schweinsteiger joined Bayern as a 13-year-old in 1998. When he turned professional, he was seen as a winger – a distant memory considering the impact he now has in central midfield. Though he has picked up a mountain of silverware since his debut in November 2002, it was not until last May that he hoisted aloft the UEFA Champions League trophy. "I have always tried to get the best for Bayern and maybe sometimes I have forsaken my own well-being," said the 100-cap German international. "I will continue to do that for as long as I am in the red jersey."
Olivier Deschacht (RSC Anderlecht): 443 appearances
Spending his youth at SC Begonia Lochristi, KAA Gent and KSC Lokeren OV, where his father was a sponsor, Deschacht arrived in the Anderlecht youth ranks aged 16. Formerly a left-winger, he developed into a full-back and made his senior breakthrough in December 2001. The 32-year-old has since landed six Belgian titles with Les Mauves and is contracted to the club until summer 2015 at least. "I want to stay at Anderlecht until the end of my career," he said. "After that, I will have another 50 years to sit at home."
Vyacheslav Malafeev (FC Zenit): 436 appearances
The Saint Petersburg-born goalkeeper is the most famous product of the club's Smena academy. He first featured for Zenit in June 1999 and became first choice the following season after Roman Berezovski left. He was a fixture between the posts for more than a decade thereafter, though Kamil Čontofalský briefly usurped him in 2005. However, Malafeev has not played since May, initially because of a neck injury and then due to the emergence of Yuri Lodygin. "My aim is to become the club's most-capped player," said the 34-year-old, who is just 18 appearances shy of record holder Anatoli Davydov.
Olexandr Shovkovskiy (FC Dynamo Kyiv): 382 appearances
A Dynamo academy product who enjoyed his first youth-team outing in 1992, Shovkovskiy graduated to the senior side two years later aged 19. That same season he made his bow in the UEFA Champions League and for Ukraine's national team. The 39-year-old has subsequently won 12 Premier-Liha titles and eight Ukrainian Cups as well as reaching the 1998/99 UEFA Champions League semi-finals and the 2006 FIFA World Cup quarter-finals. However, he missed UEFA EURO 2012 on home soil through injury and later announced his international retirement. "Some keepers deserve great respect for playing at a decent level for a long time," he said. "I tried to take something from each of them."
Marc Planus (FC Girondins de Bordeaux): 365 appearances
A Bordeaux academy alumnus, Planus played his first Ligue 1 match against Stade Rennais FC on 9 November 2002. He now has 400 appearances in sight for his home-town club. He has won no shortage of trophies along the way, including the Ligue 1 crown in 2009, the Coupe de France last year and the French League Cup in 2007 and 2009. "I do not want to have a statue here," the 31-year-old central defender said. "It is privilege enough to have been able to have a career in front of my own family."
Sabri Sarıoğlu (Galatasaray AŞ): 360 appearances
Sabri joined Galatasaray's youth set-up in 1999, midway through a season that ended in UEFA Cup glory for the Istanbul side. The right-back has since become an established figure at the club, acquiring the captaincy during his 15-year stay. Although Mircea Lucescu promoted Sabri to the senior fold in 2001/02, it was under experienced coach Fatih Terim that he made his debut against Trabzonspor AŞ during the next campaign. Sabri, 29, has since claimed five Turkish Super League titles and one Turkish Cup. "Whatever I am as a player, it is because of Galatasaray."
Briguel (CS Marítimo): 300 appearances
The connection between Briguel and Marítimo is in its 17th season. It all began in 1997/98, the same time that his uncle Carlos Pereira was elected club president. The now 34-year-old defender, comfortable on the left or right of the back line, started with the U19s and had to wait until the first weekend of the 2000/01 campaign for his first-team debut. He has since represented the Madeira-based side in a host of different competitions and remains a mainstay under coach Pedro Martins.
Giorgos Dassios (PAS Giannina FC): 274 appearances
In a league of journeymen, Dassios is a rare breed, spending his entire career with his home-town club. Giannina's captain told UEFA.com: "This is my second home, my life, my family. I no longer see this as merely a job." The 30-year-old right-back came close to leaving once, when AEK Athens FC came knocking. "It was seven years ago but the deal didn't go through," he said. "Now the only thing I want is to hang up my boots, hopefully not soon, as a Giannina player, and then stay at the club in another role."