Best Players Who Played for Multiple Big Clubs
Just as there were players, like Carles Puyol, who stayed at a club and became legends there, there were also players who made the headlines at different clubs. They wanted to see what playing at different places felt like, adapting to the change in the climate.
Because they were so good at football, the demand was high and different clubs were interested in the same player and sometimes they have even been re-signed for the former clubs. Coupled with some smart choices made by the player, there will be a few players who have played for multiple big and prestigious clubs. It has always been exciting to know which players have played for the most league clubs. So, here is the list of high-profile journeymen in world football who have played for the most number of major clubs around the world.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic (8 Clubs)
The prolific goalscorer is frequently considered to be one of the best forwards and players in soccer history and also the most transferred football player. The Swedish sensation is usually referred to as one of the best older players to ever play the game and despite being 37 he shows no signs of slowing down.
His extraordinary physicality, technical ability, winning mentality, and finishing are a notch above even the best footballers. He has highlight reel after highlight reel of some of the best goals in football. Regardless of the shocking number of clubs, considering the talent at the display is not really a surprise. He played for Ajax in the Dutch league, where he scored 48 goals in 110 matches throughout 4 seasons. Then, Juventus signed him for €16 million and he played 2 seasons at Turing before he moved to Inter Milan for €25 million where he won the Serie A footballer of the year for scoring 17 goals in 26 games in a single season. He repeated that record in 2008-09 by scoring even more goals. Later, Zlatan moved to Spain and played alongside Messi in Barcelona for 2 seasons.
Ibrahimovic returned to Italy and joined AC Milan where he scored more than 50 goals across two seasons. He spent the most amount of seasons in PSG where he was the Ligue 1 Top Scorer and Best Player 3 times, scoring 156 goals in 180 games. He then moved to England to play two seasons in Manchester United on a free transfer, where he spent most of the latter season on the bench because of injury. His journey progressed at LA Galaxy where he was just as prolific with an almost 1:1 goals to matches ratio (44:38). After leaving L.A. Galaxy, Ibrahimovic signed a contract with his former club, AC Milan, on a free transfer to continue the competition of playing for the most league clubs.
Christian Vieri (13 Clubs)
Cristian Vieri was a brilliant center forward and a goalscorer with exceptional attacking skills such as positioning, finishing, and having a keen sense of when to strike the opposition. As a result, clubs were often more than ready to splash a lot of money for the Italian. Vieri scored 8 goals in 23 matches at Juventus. So, his move to Atletico Madrid attracted people’s attention. He scored 24 goals in 24 matches for Atletico Madrid (league). As a result, the Italian club Lazio snagged him for an astounding amount of €25 million (1998). Scoring 14 goals at Lazio across a season increased the demand and finally, Inter Milan broke the transfer record and scooped him up for €49 million. He had his longest tenure at Inter Milan spanning six seasons and it was a very impressive one with 103 goals in 143 matches. Afterward, he had a very short 14 game stint at AC Milan where he only scored 2 goals. He spent a season abroad in France before returning to the Serie A and retiring at Atalanta.
The Italian striker was famed for his physical presence in the box and aerial abilities, being the highest ever scorer of headed goals in the Serie A. He is one of the few players to have played for all three major Italian clubs, Juventus, AC Milan, and Inter Milan!
Inter Milan bought Vieri from Lazio in 1999 for a €43 million fee, making him the most expensive player in the world back then. It was at Inter Milan that Vieri left most of his legacy. He played for six years with them and scored a total of 103 goals. He also had an incredible year in Spain prior to his Lazio days, scoring 24 goals in as many matches for Atletico Madrid.
He was very vocal about his opinions consistently and there was a debate about comments made on the club’s transfer policy that forced him out of Inter Milan. It was perhaps for the same reason this Italian hitman could never get a stable spot at any other club either. He is best known as the most transferred player in soccer history.
Robbie Keane (10 Clubs)
The former Ireland captain has had a fascinating club career and has been consistent almost everywhere. The Irishman has played for various clubs. Being a fast player, he could play all critical positions on the front line which helped him score a lot of goals. He scored 325 goals across 737 performances over 3 continents (Europe, North America, and Asia). He played in 14 matches at Inter Milan and scored 3 goals. His most definitive period of football was at Tottenham Hotspur where he played for 6 successive seasons. In his 2007-08 season, he won the League Cup with the North London club which was their first trophy after Sol Campbell left the club in an infamous transfer. Then, Keane went to Liverpool for a season where he played 19 league games. He again returned to Tottenham and eventually found his way in the US where he played with LA Galaxy. He played a season with Atletico De Kolkata (India) in the 2017-18 season.
Keane has been the mainstay at the center forward’s position for the Irish national team for more than 10 years. In general, he spent his club career flitting through ten clubs over the same period.
He is best known as a Tottenham Hotspur player, rejoining the club after passing a medical at the London club. Other than scoring 93 goals for Hotspurs, he has had impressive spells at Leeds United, Celtic, and a later surge in his career at Los Angeles Galaxy.
His longest stay was also at the London club, where he played for seven years: over three spells spread from 2002 to 2011.
Ronaldo Lima (7 Clubs)
As one of the best players of all time, Ronaldo was probably the deadliest striker in football history. His dribbling was otherworldly and he popularized step-overs and trick-moves by integrating them seamlessly into his playstyle. His finishing and general attack-mindedness were second to none. He won the World Cup twice with Brazil.
Ronaldo made the Brazilian squad into a fear-inducing team. He won the Ballon d’Or twice and played in so many of the biggest clubs. He played at PSV Eindhoven and Barcelona bought him for the then-record of £13.2 million.
After winning the Copa Del Rey in Barcelona colors, he broke the transfer record again when he was signed by Inter Milan, this time for £19.5 million. The Italian giants were interested in him even prior to this move but lost the bidding war to Barcelona. He shone under Inter Milan where he won the Euro Cup. He was then signed by Real Madrid for 46 Million EUR in 2002 and spent the most matches there (122).
Ronaldo was part of the Galacticos and he scored 84 goals for RMA, winning 2 La Liga titles. He went back to Italy again to play for AC Milan for 8.5 million EUR. His time there was brief, scoring 9 goals in 20 matches. Later, he played for Corinthians in his home country of Brazil and announced his retirement in 2011, concluding an 18-year career as a football legend.
Luis Figo (4 Clubs)
Figo is one of the best wingers and attacking midfielders of his generation for Sporting Lisbon, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid, and Inter Milan, before retiring from football in May 2009.
He had all the necessary skills of terrific passing and vision, fantastic dribbling, and attacking prowess. All the clubs wanted to sign him and as a result, he played for some of the best ones in the business. He started off at Barcelona where he won La Liga twice.
Figo went on to join rivals Real Madrid on a record transfer that broke the buyout clause where he won the La Liga twice and the UCL once. He also won the Ballon d’Or in 2000 primarily for his Barcelona contributions, but he lifted the award while clad in the Real Jersey.
He went to Inter Milan in 2005 where he won the Serie A 4 times and even the Inter Milan Player of the Year in 2006. He won 7 trophies at all three clubs, making it three brilliant runs (four, Sporting CP included) in three of the biggest clubs in the world, all belonging to Europe’s top 5 leagues.
Craig Bellamy (9 Clubs)
Craig Bellamy is one of the most intriguing characters to have played in the Premier League. This energetic Welshman, who declared his retirement at the end of the 2013-14 season, is the first player in Premier League history to score for seven different clubs.
He had many successful years as a striker appearing for Norwich City and then Newcastle United, the two clubs where he spent four years each in the early stages of his career. He scored 32 goals for his first club, Norwich, and 28 for the Magpies.
Bellamy has dropped deeper and wider as his career has progressed, and has also seemed to developed itchier feet with every change of club. He has featured in Liverpool and Manchester City teams as a wide man but has not lasted for more than two seasons at any club after his departure from Newcastle.
Juninho Paulista (9 Clubs)
The Brazilian’s tendency to play football in unique places is a known fact; he is remembered in Middlesbrough as ‘The Little Fella’ who played football with school children on the streets during his stay there.
Juninho has plied his trade in three continents, starting out in the domestic league of his own country, and frequently returned to Brazil for short spells at most of the major clubs.
He has played in the Premier League as well as La Liga with Atletico Madrid. He also went to the Australian club Sydney FC for a year before calling time on his traveling lifestyle.
Juninho’s longest and most memorable stint was as an Atletico Madrid player, where he spent five years and scored a total of 14 goals.
Peter Crouch (10 Clubs)
The English striker has never managed to settle at any club, having appeared for nine clubs in England and one Swedish fourth division club on a short loan spell. His best return was for Liverpool, scoring 22 goals in his three years there.
It appeared that Crouch was looking to settle down at his late stage in his career considering that his stay at Stoke City became the longest time he had spent at a single club.
He spent seven-and-a-half years with this club, scoring 62 goals before joining Burnley in January 2019. Finally, he announced his retirement in July 2019.
Nicolas Anelka (11 Clubs)
The talented Frenchman played for some of the most prestigious clubs in Europe, but his failure to consolidate his place in any of those clubs has harmed the player’s international chances.
Anelka spent his most prolific years scoring goals for Manchester City (37 goals), Fenerbahce (14 goals), and Bolton Wanderers (21 goals). His longest stay was at Chelsea, and it was at this London club that he played out the end of his best years.
He played between 2008 and 2012 for them and returned 38 goals in the four years. Anelka then spent a year appearing for Shanghai Shenhua in the Chinese football league before returning to Europe.
Anelka retired from professional football in November 2015 following a short stint at Mumbai City. The striker scored 157 goals in 508 appearances during an impressive 19-year career in top-flight football.
Andy Cole (13 Clubs)
The second-highest goalscorer in the Premier League era won numerous trophies as a Manchester United player but played for a variety of clubs before and after his Old Trafford days.
The England international has won all possible footballing honors in England, but could never succeed in setting his heart on a club.
His competitive debut was in Arsenal colors, and he also lent his goal-poaching services to Manchester City and Newcastle United.
It was at Newcastle that Cole burst into the limelight between 1993 and 1995, scoring 55 goals in 70 appearances. As a result, he was swooped up by Manchester United, for whom he scored 93 goals in the vastly successful following six years. In fact, his most successful period was his stay at Manchester United.
Marcus Bent (14 Clubs)
Marcus Bent was a regular feature in the Premier League for the whole of the last decade, but confusingly enough, he never seemed to appear for the same club twice.
His longest stay for three years was at the club he started out his career, Brentford before he set upon a truly nomadic career. He played for thirteen clubs in England, his most successful spell being for Ipswich Town, where he scored 21 goals in two years.
Bent also appeared in the Indonesian league for Mitra Kukar, he announced his retirement on Apr 17, 2012.
Later in September 2017, he announced his coming out of retirement to launch a non-league career with Southern Combination League Premier Division club Wick.
Rivaldo (15 Clubs)
This Brazilian legend with a wide variety of skills and special tactics announced his retirement from professional football in March 2014.
In an incredible club career spanning over 24 years across six countries on four continents, Rivaldo played in Brazil, Spain, Italy, Greece, Uzbekistan, Angola, and finally went back to his native country to end the amazing run in the same country where it had been initiated.
Rivaldo is best remembered for his five-year spell at Spanish giants Barcelona between 1997 and 2002, a club where he spent five years, scoring 86 goals and winning the 1999 Ballon d’Or award.
Therefore, Rivaldo remains one of the most widely traveled high-profile footballers in football history.
John Burridge (29 Clubs)
Last but not least, the former English goalkeeper’s transfer history made his list of clubs appear like a statistical freak.
As the most transferred football player, Burridge played for 29 different clubs from 1969 to 1997, generally not completing even one single season at a club before moving on.
The ultimate example of the mercenary footballer taken on hire played in 771 domestic matches, and his 15 Football League clubs appeared in is still a record.
His longest stay was for four years at Blackpool, but he had some slightly more famous stints for Newcastle United and Aston Villa.
He was shipped about from one club to another countless times towards the fag end of his career. After 1992, he made 29 appearances in total but was involved in transfer deals for a total of 21 times.