There are many Football late Bloomers. But some of them only had a good personal stat and never won Trophies. This piece highlights the Best Football late Bloomers who actually won trophies.
Some top footballers in the world were less successful in the early years of their professional football careers. However, the later years of their careers brought them much success.
Players who make up this non – non-exhaustive list are recognized in the various clubs they played for as one of the greatest. Others left a great impression on their national team and in football.
The list has Barcelona, Chelsea, Arsenal, and Bayern Munich players. It features record holders at the Fifa World Cup, UEFA Champions League, Italian Serie A, English Premier League, Spanish La Liga, and various national teams.
As stated earlier, this is a non – non-exhaustive list. It however features great footballers.
12 Football Late Bloomers
The story of 12 out of the so many football late bloomers will be thoroughly analyzed in this section.
1. Carles Puyol
Puyol rose through Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy. He was promoted to the first team in 1999 by Louis Van Gaal at age 21.
However, Puyol failed to win a single trophy with the team until he turned 27 years old.
Thereafter, he won an amazing 20+ trophies before he resigned at age 36.
His first major trophy arrived in the 2004/05 season when Barcelona won the Spanish league.
Actually, he achieved more success in the 2005/06 season when he led the Barcelona team to both domestic and European success.
Overall, Puyol led the Barcelona team that won 14 trophies in 4 seasons under Pep Guardiola.
Furthermore, Puyol was instrumental in Spain’s remarkable European Championship and World Cup triumph.
He featured at the center back position alongside Gerrard Pique – who is one of the Best 3 Defenders in Football history.
Puyol bettered this achievement when he led Barcelona to a treble of trophies (League, Copa del Rey, and Champions League) in the 2008/2009 season.
All in all, Puyol won a total of 25 Trophies in his career – including the World Cup (1) and the Champions League (3). Knowing that he won his first trophy at the age of 27 is a clear indication that he is one of the Late Football Bloomers who won trophies.
2. Didier Drogba
Drogba too is amongst the Late Football Bloomers who won trophies. But today, his name is mentioned among the Most Decorated African Footballers ever.
Didier Drogba started his professional career with Le Mans in France (1999). He also represented Guingamp and Marseille in France. However, he won his first major Trophy (The Premier League Title) after he signed for Chelsea.
Just like Puyol, Drogba was already 27 when he won his first major trophy.
The seasons after, Drogba won more League titles, football League Cups, the FA Cups, the FA Community Shield, and the UEFA Champions League trophy.
In addition, he won the African Footballer of the Year award (2) and the BBC African Footballer of the Year.
In 2012, Drogba won Chelsea’s greatest-ever player award, and in 2013, he won the Golden foot. When Drogba retired from professional football, he had over 15 trophies.
Although Drogba is one of the great players who never won AFCON, he is one of the most successful or best late Bloomers in Football history.
3. Ian Wright
Ian Wright is an Arsenal and Crystal Palace legend but failed to win a major trophy until he turned 28 years old. Hence he joins the list of Football Late Bloomers Who Won Major Trophies.
Wright was born in 1963 and made his professional debut in 1985 ( about 22 years old) with Crystal Palace.
Although he won the Full Members’ Cup: in 1990–91 with Crystal Palace, Wright’s major trophy came at Arsenal. His major trophies arrived in the 1992/93 season. He won the FA Cup and the Football League Cup trophies in 1993 at about 30 years old.
Wright won further trophies with Arsenal ( English Premier League, FA Cup, and European Cup Winners’ Cup) and West Ham United ( UEFA Intertoto Cup) before his retirement from football.
Wright is in English Football Hall of Fame: 2005 and was voted as Crystal Palace player of the century after his retirement.
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4. Miroslav Klose
Klose is one of the greatest footballers to feature in the FIFA World Cup. No one in the history of the tournament (16 goals) has more Goals than Klose. In addition, He is Germany’s all-time top scorer.
Klose is one of the Best Football Late Bloomers Who Won Major Trophies
However, it must be mentioned that Klose did not have so much success when he was younger.
Let’s take a quick journey through Klose’s early days.
The great German Striker was born on the 9th of June 1978. He made his professional debut at the age of 20 in Hamburg in the 1998/99 season.
It took him 8 years before he won his first major trophy as a professional while playing for Werder Bremen. The Dfb-Pokal trophy of 2006 opened the way for the inflow of more trophies.
After his move from Werder Bremen to Bayern Munich in 2007, Klose won the German league (2), Dfb-Pokal (2), and Dfb-LigaPokal, amongst others.
Arguably, the icing on the cake was his 2014 World Cup win with the German National team.
At the 2014 World Cup, Klose surpassed the record held by the Brazilian Ronaldo as the player with the most goals in the history of the tournament.
Also, he is the German National team’s all-time top scorer.
5. Luca Toni
The great Luca Toni is also one of the Football Late Bloomers who won major trophies. The Italian is currently amongst the top 5 highest-scoring Italian players of all time.
Luca Toni was born in 1977 and made his professional debut at Modena in 1994 at age 17. Toni then represented 6 other Italian clubs between 1996 and 2003 but failed to win a single trophy.
In 2004, Toni won the Serie B title with Palermo but his first major trophy arrived in 2006 at age 29. Toni was part of the Italian National team that won the 2006 Fifa World Cup trophy.
At age 30, he won his first major trophy at the club level. He won the German Dfb-LigaPokal with Bayern Munich of Germany in 2007. He also won the league and the Dfb-Pokal the same season.
6. Jamie Vardy
Jamie Vardy’s journey to becoming one of the most iconic late bloomers in football is a remarkable story of perseverance and determination. He came to the limelight in his late 20s, making his rise to stardom even more impressive.
Vardy’s football journey started at Stocksbridge Park Steels, a non-league club in England, where he played in the youth academy and later made his senior debut. At this stage of his career, he was far from the spotlight that usually shines on promising young talents. Instead, he was working tirelessly in factories to make ends meet while pursuing his passion for football during weekends.
It wasn’t until 2012, at the age of 25, that Vardy signed for Fleetwood Town in the Football Conference (now known as the National League), which is the fifth tier of English football. His performances at Fleetwood Town were impressive, and he quickly became one of the league’s top goal-scorers. This caught the attention of scouts from professional clubs, including Leicester City.
Leicester City signed Jamie Vardy in 2012 when he was 25 years old, and this marked his entry into the Football League, the fourth tier of English football. His impact was immediate, as he continued to showcase his goal-scoring prowess. However, it was during the 2013-2014 season, at the age of 27, that Vardy truly began to make waves. He scored 16 goals, helping Leicester City secure promotion to the Premier League.
The 2015-2016 Premier League season was the defining moment in Vardy’s career and the crowning achievement of his late-blooming story. At the age of 29, he became the focal point of Leicester City’s historic title-winning campaign, scoring 24 goals in the league. His remarkable pace, work ethic, and clinical finishing made him a sensation, and he broke the record for consecutive Premier League matches with goals, achieving 11 consecutive games with a goal.
Jamie Vardy’s late-blooming career not only brought him individual accolades but also helped inspire one of the greatest underdog stories in football history when Leicester City won the Premier League against all odds. His story serves as a testament to the fact that football late bloomers can achieve greatness with hard work, dedication, and the right opportunity. Vardy’s journey from non-league obscurity to Premier League stardom continues to be an inspiration to aspiring footballers around the world, showcasing that talent can shine at any age in the beautiful game.
7. Andrea Barzagli
Andrea Barzagli’s emergence as one of the prominent football late bloomers is a testament to his exceptional skills, adaptability, and the impact he made on Italian football, particularly at Juventus. His ascent to stardom began when he was already in his late twenties, making his achievements all the more noteworthy.
Born in 1981, Barzagli’s early career did not see him gain significant recognition on the international stage. He started his professional journey at low-profile clubs like Rondinella and Pistoiese before making his Serie A debut with AS Roma in 2004 at the age of 23. While he showed promise, he didn’t quite break into the elite ranks of Italian defenders during his early years.
It wasn’t until he transferred to German club Wolfsburg in 2008, at the age of 27, that he began to garner attention for his defensive prowess. Barzagli’s performances in the Bundesliga caught the eye of football enthusiasts, and he was instrumental in helping Wolfsburg secure the 2008-2009 Bundesliga title, an achievement that marked the beginning of his rise to prominence.
However, it was when he returned to Italy and joined Juventus in 2011, at the age of 29, that Barzagli truly entered the limelight. He became an integral part of the legendary Juventus defence that also included players like Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. Together, they formed one of the most formidable defensive trios in the history of Italian football, earning the moniker “BBC.”
Barzagli’s exceptional defensive abilities, his ability to read the game, and his composure under pressure were crucial to Juventus’ domestic dominance during this period. He played a pivotal role in helping the club secure multiple Serie A titles during his time at Juventus, becoming a symbol of their defensive solidity.
His late-blooming success was further highlighted when he was included in Italy’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the age of 33. Barzagli’s experience and defensive acumen were instrumental in Italy’s respectable performance in the tournament.
8. Rickie Lambert
Rickie Lambert’s football journey is a shining example of a late bloomer who achieved remarkable success after entering the limelight relatively late in his career. His rise to prominence in his 30s was an inspiring story that captured the hearts of football fans.
Born in 1982, Lambert started his professional career in the lower divisions of English football, playing for clubs like Macclesfield Town and Stockport County. While he demonstrated his goal-scoring ability consistently, it wasn’t until his late 20s that he began to make a significant impact in the Football League.
At the age of 29, Lambert signed with Bristol Rovers in 2009, and it was here that he truly began to shine. His goal-scoring exploits in League One (the third tier of English football) earned him recognition, and he became a fan favorite. Lambert scored 30 league goals in the 2010-2011 season, making him one of the top goal-scorers in English football.
However, it was his move to Southampton in 2011, at the age of 29, that catapulted him into the Premier League and the national spotlight. Lambert’s performances for Southampton were impressive, as he continued to find the back of the net consistently in the top flight. He scored 15 goals in his debut Premier League season, helping Southampton secure their place in the top division.
Lambert’s impact at Southampton was such that he earned an England national team call-up in 2013 at the age of 31, and Liverpool signed him as well in the same year. His debut for the national team was a significant moment in his career, and he scored with his first touch in international football during his first appearance.
One of Lambert’s most memorable moments came during his England career when he scored the winning goal against Scotland in a friendly match at Wembley Stadium in 2013. This was a testament to his ability to perform on the biggest stage, despite his relatively late start in international football.
9. Kolo Touré
Kolo Touré’s football journey is a testament to the notion that talent and dedication can lead to a successful career, even when one begins relatively late by professional standards. He made his mark in the football world after a later start, going on to enjoy a highly successful career in some of England’s top clubs.
Born in Ivory Coast in 1981, Touré’s introduction to professional football didn’t occur until he was 18, which is relatively late in a sport where many players start their professional careers as teenagers. He made his professional debut with ASEC Mimosas in his home country, impressing with his defensive skills and versatility.
Touré’s talents caught the attention of European scouts, leading to a move to Belgian club K.S.C. Lokeren in 2001. However, it was his transfer to Arsenal in 2002, at the age of 21, that marked his entry into the English Premier League. This move was the start of Touré’s rise to prominence on the global football stage.
During his time at Arsenal, Kolo Touré established himself as a formidable central defender. His speed, agility, and ability to read the game made him an integral part of Arsenal’s defence. He played a key role in the club’s run to the UEFA Champions League final in 2006, although they narrowly missed out on the title.
Touré’s success at Arsenal led to a high-profile transfer to Manchester City in 2009 when he was in his late 20s. His contributions were instrumental in Manchester City’s transformation into a Premier League powerhouse. He played a pivotal role in helping the club secure their first Premier League title in 44 years in the 2011-2012 season.
Remarkably, Touré continued to perform at a high level well into his 30s, showcasing his enduring quality as a defender. His late-blooming career saw him represent Ivory Coast on the international stage and play in multiple Africa Cup of Nations tournaments.
10. Teddy Sheringham
Sheringham’s early career saw him playing in the lower divisions of English football. It wasn’t until he joined Nottingham Forest in 1991 at the age of 25 that he began to make a significant impact. His move to Forest marked the turning point in his career, as he showcased his goal-scoring prowess in the top tier of English football.
During his time at Nottingham Forest, Sheringham’s performances earned him recognition as one of the top strikers in the league. He was known for his intelligence on the field, precise finishing, and ability to create scoring opportunities for his teammates. It was no surprise that his exploits caught the attention of top clubs.
In 1992, at the age of 26, Sheringham made a high-profile transfer to Tottenham Hotspur. His time at Tottenham was highly successful, as he became the club’s top scorer and played a pivotal role in their attacking setup. His partnership with German striker Jürgen Klinsmann was a memorable highlight of his Spurs career.
Sheringham’s late blooming continued when he joined Manchester United in 1997, at the age of 31. At Old Trafford, he achieved the pinnacle of domestic success, winning three Premier League titles, an FA Cup, and a UEFA Champions League trophy during his time with the club. His partnership with Andy Cole and later with Ole Gunnar Solskjaer became legendary, and he was known for his ability to score crucial goals in important matches.
One of Sheringham’s most iconic moments came during the 1999 UEFA Champions League final when he scored a crucial equalizer against Bayern Munich in injury time, paving the way for Manchester United’s historic treble-winning season.
11. Peter Schmeichel
It wasn’t until 1991, at the age of 28, that Schmeichel made a significant move to Manchester United, one of the most prestigious clubs in England.
Schmeichel’s arrival at Manchester United marked the beginning of an era of dominance for both the club and the goalkeeper himself. He quickly established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in the world, known for his exceptional shot-stopping abilities, commanding presence in the penalty area, and excellent distribution.
During his time at Manchester United, Schmeichel won numerous titles, including five Premier League titles and the UEFA Champions League in 1999. He was a key figure in the famous “Class of ’92” era under manager Sir Alex Ferguson. Schmeichel’s leadership and performances in crucial moments were pivotal in Manchester United’s success during the 1990s.
Schmeichel’s late-blooming career extended to the international stage as well. He represented the Danish national team and played a vital role in Denmark’s surprising triumph at the 1992 UEFA European Championship.
12. Paolo Maldini
Maldini’s journey to football greatness began when he made his professional debut for AC Milan in 1985 at the age of 17.
However, it wasn’t until his mid to late 20s that Maldini truly reached the peak of his career. During his early years at AC Milan, he showed immense promise as a left-back and possessed exceptional defensive skills and composure on the ball. However, it took time for him to fully mature and develop into the iconic figure he would become.
As he progressed through his 20s, Maldini transitioned from a left-back to a centre-back, where he truly found his calling. His intelligence, anticipation, and impeccable timing in tackles and interceptions made him a formidable force in Milan’s defence. His ability to read the game and his leadership qualities were instrumental in Milan’s success during the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.
Maldini’s late-blooming career saw him win numerous domestic and international titles. He played a key role in AC Milan’s dominance, helping the club secure several Serie A titles and UEFA Champions League trophies. His partnership with defenders like Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta was legendary and formed the backbone of one of the best defences in football history.
One of Maldini’s defining achievements was his longevity at the highest level. He played professionally for more than two decades, representing AC Milan until his retirement in 2009 at the age of 41. During his career, he amassed a staggering number of appearances, further solidifying his status as an icon of the sport.
These are a few examples of the best Football Late Bloomers Who Won Major Trophies.
What do you think could be the reason for their ‘late success’? Were they at the wrong club at the wrong moment?
Share your thoughts in the comment box.