8 players you didn’t realise were still playing – from Iniesta to Quaresma

While Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo's movements this summer stole the headlines, the aging forwards are not the oldest players still playing professionally in Europe and around the world.

A number of former Premier League and Champions League stars continue to play at the highest level in South America, Europe and Asia well into the twilight of their careers.

These include Premier League cult heroes Roque Santa Cruz and Andres D'Alessandro as well as Champions League winners Andres Iniesta and Ricardo Quaresma.

So here are eight players you you might not have realised are still playing professional football this season.

Roque Santa Cruz

At 40, former Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City striker is still playing in his native Paraguay, 22 years after scoring his first goal for Bayern Munich.

Santa Cruz became a fan favourite at Ewood Park after joining the club from Bayern in 2007 and scoring 19 league goals as they finished seventh in the Premier League.

He is now back at his first club Olimpia, in his native Paraguay, as captain having returned five years ago after spells in Spain and Mexico.

He has four goals in 23 games in 2021 and, with his contract expiring in December, this could be his final year as a professional.

Andres Iniesta

Fans can be forgiven for forgetting that four-time Champions League winner Andres Iniesta is still playing three years on from his departure from Barcelona.

The 37-year-old World Cup and two-time Euros winner has spent the past three years playing for Vissel Kobe in Japan after leaving the Nou Camp on a free transfer.

Iniesta, who captains the J1 League side, even signed a contract extension earlier this year that will keep him at the club until January 2024, at which point he will be 39.

He has played 91 matches since moving to Japan, scoring 19 goals along with 19 assists and won the Japanese Cup with the club in 2019.

Andres D'Alessandro

Like Santa Cruz, Andres D'Alessandro is a 40-year-old plying his trade in South America, after joining Uruguayan side Nacional on a one-year deal in January.

This move came after 12 successful years in Brazil where D'Alessandro won the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamericana with Internacional.

He is best known to fans in England following a loan spell with Portsmouth from Wolfsburg during the 2005/06 season where he scored a stunning solo goal against Charlton Athletic at The Valley.

He has also tasted success at international level having won the under-20 World Cup and an Olympic gold medal with Argentina in the early 2000s.

Steven Taylor

Former Newcastle United centre back Steven Taylor is also still playing professionally at the age of 35, three years after leaving England.

Taylor is the captain of A-League side Wellington Phoenix, the only club from New Zealand playing in the Australian top flight.

He re-joined the club for a second spell in March after six months playing in India for Odisha and made 12 appearances in the second half of last season for the Phoenix.

Since leaving Newcastle in 2016, the former England under-21 defender has also played for Portland Timbers, Ipswich Town and Peterborough United.

Ricardo Quaresma

Portuguese winger Ricardo Quaresma is continuing his late career renaissance with Vitoria Guimaraes in Portugal after joining the club last summer.

The 37-year-old boasts an impressive CV having played for Barcelona, Porto, Inter Milan and Chelsea during the 2000s before rejuvenating his career in Turkey with Besiktas and Kasimpasa.

The Euros and Champions League winner provided over 100 goals and assists during his two spells with Portugal, which earned him a return to the national team for their 2016 Euros win.

In his first season with Guimaraes last term, he scored four goals and provided 6 assists in 31 matches in all competitions.

Jay Bothroyd

England one-cap wonder Jay Bothroyd was called up by Fabio Capello whilst playing in the Championship for Cardiff City in 2010 and his nomadic career has been just as bonkers.

The 39-year-old has been playing in Asia since 2014 having gone without a club for six months after being released by QPR.

He played in Thailand for Muangthong United before moving to Japan where he spent two years with Jubilo Iwata and then arrived at current club Hokkaido Consadole Sapporo.

He has a contract with the club until the end of January and has an impressive record for the club, scoring 39 goals and providing 20 assists in four seasons.

Maxi Rodriguez

Former Liverpool winger Maxi Rodriguez has been playing for Newell's Old Boys since 2019 after returning to his first club after two years in Uruguay.

Rodriguez has played in three World Cups and was tied for second place for the golden boot in Germany in 2006 after scoring a stunning extra time winner against Mexico in the second round.

He spent two years with Liverpool between 2010 and 2012 after arriving from Atletico Madrid in January 2010 and also featured for Espanyol during his time in Europe.

Having played 17 times in 2021, it looks like this could be the last season as a player for the 40-year-old midfielder.

Shunsuke Nakamura

Former Celtic hero Shunsuke Nakamura is renowned for being one of the world's best ever dead-ball specialists and has shown his free-kick talents on game shows in his native Japan countless times in the past.

Despite being 43, he also still plays top flight football, having been with Yokohama FC in the J1 League since 2019, a decade on from his Celtic departure.

In four years in Scotland, Nakamura earned legendary status with the Bhoys and scored a stunning free-kick in a Champions League win away to Manchester United in 2006.

Since leaving Celtic, he played for Espanyol before returning to Japan in 2010, where he has played for Yokohama F-Marinos and Jubilo Iwata as well as his current employers.

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