People say loyalty in football is dead. To that I say… quite possibly.
Players often move from club to club with ease nowadays. The influx of money at the top of the sport has allowed for even more transfers to happen. Globalisation within the country, Europe and the world has allowed the movement of players to become easier and easier. Players move clubs for many different reasons; whether that be a better pay day, a higher level of football, or even out-of-sport experiences. We are losing the old adage of football being a ‘team game’; it’s becoming ever more about the individual.
However, there are still some players that spend a lengthy period of time at the club they came through at. Fans want to see their academy product grow into one of their best players and, most importantly, never leave! There are very few in that mould though. The Premier League’s best one-club players who are CURRENTLY PLAYING all tend to be on the younger side. The players on the list are mainly established Premier League players.
James Ward-Prowse (Southampton)
James Ward-Prowse is synonymous with modern day Southampton. Despite him being in the best form of his career, JWP has actually spent 18 years at the club. He joined the revered Saints academy when he was eight, and from then on he grew throughout the ranks to become a hugely valuable member of the squad.
At 26 years old now, James has hit 288 appearances for the Saints, since making his pro debut in 2011/12. He’s hit 29 goals in that period, with 35 assists as well. A goal involvement rate of 0.22 per game hasn’t been THAT good, but his position doesn’t always allow him to get on the scoresheet. Speaking of scoring, last season was his highest scoring season so far, having hit five goals in 38 games. At the time of writing this season though, he’s bagged four goals – two of which game in a very memorable game.
Southampton travelled to Villa Park early in the season. JWP scored TWO world-class free kicks to help the Saints rip into a 0-4 lead. The game ended 3-4, but the tarnished win didn’t take anything away from the free-kick master’s efforts.
Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Marcus Rashford might be the north’s favourite to become England’s new prime minister, but he does a very good job at his day job too. The 23-year-old came through as a striker at the Old Trafford club, however he often features out on the left wing (satire) nowadays. Over the past five years, the Greater Manchester native has earned 228 appearances for the Red Devils. In that time the social activist has recorded 76 goals and 44 assists.
This Manchester United side is not too special. But Rashford will always be remembered at Man Utd as a legend due to his to background, ability and off-field heroism.
Across his 228 appearances, you can’t really judge what his better position is. Left wing (satire) or striker. On the left, he’s bagged 61 goal involvements across 113 games. Up front, he’s bagged 51 goal involvements across 99 games. That’s 0.53 per game at LW versus 0.51 as a ST. Almost identical.
In 15 years time Rashford will be 38 years old. Can you see him being anywhere else but Old Trafford? Nope, me neither.
Mason Greenwood and Scott McTominay (Manchester United)
Neither of these lads are yet to reach the 100 appearance mark, that is why I’ve grouped them together.
19 year old Mason Greenwood has registered 63 appearances to date – extremely good for a U20 attacker. A long the way he’s bagged 20 goals and seven assists. Despite growing up in Bradford, the attacker joined the United academy young, and has followed Rashford into the first team – just a few years later. Greenwood has many similarities to Rashford. Both are strikers that can also play on the wing, both burst through the Old Trafford academy as promising youngsters, and both have a first name beginning with M.
We can also see Greenwood staying at Old Trafford for the vast, vast majority of his career too.
Scott McTominay. Also known as, Mourinho’s Favourite Child.
McTominay his another to have come through the illustrious academy, and make a positive impact on the first team. A lot United fans see him as the unrivalled future DM of their midfield. Now at 23 year old, ‘McDominate’ needs to properly stamp himself on the squad. He’s acquired 95 appearances so far, recording eight goals in the process. Another interesting fact about young Scott regards to his younger self. At youth level, it’s understood that coaches were concerned about McTominay because of a lack of height. It’s then reported that he grew 14 INCHES in TWO YEARS. Thats a lot of inches in not a lot of time. He now stands at a giant 6’4.
Tom Davies (Everton)
Fashion fiend, Tom Davies lit up Goodison Park when he first came through. However, the 22 year old’s Everton career is now starting to come into question, and his place on this list might not be too secure. Since making his debut in 2015, he’s appeared 127 times for the Toffees and scored six goals. The most memorable was, of course, his first. A 4-0 victory over Manchester City was only made better by the fact the academy man, Davies, scored a lovely dinked effort. Beautiful.
At 5’11, the box-to-box midfielder has got the potential to make a solid career at the top level. However, there are question marks over whether Carlo Ancelotti fancies him in his midfield. With the manager’s outrageously large number of contacts, will the scouse fashionista actually have a proper chance to flourish at Everton?
Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
When Steven Gerrard left Liverpool, he left behind a big hole. For the first time in a long time, there wasn’t a scouser in the Liverpool first team… until Trent Alexander-Arnold burst onto the scene.
Trent is still young, but he comes with a lot of pedigree because of his achievements in the game already. He’s already surpassed Gerrard’s league accomplishments, with a tally of one league title to Gerrard’s none. They can, of course, match their Champions League medals together.
The concept of the right back has changed over the years. Dani Alves was an obvious leader of the ‘attacking full back’ generation, but Trent has changed the game a little bit more. Whilst being a little bit less physically attacking as the Brazilian legend, it is his technical ability that has excelled him into the argument for being the best right back in the world.
In his 145 games for Liverpool, he’s hit eight goals – one of which was an absolute banger versus Chelsea in the 2019/20 season. However, he has recorded 37 assists in that time. This includes a massive 13 assists in one season. If Alves was the speed demon, with innate attacking ability, then Trent is the quarter-back who plays the perfect cross-field ball to exactly where it should be.
Like Gerrard, I think Trent Alexander-Arnold will stay at Liverpool for the vast majority of his career.
Kalvin Phillips (Leeds United)
In 2015, Leeds United had an excellent crop of young footballers coming through their ranks together. However, some lost their potential, and others left for pastures new. They’re still big names across the EFL – Charlie Taylor, Sam Byram, Alex Mowatt and Lewis Cook – but none are bigger than the last remaining Leeds man, Kalvin Phillips. Now at the age of 24, he’s taken his time to really hit the British headlines, but the internationally capped midfielder is finally getting the recognition he deserves.
With 185 appearances since 2015, he’s become a Leeds Utd regular. The defensive midfielder has chipped in with 12 goals across that time too, but thats not where his speciality lies. It’s his defensive screening that’s excellent.
Leeds fans won’t like me for saying this, but how long will Phillips actually stay at Leeds for? It’s understood that the club have already had to rejected numerous offers for the midfielder, and most of the top teams in England could do with a commanding English defensive midfielder. He could end up being a Leeds United lifer, but I can’t see it!
Does a loan move when you were younger, stop you from being a one-club player? I don’t know.
All these players – as far as I am aware – haven’t had a loan move either, but it feels incredibly wrong to be talking about one-club players without mentioning Mark Noble. With 506 West Ham appearances, he is the embodiment of Mr West Ham United. A club legend – the man had his testimonial in 2016! However, 18 appearances across two loan spells with Hull City and Ipswich Town in the mid naughties, meant his inclusion was questionable. Similarly; Lewis Dunk. Mr Brighton has featured 314 times for the Seagulls, and it’s only because of two appearances on loan at Bristol City in 2013 that makes him iffy on this list.
Dean Lewington (MK Dons)
Dean Lewington is an EFL legend, there is no getting around it.
He’s moved from left-back to centre-back, but one thing has never changed, his involvement on the pitch for MK Dons. 17 seasons he’s played for the Dons now, having now made over 800 appearances on the Bedfordshire/Buckinghamshire border and still remains one of the first names on Russell Martin’s teamsheet.
In that time, he’s netted 23 times – impressive for a defender. HIs two stints in League Two both saw him hit double figures for assists, notching 11 and 13 in 2007/08 and 2018/19 respecively.
At 36 years old, I don’t see him massively letting up either! He could easily feature for the next four years, taking him to the big four-oh. He’d be nearing 900 appearances at that point too.
Iker Muniain (Athletic Bilbao)
There is a solid list of players in Spain that have been at the same club their entire career – Lionel Messi obviously heads that list. BUT, I wanted to go with a slightly left-field option. Iker Muniain hails from northern Spain, and was deemed the next ‘Spanish Messi’ when he came through the illustrious Bilbao academy.
Athletic Bilbao, if you didn’t know, are one the best and biggest institutions within football. They rely on their academy, and only field players that come from the north Spain area – specifically the Basque Country.
The club relies on players staying for long periods of time… but also, they rely on selling them for big money. Kepa Arrizabalaga’s sale to Chelsea for 80 million euros was essential for the club’s model.
They could’ve got that same money for a young Muniain. When the diminutive creative midfielder burst onto the scene, there was a lot of hype. Interest from Manchester United could’ve moved Muniain to the English shores, however, nothing materialised.
Now at the age of 27 years old, he’s broke into an incredible top ten – no, not this epic list. He’s equalled Athletic Bilbao’s top ten record appearance holders. He’s played 450 times for the club (and it’s B side), across a 14 year career. With 105 goal involvements over that time (63 goals), he has always been a creative spark for the northerners.
Athletic Bilbao’s record appearance holder is the legendary Jose Angel Iribar, with 614 appearances. Can Iker match that? He’s got, arguably, another six years of decent performance time left. He could come close!
Well then, there’s the list! The Premier League best, currently playing, one-club legends, as well as one from the EFL and our European counter-parts. Tell me, have I missed anyone? Will the players in this list stay at their clubs forever and achieve legendary status? LET US KNOW!