Steven Gerrard, Xavi, Francesco Totti and the end of the one-club men

In the modern game, seeing a player complete his entire career with only one club is a rare thing given the emphasis on transfers and the widespread lack of sporting loyalty.

The likes of Jamie Carragher, Paolo Maldini and Ryan Giggs may well have hung up their boots having only represented their boyhood clubs, but the current ageing generation have another obstacle tempting them to not finish their playing days at the same location as they started.

With the influx of money coming into the sport from global regions such as the Middle East and the United States, high-profile veterans are being tempted by one last pay day in the sun before hanging up their boots.

Although the standard of play in these evolving football nations is nothing to write home about compared to Europe’s major leagues, the chance to continue being a star in your mid-to-late 30’s and receiving a bumper pay packet in the process is a mightily tempting proposition.

Compare this with coming to terms with the fact that the body can no longer perform the miracles it once did and the club that you have called home for 15+ years is starting to rely on you less, and the rhetoric behind a move elsewhere makes sense.

Despite this, there is a certain romanticism behind only ever playing for one club and showing allegiance to the cause, forsaking all others.

Of the current contenders to join the one-club club, three are of particular interest.

Steven Gerrard has made the decision to leave Anfield at the end of the season to pursue a new challenge in the MLS with the LA Galaxy.

The cynic in me would suggest that the afore-mentioned financial and egotistical reasons behind a switch to America will have swayed the current Anfield skipper’s decision-making process.

It is also interesting to note that although Gerrard’s influence in the Merseyside team has waned of late, the British media instigate that the midfielder would have been offered a new deal if he had wanted it.

Nowhere has the one-club man been more evident of late than in Catalunya, with Carles Puyol retiring having only worn the Blaugrana’s colours and the likes of Lionel Messi, Andrés Iniesta and others products of the La Masia youth system on course to finish their careers at Camp Nou.

However, one man that looks set to spurn inclusion in the one-club catalogue is Xavi, who is being heavily linked with a switch to join Gerrard in the MLS.

XaviLike the Liverpool legend, the Spanish midfielder has had to come to terms with the fact that he is no longer the main man, deal with reduced playing time and as a result decide if he wants to be a big fish in a little pond or vice versa.

If Xavi does leave Barcelona it will be a symbolic departure, as despite Messi gaining the acclaim in recent years, it has been the Spanish World Cup winning midfielder that has been the heartbeat of the club’s fabled tiki-taka style of play.

Although Barcelona still maintain their obsession with keeping possession, the way the La Liga side play the game has changed slightly due to the summer signings of Luis Suárez and Ivan Rakitić.

Without the ringleader Xavi pulling the strings, Barca lose some of the club’s identity and a leader in one of the most successful football teams of the modern era.

Finally, two resolute characters in the Italian capital carry only one flag, with Daniele De Rossi and Francesco Totti representing Roma throughout their playing careers.

The combustive midfielder has been linked with exits on countless occasions and still may leave the Stadio Olimpico, but 38-year-old Totti seems determined to finish at the top.

Still a force to be reckoned with and the Giallorossi’s first-choice striker, despite his age and to the detriment of others, unlike Gerrard and Xavi, Totti seems destined to be inducted into the one-club hall of fame.

When it is all over and this illustrious triumvirate call it a day, each will undoubtedly be viewed as a legend at their respective clubs.

There will have been doubts over whether they should have taken that opportunity to jump ship in their prime, but their loyalty and steadfastness to a (mainly) single cause must be admired – especially given the current footballing climate.

However, despite their bank balances being bolstered by finishing it all in foreign lands, ending their careers somewhere that is not ‘home’ has the potential to tarnish a career-long legacy in my opinion.

By
I am a freelance football journalist from Northern Ireland living in Broome in Western Australia. I have worked for top media outlets such as FourFourTwo, goal.com, Soccerlens, Football Fancast and Here is the City. I am a lifelong and long-suffering Tottenham fan. Follow me on Twitter at @90MinsOnline
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