There’s a preconceived idea in modern football that when you hit 30 years old you’re ‘too old’ or ‘past your best’. Serie A has more than 50 players over the age of 30. 25 of those players are above 35 years old, one of which is a player called Fabio Quagliarella (we will get to him later on). On the other hand, the Premier League currently has only 12 players above the age of 35, five of which are goalkeepers. In fact, Italy is somewhat of a specialist when it comes to older players.
The tables below show the top five clubs in Italy, Germany, France, England & Spain with the highest average age. The leagues share a common average age of around 26-29, but there was one big anomaly that stood out. Notice that the top five clubs with the highest average age in Italy are also the top five biggest clubs in the division. The average market value for players ranges from €17 million-€32.6 million. Compared to the other top leagues in Europe, only Bayern Munich match these stats with an average age of 26.5 worth around €30.83 million.
A slower paced league?
Why Italy have such older, more valuable players is quite debatable. It could be argued that the pace of the game in Italy is slightly slower compared to the other four leagues of Europe. For example, look at players such as Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov. Both played in the Premier League, considered one of the fastest paced leagues. They have both now ended up at Roma in their ‘twilight years’ of their playing careers.
You could also argue that Italian clubs tend to sign players of age that have experienced the fast-paced leagues in Europe and have acquired vast tactical and technical knowledge. This brilliant blend of experience and tactical knowledge is exactly what Serie A clubs look for and at discount prices.
The move of Cristiano Ronaldo to Juventus in 2018 from Real Madrid is probably the highest profile of an ageing player moving to a big club. As expected he is excelling at Juventus, who currently sit at the top of Serie A, 16 points clear. Individually he has adapted well and has been involved in much more team play than he was at Real Madrid. He is currently at the top of Serie A top scorer chart with 19 goals which is no mean feat at the age of 34. However, there is another ‘old boy’ he shares this stat with.
Enter Fabio Quagliarelli
Two more years senior than Ronaldo is the 36-year-old Fabio Quagliarelli. Currently, in the battle for the Capocannoniere `(top scorer of Serie A) and recently this year, he equalled Gabriel Batistuta’s 11 consecutive games scoring record set in 1994.
What makes this already impressive feat more remarkable, is that Quagliarelli plays for mid-table team Sampdoria and has bagged just under half of all their goals.
Below is a table of Serie A scorers with total goals, assists and expected goals. What separates these players is that Ronaldo should have scored 21 goals at this point of the season. However, he finds himself two goals behind. In contrast, Quagliarella was expected to have scored 15 to date and has four more.
Amazingly, this great run of form over the season has earned him a call up to the Italian national team. It has been over nine years since he donned the blue shirt of ‘The Azzurri’ and found the back of the net.
Additionally, Sampdoria, after originally signing him back in 2017, have offered the goal scoring machine a new contract until June 2020. That’s also with an option to extend to the 2021 season, all because it had been reported in the media A.C Milan were interested in luring the veteran away from Samp.
In comparison, Ronaldo tops all the categories and by some way, with the only stat that is similar is recovery. Ronaldo’s ability to take on, distribute, create and score is far superior and fairly obvious when you watch him play.
The “Whoscored” statistics tell a similar story. Ronaldo has superior numbers regarding nearly all statistics.
Defensively Qualiarella does slightly better with tackles and interceptions. Which is surprising with him being an out and out forward.
Though Ronaldo comes out on top of the statistics, it’s worth remembering that Juventus paid £90 million for the world-class Portuguese star. Sampdoria, on the other hand, prized Quagliarella from Torino for well under (predicted) £10million. Putting that into context each of Ronaldo’s 19 goals for Juve has been worth £4,736,842. Whereas, each Quagliarella goal values at £526,315. A bargain you will no doubt agree with.
Why the Serie A has a knack of getting great performances that overshadow much younger players we can only assume. Maybe it does have to do with the overall pace being slower and the league being more tactical. Either way, it’s current top two scorers are aged 34 and 36. A remarkable achievement for both players despite what league they play in. Odds probably have Ronaldo to win the Capocannoneire but then again it’s hard to bet against Quagliarelli who is ‘on fire’ this season. Like everything, only time will tell.
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